Thursday, March 27, 2008

Life changes of the Bedouins

"And herein is the crux and tragedy of the Bedouin's present situation. For generations, Arabs in the North Arabian Desert have moved back-andforth between Bedouinism and the settled life. In good times Bedouin took to life on the farm and in the village. In hard times, be they environmental, social, political or economic, they took to the arid lands and the pastoral life. About 1893, international events shifted toward favoring the settled life over that of the pastoralist and the process of de-Bedouinization has accelerated since. By about 1990, the process of de-Bedouinization, precipitated by the enthusiasm for international capitalism, changed substantially and brutally. It is one thing to dismiss those who raise sheep in Jordan's Badia, sheep whose production costs are greater than sheep raised in central Australia, as simply unfortunate but subject like everyone else to inevitable competitive laws. It is quite something else to relegate these people and their children, who have few alternatives and little by way of safety net, to an economic and social dustbin. While noncompetitive and anachronistic, the present Bedouin's only alternative to Bedouinism is a life of crime, smuggling and banditry, and all the chaos and expense that accompanies such a life. As one of our interviewees put it, "I cannot see my children starve. The government is forcing me to do illegal things. If I lose my herd, I will have to steal to feed my family.""

Excellent article (if a bit old) by Burnett et al in the Journal of Third World Studies on the changes in the lives of the Jordanian Bedouins. (MM you'll enjoy this one)

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