An Invitation to Laughter: A Lebanese Anthropologist in the Arab World

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - Social Science - 224 pages
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For the late Fuad I. Khuri, a distinguished career as an anthropologist began not because of typical concerns like accessibility, money, or status, but because the very idea of an occupation that baffled his countrymen made them—and him—laugh. “When I tell them that ‘anthropology’ is my profession . . . they think I am either speaking a strange language or referring to a new medicine.” This profound appreciation for humor, especially in the contradictions inherent in the study of cultures, is a distinctive theme of An Invitation to Laughter, Khuri’s astute memoir of life as an anthropologist in the Middle East.

A Christian Lebanese, Khuri offers up in this unusual autobiography both an insider’s and an outsider’s perspective on life in Lebanon, elsewhere in the Middle East, and in West Africa. Khuri entertains and informs with clever insights into such issues as the mentality of Arabs toward women, eating habits of the Arab world, the impact of Islam on West Africa, and the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy Arabs, and even offers a vision for a type of democracy that could succeed in the Middle East. In his life and work, as these astonishing essays make evident, Khuri demonstrated how the discipline of anthropology continues to make a difference in bridging dangerous divides.

 

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Contents

Why laughter?
1
1 Exploring origins
8
2 Studying anthropology in Oregon
19
3 Being Lebanese
32
4 Religious syncretism
44
5 Lebanese traders inWest Africa
50
6 Change as faith
61
7 Teaching in Beirut
72
11 Open secrets
120
12 Table manners in Yemen
127
13 The official policy toward emigration in Lebanon
139
14 The Arab rich
147
15 Who wants to be a zaim?
156
16 Living in Great Britain
166
List of Research Projects
179
List of Publications
182

8 Establishing an Arab association for the social sciences
88
9 The exotic in the suburbs of Beirut
94
10 Alumni and ulama in Bahrain
104

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About the author (2008)

Fuad I. Khuri (1935–2003) was professor of anthropology at the American University of Beirut from 1964 to 1987. Khuri held a series of visiting professorships at the London School of Economics, University of Manchester, University of Chicago, and University of Oregon. Among his many books are From Village to Suburb, Tribe and State in Bahrain,Imams and Emirs and, most recently, Being a Druze. Sonia Jalbout Khuri has taught mathematics education in Lebanon and the United Kingdom. She also worked as a research assistant and editor with her late husband, Fuad I. Khuri.

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