Tribes and States in a Changing Middle East

Edited by
June 2016 9781849043458 288pp


At the outset of the twenty-first century and in the midst of the Arab Spring, tribe-state relations are a useful frame of reference through which to analyse the Middle East on a state-by-state basis. Tribes and States in a Changing Middle East looks beyond the dichotomy between tribe and state. Its central theme is the role of tribes and tribalism in state politics, society, and identity, as demonstrated in case studies from the Arab East (mashriq). The book is a comparative endeavour that seeks to address questions related to the interplay between tribal organisations and state institutions, tribal solidarity and nationalism, and tribal power and the centralised government. It further discusses the impact and role of tribal polities in modern states in times of regional and national turmoil.

Table of contents


Foreword: Joshua Teitelbaum – Bringing the Tribes Back In

Introduction: Uzi Rabi

1. Yoav Alon – From Abdullah (I) to Abdullah (II): The Monarchy, the Tribes and the Shaykhly Families in Jordan, 1920-2012
2. Jill Crystal – Tribes and Patronage Networks in Qatar
3. Andrea Rugh – Backgammon or Chess? The State of Tribalism and Tribal Leadership in the United Arab Emirates
4. Uzi Rabi – The Sultanate of Oman: Balancing Tribe, Religion and State
5. Sarah Yizraeli – Al Saʿud – An Ambivalent Approach to Tribalism
6. J.E. Peterson – Tribes, the State, and the Awakening
7. Dawn Chatty – Bedouin Tribes in Contemporary Syria: Alternative Perceptions of Authority, Management and Control
8. Ronen Zeidel – Tribes in Iraq: A Negligible Factor in State Formation
9. Anthony B. Toth – Bahrain: The Amiri State System’s Bloody Bulwark against the Arab Spring
10. Philip Carl Salzman – Tribes and States: Some Theoretical Issues
11. Joseph Kostiner – The Nation in Tribal Societies – Reflections on K.H. al-Naqib’s Studies on the Gulf


‘Uzi Rabi, who himself is among the foremost scholars now working on tribal identity and the state, has assembled an impressive cast of contributors to this volume. … Tribes and States is admirable in its intellectual ambition and empirical scope and certainly the best volume now available on understanding past context and the present conditions that now shape tribal-state relations in the contemporary Middle East.’ — Clive Jones, Professor of Regional Security, and Deputy Head of School in the School of Government and International Affairs, University of Durham

Tribes and States draws together an impressive, some might say stellar, range of experts in order to explore — through the prism of country-by-country analyses — the role of tribes in the state formation and consolidation processes.’ — James Worrall, Lecturer in International Relations, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, and author of State Building and Counter Insurgency in Oman: Political, Military and Diplomatic Relations at the End of Empire

This book — assembled [by] an impressive group of scholars — will be of foremost interest to specialists in the field; however, its scope and accessibility also make it attractive to undergraduate students and the informed general public. Given the relatively limited number of recent studies on tribes and tribalism in the Middle East, Tribes and states in a changing Middle East is a welcome contribution to the literature. — International Affairs


Uzi Rabi is Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of The Emergence of States in a Tribal Society: Oman Under Sa’id bin Taymur, 1932-1970.

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