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Editorial

A Body Response to the Urban Middle East

Soheila Shahshahani

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.

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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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Editorial

Unthemed Issue

Soheila Shahshahani

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.

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Soheila Shahshahani

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.

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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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Editorial

Open-Themed Issues

Soheila Shahshahani

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.

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Editorial

Everyday Life in the Middle East

Soheila Shahshahani

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.

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Soheila Shahshahani

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.

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Soheila Shahshahani

This issue of Anthropology of the Middle East is open-themed. However, reading the articles included in this issue, Symbolic Anthropology of the Middle East could become the common thread of these articles and notes from the field.

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Editorial

Why Methodology?

Soheila Shahshahani

What is the state of anthropology in and about the Middle East? How can we assess this situation? The necessity of beginning a new journal comes from the fact that there is a lacuna in the field and those engaged in it claim they can overcome this. With regard to anthropology, we are dedicating this second issue to methodology because we feel certain that some problems in the field come from its methodology. If we discuss it directly and allow readers to critically reflect upon it, then we can take the next step. Questions that come to mind would include: Is the state of anthropology in the Middle East the same as elsewhere in the world? How is this situation related to its methodology? How is it related to the definition of the field in the area, and to its place among other social and human sciences within the state apparatus? Or could it also be comprehended as a function of the state of colonialism at large in the region?