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Clothing and Colours in Early Islam

Adornment (Aesthetics), Symbolism and Differentiation

Hadas Hirsch

The article discusses the colour subtext in the founding texts of Islam, namely, the Koran and jurisprudence. These texts were the raw material to create a scale of colours appropriate and inappropriate for clothing, and to analyse the role of colours in differentiating among subjected groups. Colours were positioned on a scale as preferred, permitted or prohibited for clothing based on their symbolic interpretations and perceptions of adornment and aesthetics. The use of colours for clothing as a means to establish and reinforce gendered differentiation reflects the patriarchal and hierarchal nature of Muslim societies. The other use of colours was to create religious-political differentiation between the Muslim ruling elite and two different subject populations, namely, their non-Muslim tributaries and rebels against the regime.

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Reinventing Anthropological Topics

Soheila Shahshahani

In this issue of AME you have articles which are within established anthropological topics. What is new in them is first, new data from the field, second, new search within old data, and finally new perspective of researchers from the area. So, while kinship, law, methodology, archaeology remain the pillars of our field, they are “reinvented” through new research by scholars some of whom are from the area. Syria, Iraq, and Iran are presented, and Kordish studies relates to all countries which have a Kord population. Our journal being concerned with culture and not political borders, we include an exquisite article on emblems in Uzbekistan which proves the persistence of cultural similarities in symbols from the Middle East and Central Asia.

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The ‘Frame’ at Adab

American Archaeological Misbehaviour in Late Ottoman Iraq (1899–1905)

Jameel Haque

This article uses archival sources from the US State Department to examine conflicts that arose between American archaeologists and the Ottoman state during the years 1899 to 1905 in Ottoman Iraq (Mesopotamia). While contextualising many of the practices of Western archaeologists, this article examines two conflicts that emerged between the American digs at Niffur and Adab and the Ottoman Imperial Museum. The article both augments and disputes aspects of Craig Crossen’s article ‘The Sting at Adab’, published in the Spring 2013 issue of Anthropology of the Middle East. This article’s main contribution is to argue that conflicts that emerged surrounding antiquities demonstrate the growing strength/maturity of the Ottoman state apparatus and the implementation and continuation of nineteenth-century governmental reforms known as the Tanzimat.

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Babak Rezvani

This article discusses the ethno-political and immaterial cultural representations of Russia’s and Georgia’s Muslim minorities as reflected in their anthroponyms, toponyms, flags and coats of arms. It is obvious that Such representations reflect cultural expressions, as they may depict ethnic or religious symbols. Both Russia’s and Georgia’s attitudes towards Islamic cultural expressions are rather liberal. Symbols and names tell a lot about a people’s cultural freedom and orientation. However, it appears from research that religious practice and freedom do not necessarily correlate perfectly with representation of symbols. In accordance with the legacy of the Soviet nationalities policy, by which certain ethnic groups were afforded privileges in an autonomous region, the current representations of immaterial culture and ethno-political culture seem to have a territorial rationale.

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Magdalena Rodziewicz

The rising popularity of ‘white marriages’, relationships between a man and a woman who live together but are not married, has caused a commotion in the Iranian public sphere in the last few years. The debate includes state institutions and religious circles, who feel anxious about the change in gender relations among Iranians, but also academics who elaborate on the causes and consequences of the phenomenon. An important aspect of this controversy concerns legal issues, since according to Shiite law any intimate relationship of an unmarried couple is considered illegal. This article analyses this key aspect of the ongoing dispute and attempts to elaborate on the question of how the gap between people’s expectations and desires and the legal capacity of Islamic rulings is addressed in contemporary Iran.

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Emma Findlen LeBlanc

This article examines Syrians’ narratives about the network of Sharia Committees (Hay’āt al-Sharia) that emerged as the most pervasive and popular legal project during the ongoing civil war. Many Syrians formerly excluded from political power, especially working-class Sunnis, envision the Sharia Committees as a revolutionary space for realising self-determination, where sharia is articulated as a democratic legal process embedded in its ostensibly inherent pluralism, flexibility, anti-authoritarianism and conception of justice as reconciliation and public good. By reviving a historically recurrent vision of sharia as radical democratic practice, Syrians attempt to extricate sharia from its entanglements with efforts to govern. The Sharia Committees thus represent a creative effort to reclaim democracy from state control while challenging rigid, rule-oriented understandings of sharia.

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Research Methodology in Kurdish Studies

Interactions between Fieldwork, Epistemology and Theory

Mehmet Orhan

Kurdish studies are generally defined and conducted according to a topic or geographic location, namely, within the Middle East. Research procedures used to handle different issues as well as develop concepts and hypotheses have become important, since most of the current theories lack practical approaches when conducting studies on the Kurds. Relying on specific examples, published sources as well as the author’s personal fieldwork and insights, the article establishes a critique of bias, problems and solutions in research goals and methodologies in the field of Kurdish studies. The article underlines the importance of problem-oriented research, notably addressing the questions who, where, when, how and why. Furthermore, it shows the way in which the personality of the researcher, as well as the fluctuations and constraints encountered during the fieldwork, influence the methodology. Finally, it emphasises the practical and theoretical challenges dealt with by the researcher due to the political aspect of the Kurdish question, which encompasses orientalist, imperial, or national interests.

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Azim Malikov

The Kazakhs, Turkmens, Tajiks, Qaraqalpaqs, Uyghurs and Uzbeks in Central Asia share some distinct sacred lineages – Sayyids and Xojas – some of which appear in two or more of these ethnic groups. In the article, I will analyse some data on the history and identity of Islamic sacred lineages of Samarqand, compiled during ethnographic research of the population and archival materials. I will analyse the stories of the representatives of sacred families about their past, as well as published narratives. The analysis of the sources shows that despite the preservation of the historical family library, a secularised society and the Sovietera education influenced the views and the identity of sacred families.

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Jane F. Hacking, Jeffrey S. Hardy and Matthew P. Romaniello

This special issue of Sibirica is devoted to exploring Russia’s complicated relationship with Asia. Along with an edited volume (Russia in Asia: Imaginations, Interactions, and Realities, forthcoming), it is an outgrowth of the “Asia in the Russian Imagination” conference that was held at the University of Utah in March 2018. This conference brought together an interdisciplinary body of scholars from the United States, Canada, and Russia to discuss how Russians imagined and interacted with the peoples of Eurasia. Chronologically this conversation spanned the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia, and included not just the geography and peoples possessed by Russia but also the bordering states of Japan, China, and the Ottoman Empire. This is certainly not a new line of inquiry, but there is still much to be understood about these complex relationships, both real and imagined.

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Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Refugees

Ideology, Morality, and Praxis

Yossi Goldstein

A prominent aspect of the Jewish-Arab conflict over Palestine has been the Palestinian ‘catastrophe’ or ‘Nakba’—the displacement of some 750,000 Palestinians during Israel’s War of Independence. David Ben-Gurion, the Yishuv’s pre-state leader and Israel’s first prime minister, was an influential figure in this process. This article investigates Ben-Gurion’s attitude toward the Palestinian refugee problem, highlighting its dynamic nature and its linkage to military developments. Contrary to the conclusions of previous research, only after the Arab states’ invasion and the war’s expansion in late May and early June 1948 did Ben-Gurion decide to oppose the refugees’ return. Undeterred by his own ethical misgivings and international efforts to secure repatriation, his view was reinforced over time, as Israel’s victories on the battlefield became unequivocal.