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Nomadic Peoples Journal

Current Issue: Volume 18 Number 2

Full-text PDFs of this issue are available from the White Horse Press

Reshaping Tribal Identities in the Contemporary Arab World

In Memory of I. M. Lewis
Jan Monteverde Haakonsen
Reshaping Tribal Identities in the contemporary Arab World: Politics, (Self-)Representation, and the Construction of Bedouin History
Laila Prager
The Persistence of Bedouin Identity and Increasing Political Self-Representation in Lebanon and Syria
Dawn Chatty
This paper examines the persistence of tribal identity and authority and the increasingly public self-representation of Bedouin in the Badia of Syria and the Bekaa of Lebanon. It sets out the significant challenges to Bedouin tribal identity and authority over the past three decades. The paper argues that, despite the formal annulling of the Bedouin tribes' legal status in Syrian law in 1958 and the 'silenced' legal status of most Bedouin in Lebanon, tribal identity and the authority attached to traditional leaders continues to exist.
Producing (Tribal) History: Gendered Representations of Genealogy and Warfare in Northern Syria
Katharina Lange
Based on ethnographic fieldwork and readings of local publications, this article explores the multifaceted production of tribal history in northern Syria. Focussing on the representations of genealogy and warfare, it traces how historiography is used to re-order representations of social and political relations in the area. The article explores the gendered aspects of tribal history making, suggesting that standard perceptions of this field as an exclusively male domain need to be revised. Finally, the article explores how and to what ends history as a particular mode of knowledge is constructed in the emergent genre of tribal historiography.
Bedouinity on Stage. The Rise of The Bedouin Soap Opera (Musalsal Badawi) in Arab Television
Laila Prager
Despite a growing research interest in studies focusing on the modern media in the Arab world, including the field of the Middle Eastern film and television industries, there is one particular type of TV series that has been largely neglected by contemporary scholarship, though the serials in question are among the most popular formats throughout the entire Arab world: we are talking about the Bedouin soap operas usually designated as musalsal badawi or drama badawiyyawhich have been broadcast continuously since the 1970s onwards. This paper gives a first overview of the genre of Bedouin soap operas by discussing the perspectives both of the producers and of different categories of viewers. To this end the article unfolds with a historical outline of the rise of the Bedouin musalsalat within the Arab film industries, particularly by focusing on the transition from the national to the transnational contextualisation of contemporary Bedouin TV serials. Then the focus turns to the production processes of the soap operas by taking into account the various perspectives of the financiers, producers, script writers, directors and Bedouin advisors. Attention is also given to the different motivations of viewers for following such series, as well as to the exemplary plotlines on which the Bedouin soap operas are usually predicated.

Moreover, the paper explores to what extent the musalsalat have become markers of tribal identity and memory, thereby mirroring competing perspectives on 'authenticity' and historical 'truth'. Finally, the Bedouin soap operas are contextualised within the overarching discourse on the revival of cultural heritage that is increasingly gaining prominence in many countries of the Arab world.
Changing Performance Traditions and Bedouin Identity in the North Badiya, Jordan
Kathleen Hood and Mohammad Al-Oun
Although performance traditions have long been important parts of Bedouin identity in the North Badiya, Jordan, many factors have affected these traditions over the years, especially since the latter part of the twentieth century, resulting in the loss of some genres and the retention of others. This study examines how the traditions that remain, particularly poetry that is spoken or sung to the accompaniment of the rababa, are traditions from the male and public spheres, while the traditions that have been abandoned are those from the female and private spheres. Because of the separation of male/public and female/private realms, the male genres are the only ones that can be seen by outsiders, and thus are selected to be the public face of Bedouin identity.
The New Rise of Tribalism in Saudi Arabia
Sebastian Maisel
This paper explores the new relationship between tribe and state in Saudi Arabia as well as the position of tribes within Saudi society. It is based on anthropological fieldwork in the area and an analysis of online discussion boards. It is argued that a new generation of tribal members has emerged who express their tribal identity through new forms of communication, aiming at a reinterpretation of the tribes' social and political role in the kingdom.
Bedouin Place Names in the Eastern Desert of Egypt
Joseph J. Hobbs
This paper analyses Ma'aza Bedouin toponymy in the northern half of Egypt's Eastern Desert. Ma'aza people started naming places as they began immigrating from northwest Arabia about 250 years ago. The main place objects are valleys, mountains, water sources, trees and tracks. These are named after individuals and groups, historic events, perennial plants, animals and their behaviour, material culture and environmental perceptions. Place naming helps assert the people's claim to this land. The named cultural landscape is a kind of autobiography that continues to be written and is perpetuated only orally. For nomadic pastoralists, place names help to reduce risk in a challenging environment and to conserve natural resources, especially woody trees that sustain livestock during drought. Sedentarisation is threatening this rich body of oral tradition.
Bedouins' politics of place and memory: a case of unrecognised villages in the Negev
Bogumila Hall
Israeli laws and the state's dominant discourse depict Bedouins as rootless nomads and classify the Negev as historically dead, no-man's land. This characterisation implies that the Bedouins from the Negev have no ties to the land and therefore cannot claim ownership of it. It also transforms residents of 'unrecognised villages' into trespassers on state land whom the state must evict. This article examines how the subordinated Bedouin population asserts its agency and, contests the systemic marginalisation. It explores Bedouins' counter-narratives and practices through which an alternative understanding of 'Bedouinity' emerges, and through which the Bedouins challenge the state's policy and colonisation of the community's everyday life.
Book Review
Fertile Bonds: Bedouin Class, Kinship, and Gender in the Bekaa Valley, by Suzanne E. Joseph
Reviewed by: Dawn Chatty
Pastoralism and Politics in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia, by Günther Schlee and Abdullahi Shongolo
Reviewed by: Elliot Fratkin
Pastoralism in Africa: Past, Present, and Future, edited by Michael Bollig, Michael Schnegg and Hans-Peter Wotzka
Reviewed by: Mark Moritz

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