Bedouin and tribes were instrumental in the transformation processes which affected the social, political, economic, and cultural landscapes of the Arab East during a comparatively short period, from the end of Ottoman rule till the establishment of independent nation states. Manners and significance of mobile pastoralism and tribal organisation experienced profound change during this period, causing upheaval and migration, but also the emergence of new opportunities. The importance of armed camel herders, which once were a major symbol of Bedouin pride, has declined since then. Yet Bedouin and tribal identities continue to play a vital role in the societies of the region. This is manifest on various levels of political and social articulation today, and is also documented by the ever-increasing number of Arabic books, films, and websites on tribal history, traditions, and values, many of which are produced by authors who have a Bedouin background themselves.
The conference aims at discussing the historical trajectories and experiences of different groups in the steppe and to evaluate the role of tribes and the tribal heritage in the societies of the contemporary Arab East.
I gave a talk last Friday in this conference. It was called: From Pastures to Pasteurized. I hate titles with clever word games, except when I'm the one coming up with them.