Polygyny and Post-nomadism among the Bedouin in Israel

in Volume 3 (2008): Issue 2 (Dec 2008)

The continuing practice of polygynous marriage on the part of the Bedouin of the Negev in Israel is generally seen as resistance to modernity for the sake of maintaining semi-nomadic ways of life. By this logic, the numerous anthropological studies that have shown that polygyny is more widespread among older generations (particularly among men of means) can be explained. In Israel, however, there is an added factor of modernity as enforced by the state and its alien Western values. Recent studies of the Bedouin in Israel have found that polygyny is on the increase among all age groups, regardless of their socio-economic status. This article addresses this seemingly surprising finding, discussing some of the main social and political motivations that underlie the growing prevalence of polygyny as exhibited by the Bedouin in Israel.