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The Material Culture of the Palestinian Duyuf

Book Contribution - Chapter

The غرفة الضيوف (ghurfat al-duyuf, the “guests’ room”) is a core component of houses in the Levant. This receptive space works as a public domain within the house, where all sorts of formal functions regarding social relations between the family and the broader community are managed. The ghurfat al-duyuf (or simply the duyuf) is the scene where the family stages its identity to the eyes of visitors: each material detail is assembled to express social status, background, wealth, achievements, and education.Functioning as a material statement of identity, the duyuf is particularly crucial when such identity is challenged, as in the case of occupied Palestine. Framed in seventy years of military occupation, the Palestinian duyuf is embedded with a political layer uncommon to other analogous space, becoming also a “shrine” to preserve evidences of a personal and collective past threatened by the colonizer and revindicate participation in the national project.This contribution is the outcome of nine-year empirical observation of and participation in the lives of Palestinian households in the West Bank. The materiality of the duyuf is approached by combining ethnographic observation and visual tools from architectural disciplines. The discussion unfolds through three stages: the first part introduces the duyuf as a social and spatial construct, presenting the meaningful material apparatus of interiors used for representing families’ identity. The second part visually explores several duyufs. The third concludes with a reflection on the “presence of the absent” in the duyuf as a materialization of great geopolitical dynamics into the domestic space.
Book: Appropriated Interiors
Pages: 51 - 69
Publication year:2022