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.
Critical Political Anthropology of the Middle East
Pierre Bonte (1942–2013)
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.
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.
Today, Is 'Ethnicity' the Most Important Topic in the Middle East?
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).
David Henig and Karolina Bielenin-Lenczowska
When Tone Bringa published Being Muslim the Bosnian Way in 1995, the book soon became the hallmark of anthropological studies of Islam in Southeast Europe. In the wake of the tragic events in Bosnia-Herzegovina ensuing from the breakdown of Yugoslavia, it provided much needed intimate insights into the complex entanglement of religion, politico-religious symbolism and identitarian politics in the wartorn country. Furthermore, it complicated the immediate proliferation of the ‘quick solution’ paradigms – clash of civilisations, or ‘old’ ethnic hatred – that had been adopted with ease by many international and local politicians, as well as by scholars working in the region, and that soon became the mainstream of academic discourse during and especially in the years after the war.
History as a Resource in Postmodern Societies
Máiréad Nic Craith and Michaela Fenske
How do people use history to shape their lives, places and ‘worlds’? Which kind of history do they use, and in what ways? What are the functions of history in this context? How do people interact with places and spaces by constructing history, and what are the implications of these constructions for a sense of place? These are some of the questions explored in this special issue of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures on history and place-making.
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.
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.
Elisabeth Katschnig-Fasch died on 4 February 2012. Many people, including the present and past editors of AJEC, are mourning the loss of this very special, indeed unique woman. However, she remains in dialogue with us through her numerous publications.
As I settle down to put together this issue, it occurs to me that the development of AJEC in its various phases displays an uncanny correspondence with my personal professional trajectory so far. Its inception and first volume happened during my postdoctoral fellowship when I was happy to place one of my first (coauthored) academic articles in its inaugural issue. The remainder of AJEC’s first approximate decade coincides with my time as a lecturer. At the time I took up my first chair, the format of AJEC changed, eventually turning it, for a while, into a Yearbook rather than a journal. And in the year I moved to my second chair, I was invited to take on the editorship of AJEC, which would now be published by Berghahn and returning to the format of two issues per year. This correspondence raises a curious question: What significant turning point for the journal will correspond with my own as I am becoming an emeritus professor?