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Introduction

Visual Anthropology in the Middle East

Esther Hertzog and Yael Katzir

Abstract

This issue demonstrates the potential and unique contribution of visual anthropology to deepening and expanding anthropological knowledge with historical, artistic, cultural and political perspectives. Describing and analysing historical events, daily social life and the arts, the articles offer original interpretations of human experiences and social processes that are part of the Middle East reality, in the past and present. Some authors suggest striving to establish ethnic, cultural and national identities goes hand in hand with struggles for civilian rights and socio-economic equality. Using illustrations and a feminist analysis, other authors reflect on women's marginalisation in the arts and in the historiography of this region. The use of visual materials, highlighting similarities among divergent communities, entails an optimistic view about the potential contribution of arts to break through fundamental dividing features.

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Introduction

Rethinking Power in Turkey through Everyday Practices

Élise Massicard

In an increasingly authoritarian Turkish context that precludes any serious chance of making tangible political gains, challenging common conception of ‘the political’ may expand our understanding of power dynamics. Attempting to track power relations outside the most official, legitimate, conventional and formalised forms of politics provides alternative and sharper insights into how the political is being reframed and how actors retain, uphold, perpetuate or transform their capacity for agency. In an interdisciplinary perspective, but drawing mainly on anthropological literature and methodology, the issue addresses four questions – both empirically in the Turkish case and more conceptually: politicisation, visibility, social stratification and domination.

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Reports

Behnam Amini, Natalia Suit, and Soheila Shahshahani

Publications

Gareth Stansfield and Mohammed Shareef (eds), The Kurdish Question Revisited (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

J. R. Osborn, Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017)

Conference

18th IUAES World Congress, ‘Word (of) Encounters: The Past, Present and Future of Anthropological Knowledge’, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil, 16–20 July 2018

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Introduction

Popular Religious Practices and Perceptions in the Middle East and Central Asia

Mary Elaine Hegland

People at the popular level often hold religious perceptions and engage in religious practices that make sense to them within their own existential situations, even if they fall outside orthodoxy. Although political leaders and religious authorities may attempt to mould people’s religious perceptions and practices according to their own ideas and interpretations of religion, people frequently find ways to evade or ignore such pressures, to rationalise their deviations or to continue to live and think according to their own self-generated religious frameworks. The authors of the articles in this special issue provide examples of how people’s actual practices and religious beliefs arise out of their own personal situations and histories though at odds with the pronouncements of religious specialists.

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Changes in Attitudes towards Marriage and Reproduction among People with a Genetic Illness

A Study of Patients with Thalassemia in Iran

Sachiko Hosoya

Abstract

In this article, the change in attitude towards marriage and reproduction among Iranian people with a genetic illness called thalassemia has been investigated, along with an analysis of the impact brought by the national thalassemia prevention programmes, which were introduced to discourage marriage between carriers (thalassemia minor) and the birth of severe homozygous cases (thalassemia major). Marriage and reproductive choices of people with both thalassemia minor and thalassemia major were focused upon in order to prevent the birth of affected babies. Thalassemia carrier couples prefer to choose abortion of affected foetuses, rather than giving up their marriage, and some people with thalassemia major choose a person with thalassemia major as a marriage partner, though they must give up having their own child.

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Introduction

Emerging Kinship in a Changing Middle East

Soraya Tremayne

Abstract

The introduction to this issue has two strands. First, it contextualises the articles, which address kinship from varied perspectives, and situates them in their broader cultural context. Second, it adopts a comparative perspective by differentiating between the present articles with those published a decade earlier on the same themes in this journal, to examine whether, how and to what extent kinship has changed in the face of modernity, globalisation, wars, migrations and political change. It concludes that, compared with a decade ago, kinship has not only not weakened, but it has revived further and penetrated other institutions beyond family, or called upon to ensure and protect the continuity of cultural norms and values, from the threats paused by modernity and by the global, cultural and political invasions.

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Introduction

Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Children in the Middle East

Erika Friedl and Abderrahmane Moussaoui

Abstract

For several reasons there exist only relatively few ethnographic studies of children in the Middle East or in the diaspora. Accordingly, the articles in this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East represent thematically and theoretically highly divergent projects, all based on ethnographic topics and methodologies. Geographically they encompass different locations, and thematically they range from the history of childhood in Iran to matters of socio-cultural integration in Austria; from legal matters concerning youths in Algeria to socio-psychological problems of schoolchildren in Lebanon and to parent-child dynamics in Morocco. The short research, book and conference reports in this issue emphasize approaches and topics in critical anthropology as applied to the Middle East.

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Death of a Statesman – Birth of a Martyr

Martyrdom and Memorials in Post–Civil War Lebanon

Are John Knudsen

Abstract

This article furthers the study of post–civil war memorialisation in Lebanon by analysing the trajectory of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from statesman to martyr. This transformative process offers a window into the symbolism of Lebanese statehood, and demonstrates how the politicisation of confessional martyrs is used to decry injustice and stake out claims to the state. There is no tradition for prosecuting and punishing political murders in Lebanon, causing victims to be pronounced martyrs. Impunity is therefore the major reason why martyrs and memorialising are so widespread. To this end, the article offers a semiotic reading of Hariri’s posthumous transformation from political patron to patron saint, and is a contribution towards the importance of martyr symbolism for understanding the purported weakness of Lebanese statehood.

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Editorial

Edited by Soheila Shahshahani

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Introduction

Human–Animal Relationships in the Middle East

Marjan Mashkour and Anahita Grisoni