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Tribes and States in a Changing Middle East$
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Uzi Rabi

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190264925

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190264925.001.0001

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Bedouin Tribes in Contemporary Syria

Bedouin Tribes in Contemporary Syria

Alternative Perceptions of Authority, Management, and Control

(p.145) 7 Bedouin Tribes in Contemporary Syria
Tribes and States in a Changing Middle East

Dawn Chatty

Oxford University Press

Although there is little, if any, documentation regarding tribes in the public domain in Syria post the Mandate Era (1920-1943), both the French and British authorities were particularly concerned with establishing control over their Mandatory states, carved out of the southern provinces of the Ottoman Empire—largely, but not, entirely, Greater Syria. That concern led to the well-documented imposition–through pacification-of a very European set of political structures, which tied the Bedouin to a particular territory. This chapter will commence with an examination of the nature of the tribe in Greater Syria (Bilad-al-Sham) and its recent historical past. It will then examine the 20th-century history of French mandate pacification and sedentarization, as well as the Bedouin rejection and ‘silent’ resistance to it, often expressed in movement in and out of the French zone of authority. That mobility and resistance, this paper will show, continued well into the independence period and the early post-modern era. Although a European-based sedentist political superstructure was imposed on Greater Syria by the French and British, at independence, central government, Bedouin identity, power and authority remained located in the sometimes fluid and mobile tribal relations of segmentary lineages and not specifically in territory.

Keywords:   Syria, Bedouin, French mandate, British, Sedentarization

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