asabiyyah

inigo montoya sm

asabiyyah. it’s a word that was used by ibn khaldun in his work on history entitled Muqaddimah or Prolegomena (“Introduction” — here’s a version on google books).

asabiyyah often gets translated simply as “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” or “group feeling” which has led many a westerner to think that it can be applied to any old group, but that is just not so. this “group feeling” that khaldun was writing about was specifically the solidarity found in arab or arabized clans and tribes. other thinkers of the islamic golden age, such as al-farabi, also discussed the concept of asabiyyah. al-farabi, however, used the word more in its (apparently) original sense — clannishness. i kid you not! [pg. 171]:

“According to Muhsin Mahdi in his authoritative work, ‘Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History’ (London: George Allen and Unwin, 195), 263 n. 1, Ibn Khaldun’s use of ‘asabiyyah differs from Alfarabi’s. The former views ‘asabiyyah both as a source of division *and* as a source of unity; the latter views it merely as a source of division. Thus, Mahdi translates ‘asabiyyah in his book on Ibn Khaldun as ‘social solidarity’ rather than as ‘clannishness.’

“But perhaps Iban Khaldun has not departed from Alfarabi in the respect Mahdi suggests. For Alfarabi, although ‘asabiyyah is a source of division between different clans, it is certainly a source of unity within the clan (or *dunasteia*). The common purpose of fighting common enemies unites the members of the clan. Once the law has unified clans into a city, the city’s common fighting purpose still derives from the ‘asabiyyah of its citizens, especially of its leading clan. Is ‘asabiyyah really a greater source of unity than this in the ‘Muqaddimah’? As Mahdi himself notes, Ibn Khaldun never identifies what he calls the ‘natural rule or governance (*mulk tabi’i*) in which one clan rules a group of other clans by virtue of its superior ‘asabiyyah without the assistance of a law (divine or ‘rational’) as a ‘regime’ (ibid., 264-265). The reason why he does not refer to it as a regime is obvious: The result of this kind of rule is not the minimum of internal peace necessary for political life but ‘constant war [i.e., civil war] and confusion’ (ibid., 265).”

asabiyyah, then, is the “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” of the clan or the tribe. it is not the social cohesion that held medieval arab/arabized societies together. asabiyyah was, in fact, the force that divided those societies — and is dividing iraq and syria today. the problem for arabized societies is not having too little asabiyyah, it’s that they have too much.

according to khaldun, part of the trick to maintaining a state full of independent clans each with their own asabiyyah is for the ruling clan to develop some sort of supra-asabiyyah and in that way reach a state of iltiham or coalesence [pg. 285 and pg. 32 here]. this is easier said than done, since each of the clans/tribes at least theoretically wants to be the one on top — if they can get there. islam itself was an excellent uniting force early on for arab tribes. until mohammed died and the infighting over who’d be in charge started (i.e. the origin of the sunni-shia split). maybe some form of radical islam will work today — perhaps whatever al-qaeda or isis has on offer. the problem is, all of the asabiyyah in arab societies is always pulling it apart.

another trick to running a country full of clans while maintaining your own clan on the top is to give enough favors to other clans to keep them happy in their subordinate positions. these are just patron-client systems writ large. this is exactly what the ruling clans did when the arabs first invaded iraq. i wrote in my last post on the arabs in iraq how the clans and tribes set themselves up in separate streets in separate neighborhoods. well, most of these newly relocated clans received stipends from the clans in charge to compensate them for their services during the invasion. this was their booty, in other words. and the financing for these stipends came from taxes — in part from the jizya payed by the non-muslims in iraq. you may have heard about jizya. [see morony on all of this.]

the patronage system — with nepotism to boot — is how arabized states are still run today. it’s the only way, because otherwise the asabiyyahs of all the different clans would tear these countries apart [pgs. 3-4]:

“Ibn Khaldun claims that power (*mulk*) is not based in the [arab] city as was the case in Greek tradition, but is instead based on an essential regroup of key ‘asabiyyah concepts. These are emotional links and blood relationships (*silat-ar-rahem*) — both tribal and familial — driven by sociological narrative rather than citizenship in public space. The roles of brothers, sons, uncles, half-brothers, wives, daughters, and mothers of the leader are defined via ‘asabiyyah in Arab political systems. These elements of analysis, beyond their anecdotal dimensions, introduce us to the heart of how authoritarian dynastical rule functions. ‘Asabiyyah acquires an incomparable force by controlling the state apparatus and carrying out public politics.

“This type of ‘asabiyyah was particularly visible in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, mainly within the security and intelligence apparatuses. It is obvious today in the republican-style authoritarian regime of Asad. We also find ‘asabiyyah applied in the Arab Gulf countries, led by large families who dominate ‘departments of sovereignty’ (*wizarat as-seyadah*), meaning all key positions in the state. Saudi Arabia could be cited as the singular example in which dynastic succession functions through internal cooptation of the al-Saud clan, but it can also be understood as a rotation of the top matrilineages — the clans of origin of the princes’ mothers.

“The princes that belong to the first circle of power and lead departments of sovereignty or hold the governorates of important provinces tend to enter exogamous marriages (which is contrary to the norms established for preferential Arab unions). The women of the al-Saud clan typically enter endogamous marital unions. The clan is therefore a taker, rather than a giver, of women, which both expresses and helps perpetuate the dominant position it holds. Here, matrimonial strategies ensure the clientelism of other clans in the country. In a tribalized and a poorly integrated society, such as that of Saudi Arabia, the paternal clan’s grip on power ensures the cohesion and stability of the ruling group.”

…by keeping subordinate clans happy by sharing with them some of the “spoils” (in the case of saudi arabia or the uae or qatar — oil money!).

some of the confusion some (many!) westerners have about what asabiyyah refers to comes, i think, from the fact that they overlook which populations khaldun was talking about. he specifically looked at the arab states in spain and north africa [pg. 214] and contrasted them with kurdish and bedouin and berber tribal populations [pg. 45]. by the time that khaldun was writing in the fourteenth century, all of these groups were well-arabized and probably had been practicing father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage for several hundred years and, so, would’ve been very clannish [see, for example, the previous post on iraq]. the arab states repeatedly fell apart, not because they ran out of asabiyyah, but because those in charge didn’t manage to hold together their state in the face of all the different asabiyyahs of the various clans/tribes within their states. the invading groups — the kurds, bedouin, and berbers — of course held together by the promise of riches if and when they succeeded in conquering the settled arabs.

most importantly, though, the lessons learned from these populations can’t be applied most other places, because different peoples are different. so, for instance, i think peter turchin’s got two out of three right: 1) yes, you need a charismatic leader to unite clans/tribes (think: mohammed); 2) yes, you need some sort of ideology to create that iltiham (islam worked great back in the day) — even better if you can throw in some spoils; but 3) no, you cannot just go to the desert, either literally or figuratively, in order for your group to acquire asabiyyah. (although dune is an awesome novel/movie! so turchin’s actually got three out of four things right….) you need to be a real clan to do that with real (close) genetic ties and enough time to allow natural selection to select for asabiyyah. the problem is, what to do with it once you’ve got it?

update: see also asabiyyah ii – clannishness and the abbasid caliphate

(note: comments do not require an email. asabiyyah.)

ibn khaldun notices regression to the mean (and entropy)

too bad he didn’t get his behavioral genetics right, though. but that’s ok. he was ahead of the times. from The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History; In Three Volumes – I [pgs. 105-106]:

“14. Prestige lasts at best four generations in one lineage

“The world of the elements and all it contains comes into being and decays. Minerals, plants, all the animals including man, and the other created things come into being and decay, as one can see with one’s own eyes. The same applies to the conditions that affect created things, and especially the conditions that affect man. Sciences grow up and then are wiped out. The same applies to crafts, and to similar things.

“Prestige is an accident that affects human beings. It comes into being and decays inevitably. No human being exists who possesses an unbroken pedigree of nobility from Adam down to himself. The only exception was made in the case of the Prophet, as a special act of divine grace to him, and as a measure designed to safeguard his true character.

“Nobility originates in the state of being outside. That is, being outside of leadership and nobility and being in a base, humble station, devoid of prestige. This means that all nobility and prestige is preceded by the non-existence of nobility and prestige, as is the case with every created thing.

It reaches its end in a single family within four successive generations. This is as follows: The builder of the family’s glory know what it cost him to do the work, and he keeps the qualities that created his glory and made it last. The son who comes after him had personal contact with his father and thus learned those things from him. However, he is inferior to him in this respect, inasmuch as a person who learns things through study is inferior to a person who knows them from practical application. The third generation must be content with imitation and, in particular, with reliance upon tradition. This member is inferior to him of the second generation, inasmuch as a person who relies upon tradition is inferior to a person who exercises independent judgement.

The fourth generation, then, is inferior to the preceding ones in every respect. Its member has lost the qualities that preserved the edifice of its glory. He despises (those qualities). He imagines that the edifice was not built through application and effort. He thinks that it was something due his people from the very beginning by virtue of the mere fact of their descent, and not something that resulted from group (effort) and (individual) qualities. For he sees the great respect in which he is held by the people, but he does not know how that respect originated and what the reason for it was. He imagnes that it is due to his descent and nothing else. He keeps away from those in whose group feelings he shares, thinking that he is better than they. He trusts that (they will obey him because) he was brought up to take their obedience for granted, and he does not knw the qualities that made obedience necessary. Such qualities are humility (in dealing) with (such men) and respect for their feelings. Therefore, he considers them despicable, and they, in turn, revolt against him and despise him. They transfer leadership from him and his direct lineage to some other related branch, in obedience to their group feeling, after they have convinced themselves that the qualities of the (new leader) are satisfactory to them. His family then grows, whereas the family of the original (leader) decays and the edifice of his ‘house’ collapses.

“That is the case with rulers who have royal authority. It also is the case with all the ‘houses’ of tribes, of amirs, and of everybody else who shares in a group feeling, and then also with the ‘houses’ among the urban population. When one ‘house’ goes down, another one rises in another group of the same descent.

The rule of four (generations) with respect to prestige usually holds true. It may happen that a ‘house’ is wiped out, disappears, and collapses in fewer than four, or it may continue unto the fifth and sixth generations, though in a state of decline and decay. The four generations can be defined as the builder, the one who has personal contact with the builder, the one who relies on tradition, and the destroyer.”

(note: comments do not require an email. asabiyyah.)

fbd cousin marriage and clans and tribes in iraq

the counts vary depending on who you talk to and how you want to slice up clans and tribes, but there’s something on the order of 150 tribes comprised of ca. 2,000 clans in iraq today (“today” meaning in 2008). roughly three-quarters of the iraqi population admits to belonging to clans and/or tribes. here’s a map of where the tribes are located (from same report as above – click on map for LARGER view):

iraq - tribes

consang.net puts the cousin marriage rates for iraq at anywhere between 25 and 53% in the 1980s and 2000s [pgs. 17-18 – pdf], and those numbers include a lot of double-first cousin marriages which indicates father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage. a 50% cousin marriage rate would be one of the highest rates in the world, comparable to places like saudi arabia and pakistan (and certain neighborhoods in bradford).

a 2005 u.n.-funded report from the iraqi ministry of planning and development cooperation [pdf – pg. 47] tells us that, in 2004, seventeen percent of all married women were in fbd marriages (the report refers to them as father’s brother’s son or fbs marriages taking the point of view of the woman — same difference), another four percent were in father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriages, and another thirteen percent were to some other kind-of relative within the paternal clan. that’s 34% of marriages between paternal relatives. another fifteen percent of marriages were between maternal relatives — maternal cousins and such. fbd marriage has actually decreased in frequency since the 1940s, but other forms of cousin marriage increased over the same time period. as the report says [pg. 48]:

“Thus, in contrast to patterns among other populations in the Middle East (Patterson 2002), kin marriage frequency does not seem to have decreased with the overall modernisation of Iraq.”

the direct result of all this fbd marriage, i think, is the hierarchical structure of arab/iraqi society in which extended families are nested into sub-clans which are nested into larger clans which, in turn, are nested into tribes — and all of these are based on a patrilineal system. this structure means that subgroups can and do easily fission off from their fellow subgroups and that they don’t always naturally cooperate with one another. this is where the bedouin “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers” principle comes in. from murphy and kasdan’s “The Structure of Parallel Cousin Marriage” [pg. 24]:

“Degree of relationship is the significant criterion in the determination of allegiances. Distance from a common ancestor in terms of numbers of intervening kinsmen is crucial to the ordering of relations within and between agnatic sections, and the principle of degree of relationship determines the composition of the Ego-centered blood responsibility group.

“[This] fact tells us a great deal about the patrilineal units of Arab society: except perhaps at the level of the tribe, there are no lineages in the sense of bounded groups having a continuing and cohesive base in corporate rights and duties. Differing degrees of relationship within the named groupings tend to break up their internal homogeneity; they are not solidary units, but become activated only temporarily at the call of political expediency….

it’s difficult to next to impossible to form “corporate” cooperative groups like those you find in northwest european societies in fbd marriage societies, because it just doesn’t pay — in inclusive fitness terms — for individuals to cooperate with distant relatives, let alone strangers. or maybe the way to look at it is that, given the degrees of relatedness between family members in such populations, which are way higher than in non-cousin marrying pops, it just pays more for individuals to cooperate with the closest relative(s) possible in any given situation. see steve sailer’s “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” for more on the dynamics of fbd societies.

this is not something automatic or something that can be changed overnight. if you were to take a group of long term outbreeders — like northwest europeans — and set them to marrying their cousins, they would not begin to behave like clannish, nepotistic inbreeders in one generation. i don’t think. we’re probably talking about an evolutionary process here, so you’d have to let a little natural selection take its course. you’d have to allow for the relatedness between individuals in the population to change and for the dynamics within the society to change — in other words for the selection pressures to change — until more clannish individuals began to show higher fitness rates and increased in number in the population.

and vice versa for changing a long term inbreeding society.

as greg cochran has said, “every society selects for something.” i think a long term inbreeding society selects — or can select — for what i call clannishness. and iraqis have got that in spades. they’ve got clans and tribes, nepotism, and an obvious inability to handle liberal democracy. not that that’s some sort of goal in and of itself. i’m just sayin’.

so the degree and the type of inbreeding or outbreeding in any population is important — i.e. the percentage of cousin marriages, for instance, which we’ve seen is high in iraq, and whether or not those cousin marriages are fbd in type which leads to increased amounts of the very close double-first cousin marriages — but so is the length of time of the inbreeding or outbreeding. the question then is: for how long have iraqis been marrying their cousins, in particular their fbds?

in “Parallel-Cousin (FBD) Marriage, Islamization, and Arabization”, andrey korotayev points out that fbd marriage is found almost exclusively in those areas of the world that were a part of the eighth century caliphate (one exception seems to be the sotho-tswana peoples of southern africa):

caliphate in 750

korotayev suggests, rightly so i think, that the arabs introduced fbd marriage to populations in the maghreb, mashriq, and south asia (afghanistan and pakistan). the locals picked up on fbd marriage as part of a broader arabization process — they were just generally keen to imitate their new overlords in all ways. (btw, pseudoerasmus is on a mission to figure out why any group would adopt fbd marriage at all. most peoples consider it too incestuous [it does lead to a lot of double-first cousin matings], so keep an eye out on pseudo’s blog for more on that!)

the arabs conquered iraq (as part of their conquest of the persian sasanian empire) in the early part of the 600s, so that’s a good 1400 years of possible fbd marriage in iraq, although it no doubt took some time before the local population adopted the practice in significant numbers. it’s worth noting that this is pretty much diametrically opposed to what happened in europe where cousin marriage of all sorts began to be banned right around the same time.

question is, were the peoples of iraq marrying cousins of any sort before the arabs arrived? my guess is that they were not marrying their fbds before the arabs arrived, and, going by the below description of the aramaeans (which is just hearsay, i’ll admit), many of them may not have been marrying their closest cousins much at all. (of course, the elite persians — the zoroastrians — were marrying their siblings, but that’s another story for another day.) from Iraq After the Muslim Conquest, here’s what the arabs thought of the aramaeans [pg. 179]:

For their part, Arabs tended to stereotype Aramaeans as arrogant people who identified themselves by their place of origin instead of by a tribal genealogy. Arabs looked down on them as people who had lost their power and independence first to Persian and then to Arab rulers. According to Mas’udi, the Anbat were inferior to Arabs because the latter were granted a prophet and the former were not.”

inbred, clannish peoples tend to identify themselves by some sort of family name or at least by the names of their fathers and grandfathers — think: arabs, chinese, russians, scots. it’s outbred peoples who often take other sorts of surnames — like all the “professional” names of the english (miller, cooper, sawyer, lawyer, archer!). many northwest european groups have this, of course. so it’s interesting that the aramaeans did not identify themselves according to tribe but according to place. this might indicate that they were not regular inbreeders, but Further Research Is RequiredTM.

btw, here’s what the aramaeans thought of the arabs:

“On their side, the Aramaeans, as representatives of a sedentary, orderly, agricultural population, reacted somewhat unfavorably to what was felt to be an impetuosity or excitability on the part of Arabs. This attitude and the stereotpe it involved is well illustrated in the case of an Arab monk from Hira named Mar Eliyya who lived at the Nestorian monastery on Mt. Izla above Nasibin in the late sixth century. The monastic chronicler who described Rabban Eliyya’s energentic response to a crisis in the community found it necessary to explain that he possessed the ‘violent character of the bedouin.’ Such attitudes survived the conquest and were expressed as a feeling of superiority on the part of the Anbat over Arabs because of the achievements of the Babylonians, the antiquity and spread of their civilization, the flourishing of agriculture, and their acceptance of Islam without having a prophet appear amongst them.”

here’s more from Iraq After the Muslim Conquest [pg. 236]:

“The single most important ethnographic change in seventh-century Iraq was the arrival of large numbers of Muslim Arabs from the Arabian peninsula and the foundation of new urban centers as garrison cities where they settled….”

the author, historian michael morony, goes on to describe the settlement patterns of the invading arabs in two cities, kufa and basra — the arabs had gated communities and everything! [pgs. 242-243, 246]:

The pattern which emerges at Kufa is that of a city divided into separate tribal districts (Ar. sg. *nahiya* or *mahalla*), each with its own *masjid* for daily worship and tribal assemblies, its own cemetery, and with gates to close off the streets going through each district. Within each district, the members of the respective tribes seem to have settled by clan along lanes or alleys adjacent to the main street of the district. From a purely descriptive point of view, it is possible to identify most of the tribal districts in seventh-century Kufa….

“It also seems that as time passed, subgroups within a tribal district tended to form their own neighborhoods. Such were the districts (*mahallat*) of the Banu Shaytan clan of Tamim and of the Banu ‘Anz ibn Wa’il, who had their own *masjid*….”

“The organization of Basra along tribal lines was similar to that of Kufa….”

another city, hira, had been heavily settled in by arab traders for generations before the arab invasions, and they, too, had lived in neighborhoods arranged according to clans/tribes, so the clan system obviously goes well back in arab society [pg. 221]:

“Hira was the political and cultural hub of this zone of Arab settlement and, in spite of the presence of Persian soliders and *dahaqin*, it was considered to be an Arab city. The Arab population of Hira was a mixture of many small groups of diverse tribal origins. Members of Tanukh, Tayyi’, Tamim, Sulaym, ‘Ijl, Shayban, Tha’laba, Asad, Azd, Kalb, and others could be found at Hira. The organization of late Sasanian Hira around several fortified enclosures (Ar. *qusur*) that were identified with particular clans, the existence of tribal churches, and the political and social domination of the town by an elite of notables (Ar. *ashraf*) belonging to the leading clans make Hira a good example of a late pre-Islamic Arab city as well as a prototype for tribally organized early Islamic cities such as Kufa and Bara.”

more from morony [pgs. 254-255]:

One of the most apparent social consequences of the conquest was an extension of tribal social organization, especially in urban settings. This was associated with the new ruling group and was partly the result of the cohesion of tribal groups, which preserved their identities in the garrison cities and even enhanced their ties to other groups on the basis of nominal kinship. The state also helped to preserve such identities by using them as a basis for military organization. An equally powerful influence in the survival of tribal society, however, was the Qur’an. It sanctioned many aspects of the tribal social ethic, such as the importance of group solidarity, joint responsibility, exemplary behavior, generosity, hospitality, the protection of the weak by the strong, raiding, and retaliation. Although the intention in the Qur’an was to replace tribal identities with an Islamic identity, many tribal social values received a new religious sanction in the process.

Retaliation is a good example of the survival and reinterpretation of the tribal ethic in early Islamic Iraq. The Qur’an sanctioned the principle of retaliation partly because it was impossible to suppress it completely and partly because the early Islamic community at Madina faced a desperate struggle for survival. But the Qur’an also attempted to prevent an unending chain of blood vengeance by recommending charity, forgiveness, and the acceptance of a blood-price (Ar. *diya*) as the better way.

“The annals of early Islamic history are full of examples of retaliation, and there is no question that it remained one of the most important responsibilities of kinship. Of greater significance are the attempts by the state to restrict and to control it. When two of Muthanna’s lieutenants drowned several members of the tribes of Taghlib and Namir at Siffin [in syria-h.chick] in 634 in retaliation for a pre-Islamic grievance, ‘Umar made them swear that they had done it as an example and not out of vengeance. Under Mu’awiya the state attempted to regulate the operation of the private blood-feud in Iraq by enforcing the responsibilities of the clan (Ar. *aqila*) as a legal unit. At Basra, Ziyad held families and tribes responsible for the behavior of their members. Payment of the blood-price was assured by deducting the amount from the pay of the guilty party or from that of his tribe. If the victim was non-Muslim, half the normal blood-price went to the next of kin and the other half to the state treasury….”

so the invading arabs introduced — directly transplanted, really — into seventh century iraq tribes and tribal behaviors, including blood feuds, along with their underlying foundation, fbd marriage. i’m not sure what the social structures of pre-islamic iraq were like, but from what morony says, it sounds as though the arab-style of tribalism was a new introduction at the time to the region.

divisions within pre-islamic iraqi society had, however, been growing in the late sasanian era, and these divisions were not at all discouraged by the arabs once they took charge [pgs. 518 and 278]:

One of the most important of such trends was the formation of a society composed of religious communities, which was already well under way by the late sixth century with the strengthening of internal bonds and external boundaries….

“[T]he Muslims expected Jews and Christians to live according to their own religious laws, so the conquest had the effect of encouraging the operation and continuing development of autonomous systems of religious laws….”

“[T]he formation of…closely knit communities increasingly isolated the members of one group from those of another. The boundaries created between religious groups by separarte bodies of law are indicative of the rising barriers to interfaith relations at the end of the Sasanian period. The defensiveness associated with this development was symbolized by a shared vocabulary of protective walls. The Magians [zoroastrians-h.chick] saw the good fortune of their religion (M.P. *den x’arrah*) as a fortress-like enclosure formed by the starry band around the sky, which protected the good from the attacks of demons. Jews spoke of making a fence around the Torah, and the Nestorian synod of 554 called the canons ‘high walls, impregnable fortresses, protecting their guardians against all danger.'”

so, it’s not as though pre-islamic iraq was a unified nation, either. yes, my curiosity has been raised, so i’ll be checking into all of this further.

iraqis have been working on being highly clannish and tribal for nearly 1400 years, if not longer. my conservative guesstimate is that they’ve been practicing the closest form of cousin marriage possible — fbd marriage — for a thousand years, again if not longer. that’s about 40 generations, if we count a generation at 25 years in length.

like super misdreavus tweeted, there’s no reason to think that simply introducing western institutions to the country will change how the country works. not overnight. not even in ten or twenty generations, if the new institutions could somehow be sustained for that long in the country. saddam hussein tried to suppress the clans and tribes — he apparently banned the use of tribal names [pg. 3] — as did gaddafi in libya, but to no avail. iraq’s solutions lie in that country’s own traditions — their own methods of governing and running things — not in western style democracy.

as super misdreavus also tweeted, remember that “hbd denial costs human lives.” i sincerely wish — for the sake of the people in iraq, for the sake of everyone — that people would wake up to this fact.

(note: comments do not require an email. erbil, iraq – inhabited for 8,000 years.)

nepotism as a moral duty (in iraq)

here’s an oldie but a goodie — from the nyt in 2003:

THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: TRADITIONS
Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change
By JOHN TIERNEY
Published: September 28, 2003

(…)

“Americans just don’t understand what a different world Iraq is because of these highly unusual cousin marriages,” said Robin Fox of Rutgers University, the author of “Kinship and Marriage,” a widely used anthropology textbook. “Liberal democracy is based on the Western idea of autonomous individuals committed to a public good, but that’s not how members of these tight and bounded kin groups see the world. Their world is divided into two groups: kin and strangers.”

Iraqis frequently describe nepotism not as a civic problem but as a moral duty. The notion that Iraq’s next leader would put public service ahead of family obligations drew a smile from Iqbal’s uncle and father-in-law, Sheik Yousif Sayel, the patriarch in charge of the clan’s farm on the Tigris River south of Baghdad.

“In this country, whoever is in power will bring his relatives in from the village and give them important positions,” Sheik Yousif said, sitting in the garden surrounded by some of his 21 children and 83 grandchildren. “That is what Saddam did, and now those relatives are fulfilling their obligation to protect him from the Americans.”

Saddam Hussein married a first cousin who grew up in the same house as he did, and he ordered most of his children to marry their cousins….

Next to the family, the sons’ social priority is the tribe, Sadah, which has several thousand members in the area and is led by Sheik Yousif. He and his children see their neighbors when praying at Sunni mosques, but none belong to the kind of civic professional groups that are so common in America, the pillars of civil society that observers since de Tocqueville have been crediting for the promotion of democracy.

“I told my children not to participate in any outside groups or clubs,” Sheik Yousif said. “We don’t want distractions. We have a dynasty to preserve.” To make his point, he told his sons to unroll the family tree, a scroll 70 feet long with lots of cousins intertwined in the branches.

the arab and arabized world ranks very low in surveys of civic behaviors. the middle east/maghreb typically vies with eastern europe for bottom place in the rankings when it comes to people joining voluntary associations. see this previous post: civic societies ii.

more from the nyt:

Cousin marriage was once the norm throughout the world, but it became taboo in Europe after a long campaign by the Roman Catholic Church. Theologians like St. Augustine and St. Thomas argued that the practice promoted family loyalties at the expense of universal love and social harmony. Eliminating it was seen as a way to reduce clan warfare and promote loyalty to larger social institutions — like the church.

The practice became rare in the West, especially after evidence emerged of genetic risks to offspring, but it has persisted in some places, notably the Middle East, which is exceptional because of both the high prevalence and the restrictive form it takes. In other societies, a woman typically weds a cousin outside her social group, like a maternal cousin living in a clan led by a different patriarch. But in Iraq the ideal is for the woman to remain within the clan by marrying the son of her father’s brother, as Iqbal did.

The families resulting from these marriages have made nation-building a frustrating process in the Middle East, as King Faisal and T. E. Lawrence both complained after efforts to unite Arab tribes.

“The tribes were convinced that they had made a free and Arab Government, and that each of them was It,” Lawrence wrote in “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” in 1926. “They were independent and would enjoy themselves a conviction and resolution which might have led to anarchy, if they had not made more stringent the family tie, and the bonds of kin-responsibility. But this entailed a negation of central power.”

That dichotomy remains today, said Ihsan M. al-Hassan, a sociologist at the University of Baghdad. At the local level, the clan traditions provide more support and stability than Western institutions, he said, noting that the divorce rate among married cousins is only 2 percent in Iraq, versus 30 percent for other Iraqi couples. But the local ties create national complications.

“The traditional Iraqis who marry their cousins are very suspicious of outsiders,” Dr. Hassan said. “In a modern state a citizen’s allegiance is to the state, but theirs is to their clan and their tribe. If one person in your clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way.”

The more educated and urbanized Iraqis have become, Dr. Hassan said, the more they are likely to marry outsiders and adopt Western values. But the clan traditions have hardly disappeared in the cities, as is evident by the just-married cousins who parade Thursday evenings into the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad. Surveys in Baghdad and other Arab cities in the past two decades have found that close to half of marriages are between first or second cousins.

The prevalence of cousin marriage did not get much attention before the war from Republicans in the United States who expected a quick, orderly transition to democracy in Iraq. But one writer who investigated the practice warned fellow conservatives to stop expecting postwar Iraq to resemble postwar Germany or Japan.

“The deep social structure of Iraq is the complete opposite of those two true nation-states, with their highly patriotic, cooperative, and (not surprisingly) outbred peoples,” Steve Sailer wrote in The American Conservative magazine in January. “The Iraqis, in contrast, more closely resemble the Hatfields and the McCoys….”

yup.

and while we’re quoting robin fox, here from The Tribal Imagination [pg. 62]:

“For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by the compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunnis, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the regions, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own systems, is relatively foreign.”

(note: comments do not require an email. tribal map of iraq.)

forget it, jake. it’s the middle east.

the western world doesn’t understand middle easterners (or any of the peoples who live in the greater arabized region) — we really don’t. the headlines about iraq from this past week illustrate this — in technicolor:

iraq - sectarianism

sectarianism. yeah, right. as if the issues between the peoples in iraq are theological ones. (just like they were/are in northern ireland…amirite?! or in burma these days.) and then there’re these sorts of headlines:

iraq - isis

yeah. ’cause isis is badder than the baddest guys in the middle east, al qaeda. and that’s the only way we westerners can understand the world — it’s the good guys vs. the bad guys. white hats vs. black hats. the freedom fighters vs. the hussein/gaddafi/assad regimes.

here’s the war nerd on what’s really going on in iraq right now:

“The War Nerd: Here’s everything you need to know about ‘too extreme for Al Qaeda’ I.S.I.S.”

“Syria should have been ISIS’s greatest moment, but things didn’t work out for it there. Not because it was ‘extreme,’ but because it tried too hard to dominate the market against savvy local competition….

The local/universal tension is deep in Islam, which borrowed Christianity’s universalizing mandate. In theory, a Chechen who knows the Quran is as entitled to tell a Syrian what to do as anyone else. In practice, he’s a jerk, and if he tells you to do things a different way than your family has done them for generations, you don’t care how many verses he can quote at you. You’re pissed off.

“ISIS’s Syrian forces were full of loudmouthed young Islamic pedants, all heavily armed, and all eager to tell the locals how to live. It didn’t go over very well. It wasn’t about ‘extremism’ as much as ‘localism.’ ISIS was eventually forced out of Aleppo in favor of Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic Front — both every bit as extreme as ISIS, but with more local recruits who didn’t rub everybody the wrong way quite as much. Zawahiri chimed in from his hiding place in Pakistan to scold ISIS, saying in typically florid jihadi lingo something that amounted to ‘You’re gonna screw us up in Syria just like you and Zarqawi did in Iraq!’ His verdict was that ISIS should move east to Iraq, and Jabhat al Nusra should be Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria.

“Abu Bakr did not take kindly to this sort of provincialism. When you’ve been fighting for ten years, and seen pretty much everybody you care about killed, often in fairly gruesome ways, you don’t really want to hear a lot of noise about how local sensibilities must be respected, and corporate HQ back in the mountains of Pakistan must be obeyed.

“ISIS replied with a program of assassinations directed at dissenting jihadis, starting in January 2014. When they killed al-Suri (‘The Syrian’), Zawahiri’s envoy sent to settle the dispute, in February 2014, it was flat-out war between ISIS and every other faction in Syria. More than 2,000 casualties later, that feud is still simmering.”

what comes first and foremost to the peoples of the middle east is what is local. sure some people rally for their particular sects or movements, but first comes the extended family, clan, and tribe. half the time, local militias just say they’re al qaeda or isis or some other faction when what they’re actually doing is using alliances with those larger groups to further local goals. remember this about how it works in afghanistan?:

Mike Martin’s oral history of Helmand underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in much of the ‘third’ world.

“‘An Intimate War’ tells the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In the West, this period is often defined through different lenses — the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power….

Today, much of the violence is mischaracterised as ‘Taliban’ insurgent violence, when in fact it is not linked to the Taliban or the GIRoA, but is driven by local dynamics between groups and individuals on the ground. The Helmandis describe the conflict as *pshe-pshe*. This literally translates as ‘leg-leg’, but refers to the different legs of a tribe or clan (the English term would be ‘branch’). So, metaphorically, the phrase *pshe-pshe* means group-on-group warfare. It is a (micro) civil war….

“Currently, our ideas are largely based upon Maoist descriptions of insurgency; they highlight the importance of ideologies and organisation to motivate insurgents. The Army definition of an insurgency is ‘an organised, violent subversion used to effect or prevent political control, as a challenge to established authority’; it was from this that the ‘insurgency narrative’ was drawn.

“But this is not what took place in Helmand. The US and Britain were imposing a view of the war that bore little resemblance to the local understanding. The clearest example was the British ignoring Helmandis’ historical hatred (and related feelings of revenge) for them because it did not fit their understanding of the official narratives of the war….

He [martin] catalogues in microscopic detail how first US Special Forces and then British troops were constantly manipulated by their Afghan allies into fighting on their side as part of local feuds and criminal enterprises that were only very dimly related to the ideology of being pro-government or pro-Taliban.

“Indeed, according to Dr Martin’s research, the two were often labels adopted by factions and warlords in need of material support from either the Nato forces or the Taliban….

“Nor that there was no inconsistency between being pro-government and pro-Taliban on any given day for a militia commander.

“highly local, personal, and non-ideological.” it’s not any different in iraq, i assure you. we don’t know what’s going on there. we really don’t. it’s all waaaay more complicated than anything you’ll see reported in the news outlets. and it’s not black and white in the way that we westerners like to see things.

one would’ve thought that at least our military forces would’ve had some clue about the importance of clans in the middle east — that’s why they’ve got anthropologists on the force, right? nope, as martin in his book (quoted above) revealed about our involvement in afghanistan — and as mark weiner explained in The Rule of the Clan about the u.s. military in iraq [kindle locations 542-550]:

“When we fail to understand the clan heritage of a great many of our enemies, their motivation for taking up arms against us in the first place will remain obscure.

“We also find ourselves in a far weaker position when we engage them in battle. In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, for instance, winning the support of Iraq’s scores of individual tribes was vital to the success of the war effort — each tribe that supported al-Qaeda in Iraq or the larger insurgency substantially diminished the likelihood of a coalition victory. The Albu Fahd, Albu Mahal, and Albu Issa were particularly significant to coalition efforts in al-Anbar province, which includes the city of Fallujah, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the war. Given the complexity of Iraqi tribal alliances, one might have expected that American knowledge of the tribes and their individual social and political characteristics would have been encyclopedic. Instead, one of the earliest Department of Defense efforts to come to grips with the strategic value of Iraqi tribes was completed a full three years after the war began.

as the internet would say: *facepalm!* =/

what they should’ve all read, of course, was steve sailer’s “Cousin Marriage Conundrum”!

previously: “pshe-pshe” and misunderstanding afghanistan

(note: comments do not require an email. what is the MATTER with you people?)

what is the MATTER with you people?

(~_^)

db080113 - doonesbury - what is the matter with you people

random notes: 06/07/14

here’re some random notes on the history of mating patterns in korea!:

from Marriage, Social Status, and Family Succession in Medieval Korea (Thirteenth-Fifteenth Centuries) [pg. 133 – links added by me]:

“Marriage between those with the same surname and the same family origin was prohibited by law since the early Koryô Dynasty [918–1392]. Prohibition orders were issued twelve times throughout the Koryô Dynasty. It was the goal to expand the range of prohibited marriages from a first cousin in 1058 to a second cousin in 1096. Marriage among those with the same surnames was also prohibited in 1309. Because of the prohibition order in 1309, intermarriage between Kwôn families decreased rapidly from about 35 percent to less than 5 percent in the mid-fourteenth century (Figure 4).

“There were, however, cases of marriage between those with the same surname and the same family origin, even up to the Chosôn Dynasty [1392–1897]. In the years 1606 and 1630, in the Saneum Household Register, intermarriage was recorded at 5.9 percent and 5.8 percent respectively.”

so, first cousin marriage was banned in 1058, second cousin marriage in 1096, and marriage to all cousins from the patriclan in 1309. however, note that the first and second cousin marriage bans were also cousins from the patriclan, so marriages to the mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) or father’s sister’s daughter (fzd), neither of whom would share a male ego’s surname, were still permitted — and were practiced. (mbd marriage is quite typical for east asia, especially in china traditionally.)

the dates of the bans on cousin marriage are a few hundred years after northwest europe — ca. 500 a.d. versus ca. 1000 ad. plus, of course, the catholic church in europe banned marriage to all forms of cousins, not just those of the same patriclan. the rates of cousin marriage in the 1600s in korea are very low — not much higher than, say, the upper classes in england in the nineteenth century — but, again, marriages to the mbd or fzd are not included in these figures.
_____

from Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage [pg. 10]:

“In Korea, for example, traditional matrimonial rules forbid marriage between a man and a type of second cousin (the daughter of his grandfather’s brother’s son’s daughter) but allow a man to wed a kind of first cousin (the daughter of his mother’s brother).”

this is, of course, because the second cousin is from the patriclan (shares the same surname as the man), whereas the first cousin is not.
_____

and from Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Korea [pgs. 28 and 171 – links added by me]:

“Historically, most Korean dynasties imposed the incest taboo. In Koguryo (37 BC to AD 668) and Paekche (18 BC to AD 660), marriage within the same lineage (or clan) was prohibited, while Silla (57 BC to AD 935) encouraged close kin marriages beyond the third degree of relationship (beyond uncle and aunt) and with members of the same clan, especially among royal and upper-class families. In the early dynastic period, Koguryo followed the Silla system, allowing close kin marriage even within a two-degree relationship (even brother and sister, if the mothers were different) in royal families as an effort to maintain the ‘same blood’ and protect the purity of the royal blood line. In fact, King T’aejo of the Koguryo dynasty encouraged close-kin marriage.”

so before the bans of ca. 1000 a.d. mentioned above, close cousin marriage of all sorts was present in large parts of the korean peninsula.

“The prohibition of marriage between members of the same lineage or clan…. This taboo rule had come into being in the Choson dynasty after the adoption of Ta Ming Lu (Law of the Great Ming), the comprehensive body of administrative and criminal law of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) of China.”

i think the law of the great ming was adopted in korea around 1397 [pg. 21], although the source above says that marriage within the patriclan was banned in 1309.

“Nevertheless, *yangban* [members of the ruling class – h.chick] in many cases ignored the rule and continued to marry matrilineal cousins (siblings of a mother’s sisters and father’s sisters).”

well, that shouldn’t have been a problem, since those cousins do not have the same surname/are not part of the patriclan.

“In Korea, unlike China, several different clans may share one *song*, and clans with different surnames may share a *pon*, in which case the rule of clan exogamy is applied…. Under this rule, some clans with millions of members have been prohibited from intermarrying….”

again, this is the patriclan. some footnotes from Voices of Foreign Brides:

“13. Kim, Kimchi and IT, p. 113. And rules regulating marriage customs, specifically those prohibiting marriage between close relatives, were first initiated by the tenth king of the Koryo dynasty (918-1392), Chongjong (1034-1046). During his reign, the children of close kin marriages could not be appointed to government positions. Nevertheless, such a prohibition mainly had an impact on upper-class nobility and not commoners. Some believe that such a rule reflected the influence of China, but others disagree. If Koryo was either forced to initiate or willingly adopted the Chinese system, the incest taboo might have extended to entire surname groups as in China. Instead, Koryo merely imposed a prohibition of marriage between close relatives (ibid.; Lee, Han’guk kajok-ui sajok yon gu, pp. 64-65).

“14. Martina Deuchler offers an explanation for the adoption of this law (Martina Deuchler, “The Tradition: Women during the Yi dynasty,” in Virtues in Conflict: Tradition and the Korean Women Today, Sandra Mattielli, ed., pp. 1-47 [Seoul: The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, 1977], p. 4). The Choson literati-official (*sadaebu*) became aware that indigenous Choson customs often stood in the way of implementing reform policies, which could not be carried out successfully without legal sanctions (Kim, Kimchi and IT, p. 113). The adoption of the Ta Ming Lu was therefore an introduction of the rule of law to supplement the rule of goodness. However, Choson interpreted the entire Ta Ming Lu so literally that lineage and clan exogamy, the rule of marriage that requires a person to marry outside his or her own group, was institutionalized in Korea….

“16. In July 1977, however, the constitutional Court of Korea handed down a landmark decision ruling that prohibition of marriage between clan members beyond eight-degree relationships (third cousins) was unconstitutional. Since then, clan members whose kinship was beyond eight degrees could marry legitimately, and family registries could issue marriage licenses for such couples…. A court ruling handed down on February 3, 2005, followed by the passage of a new statute on March 2, 2005, changed the system of giving surnames. This is turn has altered clan exogamy.”

(note: comments do not require an email. traditional korean dress. the friggin’ BEST traditional dresses in ANY culture! (^_^))