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Introduction

Transnationalism and Transgenerationalism in the Middle East and Its Diasporas

G. J. Breyley

Interactions across the Middle East and between the region and the rest of the world have arguably intensified in recent years, from shifts in economic and cultural relations to unprecedented levels and changing forms of migration. In response, anthropologists and others working in the social sciences and humanities have deepened their collective investigation of transnationalism, approaching this theme and the questions it raises in diverse ways (see Alsultany and Shohat 2013; Chatty 2015; Graw and Schielke 2012; Hage 2005; Kearney 1995; Naficy 2003, 1999; Silverstein 2015; Vertovec 2009). Many scholars have explored the limitations of thinking in ‘national’ categories, while at the same time observing the persistence of this way of thinking and its effects on the everyday lives of those who live transnationally or experience ‘the diasporic condition’. Jumana Bayeh (2014: 19) suggests that: ‘Defined by alterity, double consciousness and a fragmented identity, the diasporic condition, like the figure of the foreigner, accepts the dis-integrated subjectivity of the self and in turn exposes the nation-state’s own internal heterogeneity’. The articles in this interdisciplinary special issue variously address these and other aspects of the diasporic condition in several different Middle Eastern and diasporic contexts.

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Introduction

Material Culture of the Middle East, Its Intangible Dimensions and New Museums

Janet Blake and Danila Mayer

In this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East, we present contributions that deal with museums, museology and their approaches to the new social situations through which they must navigate. Cutting a swathe very generously around the Mediterranean and the Middle East – from Tunis to Qatar, Turkey and, as an extension, to Austria – we bring together articles that look closely into some acute issues of today: the transformation from colonial to post-colonial and its reverberant impacts, from national to post-national and transnational societies both in Europe and the Middle East, and to the stringencies of material culture, cultural heritage and ‘meaningful objects’, and how to preserve, to analyse and to exhibit them. All contributors dedicate their works published here to the social, cultural and economic changes affecting societies and communities, and to the demands that increasing diversity presents as challenges to cultural institutions and their personnel.

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Introduction

Sexuality, Culture and Public Politics in the Middle East

Homa Hoodfar

The role of sexuality in the construction of various social institutions and in the maintenance of power hierarchies has long been a significant focus of anthropological research (Leacock and Safa 1986; MacCormack and Strathern 1980; Wolkowitz et al. 1981). Indeed anthropologists and sociologists have been mindful of the extent to which sexuality constitutes a highly contested terrain that is tightly patrolled by religious forces, morality codes and state institutions in all societies (Gole 1996; Hélie and Hoodfar 2012; Lancaster and di Leonardo 1997; Lee 2011; White 2002). However, in recent decades, the fragmenting of sexuality studies into studies of gender roles, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, studies in masculinities, and even honour killing and violence against women, has resulted in depoliticising sexuality: without clearly linking the various aspects and arenas in which sexuality is salient, the centrality and complexity of politics of sexuality to power structures are easily lost.

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Editorial

Critical Political Anthropology of the Middle East

Soheila Shahshahani

This issue of AME focuses on the critical political anthropology of the Middle East. Studies of tribes and states have been on the agenda of political anthropology of the Middle East for decades, and in this issue we have various articles related to this topic. What is particularly informing in this issue are the brilliant articles concerned with informal politics going beyond statistical and formal studies, showing how power works through access to resources, and particularly the reproduction of political systems and hierarchies, and finally how modern legal systems within certain political structures are exercised in everyday life. Other fields of anthropology such as the anthropology of children and the anthropology of law may also benefit from this issue.

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In Memoriam

Pierre Bonte (1942–2013)

Jean-Pierre Digard

Membre du bureau éditorial d’Anthropology of the Middle East, Pierre Bonte s’est éteint le 4 novembre 2013 à l’âge de soixante-et-onze ans. Né le 25 août 1942 dans le nord de la France, au sein d’une famille de mineurs et d’instituteurs laïcs – il eut un grand-père, mineur, qui fut député communiste–, Pierre Bonte obtint son baccalauréat à Lille en 1960, puis une licence de sociologie et plusieurs certificats de psychologie à Paris en 1964. Intéressé par l’ethnologie, Pierre Bonte commença par étudier les Touaregs Kel Gress du Niger auxquels il consacra sa thèse de doctorat en ethnologie préparée sous la direction d’André Leroi-Gourhan puis de Robert Cresswell et soutenue à l’Université Paris V-Sorbonne en 1970.

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Zubaydah Ashkanani Prize

The editorial board of Anthropology of the Middle East is pleased to announce that starting in 2015 the journal will award a yearly Zubaydah Ashkanani Prize for the best article that has been published in the journal in the previous year.

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Editorial

Today, Is 'Ethnicity' the Most Important Topic in the Middle East?

Soheila Shahshahani

It was decided by the editorial board of AME that some issues of the journal should be open-themed so that new topics of interest to researchers could have a place to be presented, and, in this way, perhaps new horizons of scholarship could be opened up. This issue was an open-theme issue but, amazingly, all the articles are concerned in one way or other with ethnicity. Would it be incorrect to call this the most important concern in the Middle East today? I think there is some truth to it, as our articles show: from concern with nation formation through enculturation in mahallah’s of Uzbekistan; to linguistic behaviour in two regions in Uzbekistan; to ethnic conflict and violence in Kyrgyzstan; the Turkish diaspora returning to Turkey and trying to set a superior example; and last but not least the emblem of a prosperous nation, Qatar, claiming not only tribal origins but also acting democratically through tribal delineation at times of voting. This is exactly what I have observed in southern Iran where people vote according to tribal lines. The same topic was evoked in ‘You Have Car Insurance, We Have Tribes’ (AME 6 no. 1, 2011).

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Introduction

An Anthropological Look at Art in the Middle East

Danila Mayer and Soheila Shahshahani

This is a very particular issue, and its topic – art in the Middle East – is new. All of the writers seem deeply involved in their subject and present their research in a fresh and spirited way.

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Introduction

The Importance of Rituals in Everyday Life in the Middle East

Zubaydah Ashkanani and Soheila Shahshahani

A culture can be expressed in a succinct way in its rituals, the manifestations of the culmination of its deepest beliefs. Rituals are also attempts to maintain cohesion, which they do most successfully in the material and non-material arts. Knowledge of a culture is necessary in order to portray the totality of that culture through its rituals and ceremonies. As a central topic in anthropology, ritual has been regarded as a phenomenon that is resistant to change and bound to a great extent to certain norms and regulations. Yet it is obvious that rituals are not rigid, unvarying sets of performances and that they have undergone many changes in definitions, functions and interpretations. Indeed, all aspects of culture, including rituals, are subject to change. Drawing on the past, cultures sustain their beliefs by making use of what is at hand in the present.

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Introduction

An Overview of the Contemporary Ethnography of Afghanistan

Zuzanna Olszewska

This special issue represents the first collection of ethnographic articles specifically about post-2001 Afghanistan, opening a new chapter in the history of the country’s ethnography. Long and multifaceted, that history deserves a thorough compilation and bibliography beyond what can be undertaken in this brief editorial. The promising current of anthropological research in Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s was diverted by over 30 years of political turmoil, invasion, resistance and civil war, during which many anthropologists either continued or began their work in the refugee communities of Pakistan and Iran or in Afghan diasporic populations around the world.