This article refers to the methodology of this eld as a viable way of being in a very complex (personal, institutional, research) situation of existence at different levels over a long period of time. The author uses ‘distancing’, putting in abeyance her personal reactions in order to comprehend and make evident what would otherwise have been difficult to go through. So participant observation not only deeply familiarises the researcher with a situation and culture, it also provides a standpoint of not personally getting involved in order to continue research.
This article aims to contextualise music as it was experienced in Tehran in 2004 (when the research for this work was conducted) - music that comes from various ethnic groups within Iran, and music coming from the diaspora. The relationships between various genres of music and people, as well as between music and the government, are examined. The malleability of musicians and their capacity to coordinate their expertise with popular and governmental expectations and limitations are then analysed. In this way, a fascinating yet little studied area in the anthropology of Iran at the time of research is addressed.
Ceremonies are a very important part of Iranian life. They have definite order, ritual and objects associated with them. The political and economic situation of individuals taking part in a ceremony mark them, and if there are various classes, positions and gender, they are all markers of ceremonies. To study any topic in terms of the duality of traditional and modern versions has become banal and too simplistic. Looking at one single ceremony, indeed even looking at only a few hours of a ceremony can show how malleable are the boundaries of a ceremony, to be affected by many factors. Regarding the few hours that I am reporting about, the following factors are involved: an earthquake; the Islamic Revolution and the reactions to it; satellite television; and consumer goods; as well as changes in people’s way of life that have affected the availability of time, the availability of space, and, finally, the place of the visual, the centrality of the camera in organising a ceremony in a way that it can be recorded in an acceptable manner for later viewing. Responding to all these changes and trying to hold together a very important ceremony and a number of people who must be kept together through ceremonies is what gives the following its meaning and urgency of its reporting.
Everyday Life in the Middle East
Ever since the 1970s, when I attended a conference of the American Anthropological Association for the first time, a question had been with me: Why do anthropologists of the Middle East not have a common forum in the form of a journal or an anthropology association? Now, as Anthropology of the Middle East makes its debut, my belief in the need for such a publication has become even stronger.
A Body Response to the Urban Middle East
The urban Middle East is an archaeological and historical fact. Modernity has necessitated enlargement of these urban sites and has created many urban hubs, as well as different residential and professional allocations around previous sites. It has created new centres, yet it has also destroyed – through contemporary architecture and city planning, not to mention war and bombardment – some of its famous points of interest.
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).
In the 1970s and 1980s, North and South Yemen appeared to be two states pursuing opposing, sometimes hostile, economic and political policies. Then, in 1990, they suddenly united. This article analyses sport diplomacy as an instrument in opening institutional contacts between the two governments and as a venue for conveying important socio-political and historical messages. Cross-border football contests reinforced the largely invented notion of a single Yemen derived from pre-Islamic kingdoms. This idea remains a foundation of Yemeni nationalism and a base of Yemeni national identity.
Edited by Soheila Shahshahani
Reinventing Anthropological Topics
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.
This issue of Anthropology of the Middle East is unthemed, but there is a definite continuity to its articles. Previously, we have had themed issues – for example, on kinship, migration, medical anthropology, Central Asia – and the articles here touch on the same topics, so they relate very well to earlier issues.