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Badal Marriages among the Negev Bedouin

'Urf, Shar'ia and State Law

Gideon M. Kressel and Khalil Abu-Rabi'a

The practice of men swapping daughters for wives or nieces as daughters-in-law is evident among the Bedouin. Although this pattern has its roots in ancient Arab culture and is a unique exception to theories of exchange marriage (EM), there is little reference to the circumstances of its occurrence in the anthropological literature. This article reviews the background of and suggests explanations for this practice. EM is shown to be a strategy that largely serves the desire for upward mobility of small and hence lowly graded groups of agnates. The article demonstrates how EM operates in an olden 'urfi setting, dominated by patrilineages, while shar'i courts tend to oppose it. We argue that, although it entails structural implications, this behavioural pattern does not have a structural end.

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Gideon M. Kressel, Sasson Bar-Zvi and Aref Abu-Rabia

Human beliefs in resurrection and life after death, based on lasting exchanges between earth and heaven that prevail in human societies ubiquitously, are presented here and analysed with regard to the customs and rituals of the Negev Bedouin. The article looks at patterns of the mourning process and the different social functions and outcomes of that process. The influence of mystics and the Bedouin's views on death are discussed. Pre-Islamic burial practices and grave visits that reflect both legend and tradition are shown to be on the verge of change as they collide with proper Islam and modernity.