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Politics and Tribalism in the Modern Middle East

Home >> ACADEMICS >> Courses >> Politics and Tribalism in the Modern Middle East
  • Elective course
  • 4 credit hours
Until recently tribalism was thought of as a dying phenomenon retreating before the sweeping forces of modernity while trying to delay their positive progress. The post-colonial nation-state in the Middle East was expected to erode tribal forms of identity. Citizenship, nationalism, religious believers and class identities were seen by historians and socials scientists as the main forms for social and political organization and therefore subjected them to scholarly inquiry, downplaying the role of the tribes. Contrary to these predictions, however, tribes have not only survived modernism and statehood but in some ways also enjoyed a revival. In many Middle Eastern countries, tribal values and social organization have proved to be the allies of the modern state.  In fact, tribes in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Yemen and even in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, rather than disappearing, became the building blocks of the modern state. In this way they help safeguard the state and the ruling regimes.

The course would offer a close analysis of the historical as  well as current role of tribes and tribal values in the Middle East. It will demonstrate the great significance of this phenomenon as one of the main features of Middle Eastern politics, society and culture. This will be done by drawing on both the theoretical literature on tribes and state in the Middle East and by examining particular case studies. The course’s syllabus is composed of cutting edge scholarship in the fields of history, anthropology, sociology and political science.  
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