"Peteet has written an impressive, and perhaps the definitive, book on the hammam in the Mediterranean region."—Faedah M. Totah, author of Preserving the Old City of Damascus
"A beautifully written ethnography that does a great job of treating the subject of love and the ambivalence of romantic relationships."—Rachel Newcomb, author of Everyday Life in Global Morocco
"An extraordinary journey into the worlds of the hammam! Peteet’s interdisciplinary acumen is stunning, as she takes readers on a deep dive into the historical and contemporary import of bathing spaces and practices, flowing across time and space in gorgeous archival, intertextual, and ethnographic detail. With theoretical interventions rippling from the spatial to the sensorial, labor to sexuality, ritual to tourism, Peteet has gifted us an invigorating, definitive book on the hammam, past and present.”"—Lara Deeb, coauthor of Anthropology's Politics Disciplining the Middle East
"Peteet has given us both a sweeping genealogy of baths across the Mediterranean world and a granular ethnography of the revival of hammams in twenty-first century Turkey and Jordan. She reveals baths as complex spaces of neighborhood community and labor, as symbols of national heritage and Ottomania, and as sensoria of the body."—Nora Elizabeth Barakat, Stanford University
Julie Peteet offers a fascinating tour through the rich cultural history of hammams, or baths, in the Mediterranean and Middle East. These sacred structures date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages and have evolved through the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods. In this original work, Peteet provides the first comprehensive examination of hammams through their architecture, the labor pool, clientele, meanings, notions of the body and hygiene, and economy. Exploring the hammam as both a tangible architectural structure and an intangible social practice, Peteet sheds light on how the bath has functioned as a central hub of religious ceremonies and a space that transcends any specific religious affiliation.
Although hammams have experienced a decline due to modernization, new domestic technologies, and rejection of the Ottoman-Islamic past, their current reinvigorated form illuminates neoliberal conceptions of heritage
and leisure industries. Hammams have become spaces for cleansing and fashioning a gendered and aesthetically appropriate body as defined by a global wellness syndrome. Peteet’s captivating narrative traces the hammam’s historical significance and contemporary role as both a sacred and profane cultural phenomenon.
Julie Peteet is professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Louisville. She is the author of Space and Mobility in Palestine, Landscape of Hope and Despair: Palestinian Refugee Camps, and Gender in Crisis: Women and the Palestinian Resistance Movement.
7 x 10, 382 pages, 18 color illustrations