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‘You Have Car Insurance, We Have Tribes’

Negotiating Everyday Life in Basra and the Re-emergence of Tribalism

Hayder Al-Mohammad

Keywords: Basra; invasion; Iraq; militias; protection; tribalism

Abstract

This article explores the ways in which Basrans make their way in the world and examines how they negotiate certain situations that they encounter. One important means by which problems are dealt with in Basra is through recourse to one's tribe to mediate and resolve issues and sometimes even to protect an individual or family. I turn to ethnographic instances to highlight both the importance and capriciousness of tribes with respect to extending help when it is required. I then aim to show why tribalism has re-emerged within Iraq as a potent social and political force by reference to the shifting historical situation of the last 50 years.

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