Brent Eng


I will research the daily practices surrounding the production and consumption of bread and their ethico-political significance amongst Syrians displaced by war in Tripoli, Lebanon to understand how communities living with destruction attempt to forge alternative futures. What symbolic forms emerge as salient for Syrians amidst the psychic intensity of war and its aftermath, especially as articulated in an Islamic idiom? For that, I turn to bread and its associations with ‘life’ and ‘justice’ in the region. Can the practices organized around bread facilitate access to resources in the Islamic tradition—lessons, hadiths, exemplary behavior, ritual healing, charity—that help cultivate an ethical relation to the ordeal of violence? Using an ethnographic approach based on participant observation and in-depth interviews, I envision conducting my research amongst three cohorts: 1) Syrian former anti-government activists; 2) workers and customers of Islamic bakeries; 3) the constituents of Sunni mosques. In pursuing these questions, I attempt to rethink the efficacious force of the symbol on a psychic level in conversation with Islamically-informed understandings of the body and imagination.