Syria's Democratic Years

Syria's Democratic Years

Citizens, Experts, and Media in the 1950s
Kevin W. Martin
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/24/2015
Format: Hardback 15 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01879-3
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The years 1954–1958 in Syria are popularly known as "The Democratic Years," a brief period of civilian government before the consolidation of authoritarian rule. Kevin W. Martin provides a cultural history of the period and argues that the authoritarian outcome was anything but inevitable. Examining the flourishing broadcast and print media of the time, he focuses on three public figures, experts whose professions—law, the military, and medicine—projected modernity and modeled the new Arab citizen. This experiment with democracy, however abortive, offers a model of governance from Syria’s historical experience that could serve as an alternative to dictatorship.

Author Bio

Kevin W. Martin is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University.


“[A] book that will be both immediately valuable to scholars and teachers, and a significant contribution to historical scholarship on the cultural history of modern Syria. . . . In light of the endlessly unfolding tragedy in Syria, this kind of careful historical scholarship is increasingly important, and likely to become unfortunately rare. . . . [F]ill[s] one of many gaps in the historiography of modern and contemporary Syria.”
 — Max Weiss, Princeton University

“[A]n extremely interesting story, deftly told and beautifully written . . . . [M]akes an important contribution to our understanding of Syrian history.”
 — Peter Sluglett, National University of Singapore

“[A]n important contribution to understanding twentieth-century Syrian history, and particularly to understanding how and why post-Mandate Syria turned to authoritarianism rather than democracy. . . . [O]ffers insights into developments in other post-Ottoman states, [with] lessons for the broader region as well.”
 — Andrea Stanton, University of Denver

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Table of Contents

Introduction The Virtuous Citizen and the Postcolonial State
1. Syria during the Democratic Years
2. The Citizen and the Law
3. Social Justice and the Patriarchal Citizen
4. Punishing the Enemies of Arabism
5. Making the Martial Citizen
6. The Magic of Modern Pharmaceuticals
7. Sex and the Conjugal Citizen
Conclusion Citizens on the Tenth Day