This part presents a set of chapters focusing on multiple claims, conflicts, and forms of contact between the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Each chapter is typically based on a distinct archival collection and follows a distinctive methodology – quantitative analysis of distribution of properties or persons (Salim Tamari), a record-based history of the deliberations of a particular institution (Roberto Mazza), or a critique of shared assumptions (Louis Fishman). Behind the archives, however, lurk different social worlds – confessional and ethnic groupings, institutions embedded in local and supralocal settings, legal forms and repertories, and modes of accounting. While showcasing the value of different collections and forms of evidence, the chapters also exemplify the difficulties involved in linking them to create multilayered accounts from a plurality of perspectives, a true history of the city.
Julia Shatz illuminates an assumption underlying several of the chapters of this section: “By following the trajectories of institutions … we can traverse narrative and archival chasms that otherwise present obstacles to creating a unified history of the city.” The difficulties, however, are considerable; perhaps therein lies the attraction of this part.
History is often about change. Our accounts of change usually depend on some notion of a unified subject acting and undergoing significant changes within a given timeframe: a person, a group, or an institution. These may be narrative accounts in which protagonists make their way through webs of circumstances; or accounts of a process, constructed around heterogeneous yet structured entities – a class, a community, not just “a society” but a “social system” transformed through time. The assumed unity of such subjects might be a pious fiction; its coherence sometimes relies on rhetorical gestures or unquestioned assumptions (consider the transformations of a kinship group through several generations).
In this respect, the following chapters, when read together, raise several intriguing questions. Did Jerusalem, especially around 1900, constitute such a unified subject? Can its economic structure, its internal divisions, the pattern of relations between different communities, its particular position, and the marked presence of distant actors authorize telling a story of the city as a whole? To what extent were institutions, many of them embedded in heteronomous contexts, sufficiently related to enable us to say something about “the city” rather than merely about particular entities or groupings – the Pro-Jerusalem Society, examined by Roberto Mazza, or the Sephardic Kolel, analyzed by Yali Hashash? Could indications for change in specific contexts – the uses of Muslim waqf, meticulously examined by Salim Tamari, or the politics of distinct elite groups – be extrapolated to yield productive hypotheses about others? Can citadinité – a concept used by the authors in different ways and even challenged by Louis Fishman – provide a common frame of reference?
Can we trace the same actors as we move among heterogeneous contexts? Often not: many of them are not likely to appear in records produced in another confessional community or by a supralocal institution. Should we look for structural effects connecting different social milieux, while allowing for variance in the way they affect them? What methodologies are available to do this? Should we privilege a specific factor like disease, as Philippe Bourmaud does, a particular institution (the waqf), a textual form (the list), or a project which cuts across common divisions such as the tramway, studied by Sotirios Dimitriadis? Would any single archival collection shed enough light on others for us to recognize concretely how different they were, or how they were related – or would it just lend credence to impressionistic assumptions about assumed commonalities or radical differences? Jerusalem is a difficult place to think with/in.