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KINSHIP AND HISTORY: TRIBES, GENEALOGIES, AND SOCIAL CHANGE AMONG THE BEDOUIN OF THE EASTERN ARAB WORLD

  • Author(s): Young, William C
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 3.0 license
Abstract

Most scholars of tribal organization among the Bedouin of the eastern Arab world utilize a two-dimensional, hierarchical model of Bedouin kinship that represents only relations of descent and affinity. This model resembles a genealogy and shows how small descent units are enclosed by larger ones. It implies that tribes grow in size only through biological reproduction. Such a representation of the Bedouin tribe fails to distinguish politically central lineages from politically peripheral lineages and also ignores the processes through which foreign lineages become “attached” as clients to politically powerful, central lineages. To correct and supplement this genealogical model, the author presents a concentric model of Bedouin tribes that adds a “central/peripheral” distinction. This model also includes relations of political “attachment” that can affect the internal morphology and growth of Bedouin tribes in ways that are comparable to the effects of affinal and suckling kinship relations on internal organization. The proposed concentric model thus allows us to represent historical change more accurately and also brings us closer to Bedouin concepts of tribal organization.

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