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IAS Public Lecture – Asabiya—The Code of the Desert

January 27, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Public Lecture by Dr Sandra Scham, The Catholic University of America.

Asabiya is often translated as tribal loyalty or nascent nationalism, though, arguably, it is much stronger than either. Pre-Islamic asabiya has been called the “religion of the desert” which may be the reason why early Islamic scholars found it to be highly suspect and a threat to the unity of the Umma. After the Bedouin in the Levant converted to Islam, asabiya remained the ideology behind all aspects of their communal lives. It mediated the interactions between tribes and ensured the protection of their territories, their herds, their dira (collectively held grazing areas), and their use of pastoral routes and way stations. The Bedouin of the Negev Desert today have been forced into a sedentary way of life, transitioning from pastoralism to agriculture, and obliged to accept a different form of collective spirit and communal ownership—that of the State of Israel which owns 93% the land within its borders. The asabiya of the major Bedouin tribes in the Negev is still linked to the Desert. With a drastic diminution of their tribal lands, however, many Bedouin now use the term in a negative sense to characterize their persistent inter-tribal conflicts over dwindling resources. This lecture will discuss the history of asabiya in the Levantand how it affected relationships between “the desert and the sown” from late antiquity until modern times.

The Lecture will take place on Zoom. To register please click here.


January 27, 2021
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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