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Kinship Matters. Tribals, Cousins, and Citizens in Southwest Asia and Beyond

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2010
Author Conte Édouard & Walentowitz Saskia,
Project The practice of Islamic Family Law in Palestine and Israel: Text and Context
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Études rurales
Volume (Issue) 2009/2(184)
Page(s) 217 - 248
Title of proceedings Études rurales


The authors draw attention to the epistemological ambivalences inherent to the term ‘tribe’ and question the division of societies in which Islam is widely recognized into tribal and non-tribal sectors. They test hypotheses meant to show how an alternative theory of kinship and transgenerational reproduction can contribute to provide non-teleological and non-discriminatory explanations of processes related to the construction of social and political proximity beyond the family vs. state dichotomy. This leads them to focus on the key Arabic concept of nasab, here understood as the constantly recreated articulation of convergent structural and historical processes that retrospectively guarantee the validity of claims of origin by the linkage over time of sibling sets through marriage by permutation (badal) as well as the recognition of individual and collective affiliations, including paternity and citizenship. The centrality of nasab as the founding principle of both individual and collective legitimacy is notably manifest in the transgenerational transmission of patronymics; it stands in contrast to the intergenerational (i.e. parent-child) recognition of descent as defined in codified personal status laws of both Islamic and secular inspiration.