i am going to be f*cking off on vacaciones for THREE weeks, so hang ten ’til i’m back, dudes! (^_^)
(i’ll be around — gonna try to stay unplugged for as much as possible, tho.)
i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: stanley kurtz is a really, really smart guy. he’s especially smart when it comes to mating patterns and family types in the middle east/arab world and how those affect the social and political workings of the nations in those regions. which is why i had a little #StanleyKurtzFest to myself on twitter the other day. (^_^) and i thought i’d repeat it here.
kurtz trained as a social anthropologist (at harvard) and did his fieldwork in india, so he knows anthropology. he wrote several articles about mating patterns and things like democracy in the arabized world, some of them back before we got involved in iraq in the early 2000s, so the guy is aware. but EVERYthing he wrote back then still very much applies to iraq today, not to mention to afghanistan, syria, libya, egypt — in other words, the whole arab autumn movement.
i’m going to cut-and-paste some excerpts from his articles here, but i highly recommend clicking through and reading them all! the only aspect kurtz misses is, of course, the biological underpinnings for the behavioral patterns we see in the arab world — which is unfortunate, since the biology is fundamental to it all, but hey — nobody’s perfect! for the biological explanation (which you should hold in your mind the entire time while you’re reading kurtz — which you’re going to do, right? promise?!), you should see steve sailer’s classic Cousin Marriage Conundrum — and any random post on this blog. (~_^)
oh. one other thing that stanley — along with many others — gets wrong is the idea that people let go of their extended families if and when they have some sort of just state in charge that will take care of the rights of the individual. that is, imho, exactly backwards. states that are (more or less) of, by, and for the people only come into existence — can only come into existence — after a population has moved away from the extended family as the basic unit of society. there is evidence that this was the order of events in medieval england, and i’m betting that it will hold for elsewhere as well. more on all that another time.
right. here we go…
“I and My Brother Against My Cousin”
“Is Islam the best way to understand the war on terror? Tribalism may offer a clearer view of our enemies’ motivations.”
Apr 14, 2008
“In the Islamic Near East, however, the term ‘tribe’ has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups.
“The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group.
“Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life….
“Looking at a political map of the Middle East, we tend to assume government control of the territories lying within all those neatly drawn borders. It is a serious mistake. As Salzman puts it, traditional Middle Eastern states are more like magnets, exerting force on territory near the center, while losing power with distance. The Ottoman Empire (and the British) ruled the tribes loosely, demanding an annual tribute but generally leaving them to govern themselves. To a remarkable extent, this holds true today. While the precise degree of centralized power ebbs and flows, tribes living in what are often quite large territories on national peripheries exist largely free of state power.
“Far from viewing this as a disability, Middle Eastern tribesmen consider life beyond the state as the surest way to avoid dishonorable submission. Statelessness is an essential condition of dignity, equality, and freedom. The traditional relation of the state to the peasant, notes Salzman, ‘is that of the shepherd to his flock: the state fleeces the peasants, making a living off of them, and protects them from other predators, so that they may be fleeced again.’ Salzman asks us to think of traditional states as ‘cliques determined to impose their power for the pleasure of dominance and the profit of extortion.’
“Saddam Hussein comes to mind. Not only was his regime exploitative, it was built around a tribal coalition, at the center of which was Saddam’s Tikriti clan. In the traditional system, says Salzman, states were bereft of any wider sense of civic responsibility or benevolence. Secure in distant mountains or deserts, traditional Middle Eastern tribes (like the Yahi in the hills of California) engaged in predatory raiding against settled peasants. Once a particularly powerful tribe or tribal coalition actually captured a state, they simply routinized their predation under official guise. (Saddam and his Sunni tribal allies fit the bill.) From that perspective, avoiding a life of peasant humiliation and exploitation through membership in an independent tribe begins to look good — endemic violence notwithstanding….”
“Marriage and the Terror War, Part I”
“Better learn up on your anthropology if you want to understand the war.”
February 15, 2007
“In this first in a series of essays on Muslim cousin-marriage, I want to begin to make the case that Muslim kinship structure is an unexamined key to the war on terror. While the character of Islam itself is unquestionably one of the critical forces driving our global conflict, the nature of Islamic kinship and social structure is at least as important a factor — although this latter cluster of issues has received relatively little attention in public debate. Understanding the role of Middle Eastern kinship and social structure in driving the war not only throws light on the weaknesses of arguments like D’Souza’s, it may also help us devise a new long-term strategy for victory in the war on terror.
“Think of the culture of the Muslim Middle East as ‘self-sealing.’ Muslim society has a deep-lying bias toward in-group solidarity, the negative face of which manifests itself in a series of powerful mechanisms for preventing, coercing, or punishing those who would break with or undermine the in-group and its customs. This bias toward in-group solidarity serves to shelter Muslim society from interaction with the forces of modernity, and also explains why Muslim immigrants so often fail to assimilate. Of course, no society can function without some sort of ‘in-group solidarity.’ Yet the Muslim world is truly distinctive on this score. When it comes to the core principles of kinship, Muslim practices strengthen and protect the integrity and continuity of the in-group in a way that sets the Middle East apart from every other society in the world. To appreciate this fact, we’ve first got to understand some fundamental things about the nature of kinship.
“For the greater part of human history, nearly every society has been organized into units based on kin ties. Modern life greatly reduces the significance of these ties, since capitalism tends to allocate jobs based on ability (instead of who your father is), while democracies apply laws, and assign benefits, on the principle of equal citizenship (not birth). By contrast, in most traditional societies, a man’s security, health, prosperity, and religious standing all depend, first and foremost, on his relatives. So to understand the kinship structure of a traditional society is to make sense of a good deal of life there. Unfortunately, our contemporary thinned-out notion of kinship has made it tough to recognize just how profoundly societies are shaped by variations in marriage practices. That’s why we’re far more comfortable making sense of the war on terror through the lens of a familiar phenomenon like religion, than in the light of something alien, like cousin marriage….
“All right, let’s say we have a society made up of clans organized by descent through the father. (Imagine a grander version of your own father’s family line, or something like the Hatfields and McCoys.) In any given clan, the men all trace their descent from a common male ancestor. In such a society, a rule or preference for cross-cousin marriage would create a systematic form of exogamy. In other words, if every man in a patrilineal, clan-based society were to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, every man would be marrying someone from a different clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own mother’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from outside of your father’s family line.) Since every man’s mother in our imaginary society is born into a different patriclan than his own, when a man marries the daughter of his mother’s brother (i.e., his cross cousin) he is renewing an alliance with another patriclan (i.e. his mother’s birth clan) by bringing a woman from his mother’s birth clan into his own clan as a wife, just as his father did before him.
“On the other hand, in a society made up of competing patriclans, a rule or preference for parallel-cousin marriage would have exactly the opposite effect. Parallel-cousin marriage would seal each and every clan off from all of the others. If, say, every man in a society made up of patrilineal clans was to marry his father’s brother’s daughter, every man would be married to a descendent of his own birth clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own father’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from within your father’s family line.) That would be a very strong form of endogamy, or “marrying in,” which, according to Tylor, would encourage social isolation, cultural stasis, rivalry, and high levels of conflict between clans….
“And as we’ve already seen, parallel-cousin marriage [i.e. fbd marriage-h.chick] has an effect precisely the opposite of the alliance-building interchange encouraged by cross-cousin marriage — and praised by Tylor and Levi-Strauss. Instead of encouraging cultural exchange, forging alliances, and mitigating tensions among competing groups, parallel-cousin marriage tends to wall off groups from one another and to encourage conflict between and among them. However strong the urge among anthropologists to identify the cooperative advantages of exogamy as a core characteristic of human nature itself, the hard fact of the matter is that a significant minority of human societies have chosen to organize themselves according to principles quite the opposite of alliance-based exogamy. Care to hazard guess as to exactly where in the world those societies might be?
“While the vast majority of societies that practice cousin marriage favor the marriage of cross cousins, the relatively small number of societies that encourage parallel-cousin marriage can be found in the Islamic cultures of North Africa and west and central Asia. Russian anthropologist Andrey Korotayev has shown that, while the region that practices parallel-cousin marriage does not map perfectly onto the Islamic world as a whole, it does (with some exceptions) closely resemble the territory of the eighth-century Islamic Caliphate — the original Islamic empire. So there is one great exception to the claim that human society — and even human nature itself — are built around the principle of extra-familial marriage. Almost every known contemporary case of preferential parallel-cousin marriage is the result of diffusion from a single source: the original Islamic Caliphate. And while parallel-cousin marriage may not be Islamic in any strict or formal sense (in fact, the practice apparently predates Islam in the region), as Korotayev puts it, ‘there seems to be no serious doubt that there is some functional connection between Islam and FBD [father’s brother’s daughter — i.e., parallel cousin] marriage.’ Sounds like we’d best find out what that ‘functional connection’ is….”
“Marriage and the Terror War, Part II”
“Protecting the honor of the family; protecting the honor of Islam.”
February 16, 2007
“[O]nce you understand how Muslims construct society as a collection of counterbalanced, sometimes allied, sometimes feuding, closed-off, and self-sufficient family cells, the problem of Muslim cultural persistence begins to make sense. Holy also allows us to appreciate that the Muslim seclusion of women (another critical barrier to modernization and assimilation) is part and parcel of a larger complex of practices, at the center of which is parallel-cousin marriage….
“With all the economic and social diversity in the Middle East, one factor remains constant. Wherever parallel-cousin marriage is practiced, the notion that the honor of the male family-line depends upon the sexual conduct of women is strong. For this reason, a woman’s father’s brother’s son (her parallel cousin) has the right-of-first-refusal in the matter of her marriage. To protect against the possibility of a woman’s shameful marriage (or other dangerous sexual conduct) damaging the honor of the men of her lineage, male relatives have the right to keep her safely within the family line by marrying her off to her parallel cousin.
“As I’ll show in a follow-up piece, all of these kinship mechanisms are much at work in Europe today. Muslim immigrants in Europe use cousin marriage to keep wealth within already tight family lines, and to prevent girls from entering ‘shameful’ marriages with cultural outsiders. All this serves to reinforce family ‘solidarity,’ thereby blocking the assimilation of Muslim immigrants into society at large. We’ve all heard about full-body veiling, the seclusion of women, forced marriage, honor killing, and the like. Europe is struggling with the question of how to handle these practices. What we’ve missed up to now is the sense in which cousin marriage tends to organize and orchestrate all of these controversial practices, thereby serving as the lynch-pin of a broader pattern of resistance to assimilation and modernization. In effect, parallel-cousin marriage in Europe acts as a social ‘sealing mechanism’ to block cultural interchange — just as, over a century ago, Sir Edward Tylor theorized it would….”
“With Eyes Wide Open”
“Who they are; what we’re getting into.”
February 20, 2002
“The split between the state and society-at-large has a long history in the Middle East. The governments of Mohammad and his immediate successors, the ‘rightly guided Caliphs,’ were successful theocracies. But as Islam’s empire grew, the Caliphs were forced to resort to strategies of authoritarian rule and hereditary recruitment that violated strict Islamic principles of equality and consultation. The result was that the state itself lost legitimacy. Righteous Muslims grew more interested in avoiding the state than in serving it. The image of Mohammad’s just theocracy lived on, and religion was still blended with everyday social practice through the regulations of Islamic law, but for much of Islamic history, the state itself was devalued and delegitimated.
“That was less of a problem before the modern era. The great Islamic empires ruled their subjects lightly taxing and offering military protection, but for the most part depending on tribal ties and kinship (along with Islamic law) to regulate the daily business of life. The rulers stayed out of the day-to-day affairs of the people, and the people liked it that way. The old system allowed Muslim governments to cobble together huge empires out of essentially self-governing populations. Yet under modern conditions, the traditional split between the self-contained world of tribe and kin, on the one hand, and the state on the other, sets up a debilitating struggle between tradition and modernity.
“The meltdown in the Middle East has been fueled by massive population growth and a flood of rural immigrants into cities like Cairo and Istanbul. Governments have been hard pressed to provide the new urban immigrants with municipal services, much less jobs. That’s where those kin networks come in. In European history, even in rural areas, extended kinship ties grew progressively less important, until the collapse of feudalism and the rise of cities created a society of truly modern individuals. The new European society was ruled by powerful centralized governments, and bureaucracies that applied the law equally to all. But unlike the urban masses of Europe, the rural migrants powering the Middle East’s urban population explosion have brought their traditional kinship networks with them. Those networks offer support to the common man where weak Middle Eastern governments cannot — while also making it impossible for a modern political and economic system to take root. Family connections get you food when neither government nor the economy can provide it. But the corruption fueled by the family ethos sabotages the government’s distribution plans, undercuts the government’s legitimacy, and blocks the path to societal liberalization….
“In short, the entire kinship system and its associated economic apparatus constitutes almost a society within a society, the massive holdings of which aren’t even counted toward Egypt’s GNP. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the modern Egyptian government and economy are virtual alien implants, floating lightly on the surface of a still remarkably traditional society, even in a big city like Cairo. Yet people still expect the government to deliver cheap foodstuffs and other staples. It’s the government food subsidies that enable parents to squirrel away money for their children’s marriages — alliances that cement social connections that bring the security, opportunity, and prosperity that the government cannot deliver. That’s why threats to the food subsidies bring riots….”
“Veil of Fears”
“Why they veil; why we should leave it alone.”
December 15, 2001
“The conflict between modernity and the traditional Muslim view of women is one of the most important causes of this war. The tiresome claim of the leftist academy that poverty causes terrorism misses the point. So far from being poor, Muslim fundamentalists tend to come from a relatively wealthy modernizing class. The terrorists and their supporters are generally newly urbanized, college-educated professionals from intact families with rural backgrounds. They are a rising but frustrated cohort, shut out of power by a more entrenched and Westernized elite. True, the new fundamentalists often find themselves stymied by the weak economies of Muslim countries, but as a class they are relatively well off. Like many revolutions, the Muslim fundamentalist movement has been spurred by increased income, education, and expectations. But it is the clash between traditional Middle Eastern family life and modernity that has decisively pushed so many toward fundamentalism. And women are at the center of the problem….
“The Taliban’s code of womanly behavior was intentionally directed toward the cities. The aim was to ‘purify’ those areas of Afghanistan that had been ‘corrupted’ by modernization. But the Taliban never bothered to enforce its rules in traditional areas. Actually, in most Afghan villages, women rarely wear the burka. That’s because villages in Afghanistan are organized into kin-oriented areas, and the veil needs wearing only when a woman is among men from outside of her kin group. A rural woman puts on a burka for travel, especially to cities. Yet just by exiting her home, a woman in a modern city inevitably mixes with men who are not her kin. That’s why the Taliban prohibited the modernized women of Kabul from so much as stepping onto the street without a male relative. So the real problem with the veil in Afghanistan was the Taliban’s attempt to impose the traditional system of veiling on a modernizing city. Yet, remarkable as it may seem, many modernizing urban women throughout the Middle East have freely accepted at least a portion of the Taliban’s reasoning. These educated women have actually taken up the veil — and along with it, Muslim fundamentalism. To see why, it is necessary to understand what makes traditional Muslim women veil in the first place.
“Life in the Muslim Middle East has long revolved around family and tribe. In fact, that’s what a tribe is — your family in its most extended form. For much of Middle Eastern history, tribal networks of kin functioned as governments in miniature. In the absence of state power, it was the kin group that protected an individual from attack, secured his wealth, and performed a thousand other functions. No one could flourish whose kin group was not strong, respected, and unified.
“In the modern Middle East, networks of kin are still the foundation of wealth, security, and personal happiness. That, in a sense, is the problem. As we’ve seen in Afghanistan, loyalty to kin and tribe cuts against the authority of the state. And the corrupt dictatorships that rule much of the Muslim Middle East often function themselves more like self-interested kin groups than as rulers who take the interests of the nation as a whole as their own. That, in turn, gives the populace little reason to turn from the proven support of kin and tribe, and trust instead in the state.
“So from earliest youth, a Middle Eastern Muslim learns that his welfare and happiness are bound up in the strength and reputation of his family. If, for example, a child shows a special aptitude in school, his siblings might willingly sacrifice their personal chances for advancement simply to support his education. Yet once that child becomes a professional, his income will help to support his siblings, while his prestige will enhance their marriage prospects.
“The ‘family’ to which a Muslim Middle Easterner is loyal, however, is not like our family. It is a ‘patrilineage’ — a group of brothers and other male relatives, descended from a line of men that can ultimately be traced back to the founder of a particular tribe. Traditionally, lineage brothers will live near one another and will share the family’s property. This willingness of a ‘band of brothers’ to pool their labor and wealth is the key to the strength of the lineage.
“But the centrality of men to the Muslim kinship system sets up a problem. The women who marry into a lineage pose a serious threat to the unity of the band of brothers. If a husband’s tie to his wife should become more important than his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their share of the property and leave the larger group, thus weakening the strength of the lineage.
“There is a solution to this problem, however — a solution that marks out the kinship system of the Muslim Middle East as unique in the world. In the Middle East, the preferred form of marriage is between a man and his cousin (his father’s brother’s daughter). Cousin marriage solves the problem of lineage solidarity. If, instead of marrying a woman from a strange lineage, a man marries his cousin, then his wife will not be an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group. Not only will this reduce a man’s likelihood of being pulled away from his brothers by his wife, a woman of the lineage is less likely to be divorced by her husband, and more likely to be protected by her own extended kin in case of a rupture in the marriage. Somewhere around a third of all marriages in the Muslim Middle East are between members of the same lineage, and in some places the figure can reach as high as 80 percent. It is this system of ‘patrilateral parallel cousin marriage’ [fbd marriage-h.chick] that explains the persistence of veiling, even in the face of modernity.
“By veiling, women are shielded from the possibility of a dishonoring premarital affair. But above all, when Muslim women veil, they are saving themselves for marriage to the men of their own kin group. In an important sense, this need to protect family honor and preserve oneself for an advantageous marriage to a man of the lineage is a key to the rise of Islamic revivalism….”
“After the War”
“[I]f we do decide to try to impose democracy on Iraq, it will be far harder than proponents of democratization recognize. It will entail long, unremitting U.S. effort….
“The democratizers’ model for transforming Iraq is America’s post–World War II occupation of Japan….
“Efforts to democratize a country require more than modern liberal ideas; they require a class of people who embrace those ideas and make them effective. Had a sophisticated modern bureaucratic class not been on hand to accept and implement democratic reforms, the American occupation of Japan would not have succeeded. To be sure, excessive bureaucracy can suffocate democratic liberty, but modern bureaucracies are generally democratizing forces. They embody intrinsically modern, democratic ideas — that the government office is distinct from the individual who holds it, for example, and that rules apply to all with equal force. They blow apart traditional social relations — relations that are often powerful barriers to democratic reform—by centralizing authority and power in a national government.
“Japan’s relatively modern bureaucratic class was in place even before the Meiji Restoration. Many former samurai, displaced by history from their traditional military role, had moved into administrative positions. No egalitarians, these men possessed a profound sense of superiority and entitlement, based on a conviction that they had transcended the petty selfishness of the ordinary man to devote themselves to a higher good. In the administrative realm, their elite spirit of nobility and sacrifice took the form of an ethic of detachment, incorruptibility, and public-spiritedness — ideal virtues for modern bureaucratic elites. Once Meiji Japan began to copy Western bureaucratic and meritocratic models, the samurai, with their background in government service, fit right in and helped make those models work in their new Japanese setting, especially since these men had come under the influence of the liberty and popular-rights movement, whose leaders were displaced samurai like themselves.
“The distinctive samurai ethic of public service put an enduring stamp on the Japanese democracy that emerged from the American occupation. To this day, many scholars describe Japan as a ‘bureaucratic polity,’ with government bureaucrats running the country, the political parties, and the industries too.
“Nothing comparable to Japan’s liberal intellectual tradition and modern, public-spirited bureaucratic class exists in Iraq or in any Arab country. The influence of fundamentalist Islam in the Arab world reflects a culture deeply inhospitable to democratic and liberal principles. In a perceptive recent National Interest article, Adam Garfinkle explains that, whereas democracies take as bedrock assumptions that political authority lies with society, that the majority rules, and that citizens are equal before the law, Arab societies vest political authority in the Qur’an, rest decision-making on consensus, and understand law and authority as essentially hierarchical. They lack such essential cultural preconditions for democracy as the idea of a loyal opposition or the rule of law or the separation of church and state. No surprise, given their nonmodern political beliefs, that not one Arab Muslim country qualifies as ‘free’ in Freedom House’s annual survey, and that a disproportionate number of Arab regimes qualify in the ‘worst of the worst’ category — the least free and least democratic on earth.
“Arab Muslim societies remain un-modern and un-democratic not just in their attitudes toward political authority and law but also in their social organization. For men and women living within a universe where tribal identity, the duties and benefits of extended kinship networks, and conceptions of collective honor organize the relations of everyday life, democratic principles will be incomprehensible.
“And therefore democracy would be impossible. How could a modern, democratic bureaucracy function, for example, if officials remain loyal primarily to tribe, faction, or family? The power of such ties preempts any ethic of disinterested public service. A government office becomes a means of benefiting your family and harming your enemies, not applying the rules fairly. Saddam’s Iraq largely functions like one big tribal patriarchy, with Saddam the patriarch. His kin, together with members of his tribe and allied tribes, rule….”
“Assimilation Studies, Part I”
“Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants to Britain originating from the same region.”
March 21, 2007
“It’s a commonplace that Muslim immigrants in Europe have been slow to assimilate. In a general way, the public attributes this relative isolation to Muslim religion and culture. But if you’re looking for a clear, powerful, and detailed account of exactly what it is that’s been blocking Muslim assimilation in Europe, there is no better place to begin than Ballard.
“Variation on a Theme
“Before turning to Ballard’s work, I need to note that the form of cousin marriage favored by the Pakistani Muslims who immigrate to Britain is a regional variant on the ‘parallel cousin’ marriage [fbd marriage-h.chick] favored by Muslims in the heart of the Arab World. (I discussed the nature and significance of ‘parallel cousin’ marriage in ‘Marriage and the Terror War’ Parts I and II.) While many Pakistani Muslims do in fact marry their first or second ‘patrilateral parallel cousins’ (their father’s brother’s child), many others marry first and second cousins of other types. In contrast to Muslims in North Africa and the Arab World, Muslims in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan prefer marriage with any closely related cousin — not merely ‘patrilateral parallel cousins….’
“Part of what makes Ballard’s 1990 ‘Migration and kinship’ piece so powerful is that he has identified Punjabi migration to Britain as something like a natural controlled experiment, with cousin marriage as the key variable. Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all South Asians in Britain are Punjabis. The Punjab sits athwart the border of India and Pakistan and is home to substantial communities of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Muslims live almost exclusively in the Pakistani half of Punjab, while Sikhs and Hindus live largely in Indian Punjab. Whatever their religion, Punjabi migrants to Britain have a great deal in common. Most come from small, peasant, farming families, share basic cultural premises, speak a common language, and originally entered Britain intending to pocket savings from manual labor and return home. (In the end, many Punjabi guest workers remained in Britain.)
“In family life, Punjabis of whatever religion organize themselves into patrilineal descent groups. Within those patrilineal clans, a ‘joint family’ forms around a man, his married sons, and their children, with women leaving their natal homes to move in with their husbands. The family lives communally, sharing wealth and property, with grown sons under their father’s authority, and in-marrying wives working under the direction of their mother-in-law. And whether Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, the modesty of women in dress and behavior is a key cultural value for all Punjabis.
“Despite these many similarities, the position of Punjabi Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu immigrants in Britain dramatically differs. Ballard focuses his comparison on two immigrant groups: Punjabi Muslims from the Mirpur region of Pakistan and Punjabi Sikhs from the Jullundur region of India. (Ballard frequently invokes Punjabi Hindus for comparative purposes as well.) Far from being obscure or isolated examples, it turns out that nearly three-quarters of British Punjabis are either Mirpuri Muslims or (largely Sikh) Jullunduris. With Punjabis making up the great majority of all British South Asians, Ballard’s careful comparison is therefore telling us about two of the largest and most influential South Asian immigrant groups in Britain.
“So what’s the difference between Jullunduri Sikhs and Mirpuri Muslims? Quite simply, Jullunduri Sikh’s have moved relatively far down the road of assimilation, while Mirpuri Muslims have not. Now largely middle class, many British Sikhs have abandoned manual labor to start their own businesses, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, and currently see their children performing academically at the same level as other middle-class Britons. British Mirpuri Muslims, on the other hand, move between unemployment and manual labor, are still largely confined to poor, inner-city ethnic enclaves, and rear children with a limited grasp of English and a notably low level of academic achievement.
“Given the broad social, cultural, and linguistic similarities between Mirpuri Muslims and Jullunduri Sikhs (and Hindus), how are we to account for the radically different trajectories of these immigrant communities in Britain? Can religion explain the difference? In a sense, it can. Yet the key barriers to assimilation aren’t always religious in the strict sense. The factors that inhibit assimilation have less to do with Muslim beliefs per se than with the distinctive, non-textual practices that organize Muslim society.
“In particular, the practice of cousin marriage has served to create a culturally insulated community of Mirpuri Muslims in Britain….
“After noting that economic factors can have only limited explanatory value in this case, Ballard goes on to highlight the influence of marriage practices on patterns of immigrant assimilation. Ballard suggests that the Muslim practice of cousin marriage may account for the formation of ‘far more in-turned and all-embracing’ kinship networks than we find among British Sikhs, thus helping to explain the two groups’ divergent patterns of economic achievement and cultural accommodation….“
“Assimilation Studies, Part II”
“On cousin marriage and Pakistani Muslims in Britain.”
March 22, 2007
“The practice of cousin marriage among Pakistani immigrants has significantly slowed Muslim assimilation in Britain. Muslim cousin marriage has also facilitated a process of ‘reverse colonization,’ in which large, culturally intact sections of Pakistani Muslim society have been effectively transferred to British soil. These conclusions emerge from the work of British South Asianist Roger Ballard — particularly from his path-breaking paper ‘Migration and kinship: the differential effects of marriage rules on the processes of Punjabi migration to Britain.’ In the first part of ‘Assimilation Studies,’ I laid out the background necessary to follow Ballard’s case. Here in Part II, I’ll run through the core of his argument. I’ll also explain why highlighting the significance of Muslim cousin marriage is such a difficult and controversial enterprise….
“Ballard (who’s done extensive fieldwork in Pakistan’s Mirpur district) estimates that ‘over 60% of all Mirpuri marriages are contracted between first cousins.’ In 2002, Ballard noted that: ‘At least half (and possibly as many as two-thirds) of the marriages currently being contracted by young British-based Mirpuris are still arranged with their cousins from back home….’
“What differences did Ballard find between the two big groups of British immigrants from the Punjab: Muslims from the Mirpur district of Pakistan, and Sikhs from the Jullundur district of India? Although both of these groups share a broadly similar social and cultural background, their patterns of assimilation have been strikingly different….
“Even in the 1970s, when Mirpuri Muslim laborers finally did begin to bring their wives and children to live with them in Britain, ties to Pakistan were sustained through ‘chain migration.’ With immigration regulations in Britain reflecting a lesser need and desire for foreign workers, villagers back in Mirpur could obtain visas only by marrying Mirpuri migrants already in Britain. Children of these couples, in turn, married and brought to England yet another generation of Mirpuri villagers, with each link in the chain of marriage migration insuring that the process of adjustment to English language and culture would begin again from scratch. These relatively unassimilated Mirpuri marriage-migrants were largely confined to the inner-city — to neighborhoods that recreated, insofar as possible, the linguistic and cultural conditions of Pakistan itself. Given their limited contact with English-speaking neighbors, Mirpuri children in these ethnic ghettos continued to have problems in school.
“So, even when Mirpuri migrant men finally did reunite their families in Britain, it was less a breaking of the bonds that linked them to Pakistan than an effective transfer of a South Asian village society to Britain itself — a sort of ‘reverse colonization’ — with marriage-driven chain migration keeping the ties between the ‘reverse colony’ and the Punjabi homeland as strong as ever. In combination with the original post-war labor inflow, marriage-driven chain migration has now succeeded in transferring well over 50 percent of Mirpur’s original population to Britain. ‘We don’t cultivate wheat here any more,’ one of Ballard’s Mirpuri informants commented, ‘we cultivate visas instead….’
“As Muslim and Sikh immigrants gradually adjusted to life in Britain, it became increasingly evident that marriages arranged with villagers from back home tended to be riven with conflict. Cultural differences, the language gap, and the wide divergence in general social competence between British-raised youth and their spouses from South Asia frequently made for trouble and strife. So when the parents of British-born Sikhs were faced with the offer of an arranged marriage with a villager from Punjab, their children invariably opposed the match. In doing so, these young Sikhs had the advantage of knowing that their parents were under no obligation to accept any particular proposal of marriage. Given the Sikh practice of clan exogamy, every marriage is arranged from scratch with an outsider. In short order, therefore, the new generation of British-born Sikhs successfully pressed their parents to arrange marriages with British-born (or perhaps even North American-born) Sikh partners.
“The situation was very different for children of Mirpuri Muslims. Among Mirpuris, it’s taken for granted that cousins have a virtual right-of-first-refusal in the matter of marriage. Even in the absence of immigration, it would have been entirely expected that the children of Mirpuri migrants would marry their cousins. How much more so was this the case when a marriage meant a British visa, and a vast increase in wealth — all redounding to the honor of the patriclan? Many Mirpuri migrants had only made it to Britain in the first place with economic help from a brother back in Pakistan. This practice of sharing of resources within the joint family created a powerful moral obligation to repay that financial help by arranging a marriage (and a visa) for the child of the brother who remained in Pakistan.
“The British-born children of these Mirpuri Muslim migrants were perhaps a bit less apprehensive than their British Sikh counterparts about the idea of marrying villagers from back home. After all, these young Mirpuris had gotten to know their cousins on those long visits to Pakistan, and some affectionate attachments had developed. Yet the chronic problems of transnational marriages did indeed call forth opposition to such matches from many young Mirpuris. In contrast to the situation among immigrant Sikhs, however, the hands of Mirpuri parents were largely tied. To refuse a marriage with a relative back in Pakistan, when customary rights, financial obligation, and family honor were all at stake, would have been tantamount to a repudiation of siblingship itself. Such a severing of ties could bring retaliation in the form of efforts to blacken the honor of an immigrant and his family — a particularly severe sanction among Muslims.
“So while Sikh immigrants increasingly broke the links of marriage-driven chain migration, the practice of Muslim cousin-marriage insured that assimilation itself would virtually begin again from scratch with each new generational infusion of Mirpuri spouses. The result has been economic stagnation and the literal transfer of more than half of Mirpur’s population to an archipelago of ‘reverse colonies’ in the heart of Britain….”
(note: comments do not require an email. british mirpuri community.)
trigger warning: the following post contains much that is speculative. in fact, the entire post is one long speculation. if the thought of speculating when it comes to human biodiversity/sociobiology makes you queasy or fills you with existential angst, this might not be the blogpost for you. no, really. you might want to pass the time in some other way.
i wrote about this once before, and since i’m extremely lazy, i’m just going to cut-and-paste from the previous post:
“in Innate Social Aptitudes of Man: An Approach from Evolutionary Genetics [pdf], william hamilton suggested that, perhaps, one gets a renaissance by (re-)introducing barbarian altruism genes into a too outbred population, letting the mixture ferment for ca. 800 years or so, and then enjoying the fruits of everyone’s labors. he’s talking here, of course, about the european renaissance of the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries…and classical greece/athens after the dorian invasion of ca. 800 years earlier? i *think*. if it happened at all (link inserted by me):
“‘The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).'”
anyway…my own speculation re. the biological substrate of renaissances is that it’s not populations which experience an injection of barbarian altruism genes that wind up having a renaissance, but rather that populations which outbreed (i.e. quit marrying close relatives) for ca. 400 to 800 years (egs. medieval/renaissance europe and archaic/classical greece?) undergo a sort-of wikification of their society which drives intellectual openness and curiosity and sharing — the kinds of behavioral derring-do that you need in order to have a renaissance at all. see the previous post for more on all of those speculations.
today’s speculation is that perhaps the arabized world underwent a reverse renaissance process thanks to the introduction by the arabs of the most inbred form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage — to the populations of the middle east/maghreb (not to mention the introduction of arabs, themselves, who had probably been inbreeding closely for up to nine hundred years before their expansion).
the islamic golden age lasted for a good six hundred years or so, but instead of the scope of islamic philosophy and science and law widening over the time period — instead of a wikification process — the tendency was for thinking in the arabized world to narrow. ijtihad (“independent thinking”) was gradually replaced by taqlid (“imitation”). this narrowing of thought was already widespread in the muslim world by the twelfth century — just about 400-450 years after the arab conquests. (braudel puts the beginning and end dates of the islamic golden age as 813 and 1198, the beginning of al-ma’mun’s caliphate and the death averroes respectively. – pg. 202.)
“[T]his particular phase in Islamic history was marked predominantly by the Mu’tazilite school of philosophy, which was based on freethinking and rationalism. It was an ecumenical setting for science, where savants of nearly all creeds and origins worked towards a common purpose. And this was not something new, it was a long established pre-Islamic tradition in the Near East, where translation of scientific and philosophical texts from Greek to Syriac took place….“
i wonder if what happened was that, with the establishment of the caliphate and all the civilized elements that went with it — good communications over long distances, (relative) peace within the realm, an excess of wealth — a “renaissance” was quickly established. however, that golden age — which happened in the early part of the era of the caliphs — was really a late flowering of whatever had been going on the region previous to the arabs (especially in persia). this renaissance was then reversed — stunted, really — as a result of the centuries of close inbreeding of the populations in the middle east and maghreb thanks to the introduction of fbd marriage by the arabs.
like i said — pure, unadultered speculation! (~_^)
(note: comments do not require an email. averroes and porphyry.)
in my previous post on asabiyyah, i (boldly!) said: “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.”
pseudoerasmus disagreed with me: “The Abbasid Caliphate, which endured in Baghdad from 750 to 1258, started out big in the 8th century but by the time it fell to the Mongols it had basically been reduced to the Tigris & Euphrates valley. That’s because foreign dynasties came to gradually pick away at the periphery of the empire. I’m not saying there weren’t internal divisions that might have weakened the Abbasid hold on power. But there’s no evidence these divisions were tribal.”
well, ok. i admit that i probably overstated my case a bit there. the clannishness of the populations of arab states isn’t the only reason those states fall apart, but it *is* a huge one, imho. but, then, i do tend to look at everything through clannishness-colored glasses. (~_^)
the point i was trying to make, though, was that i disagree with ibn khaldun’s analysis of asabiyyah (which t.greer outlined in excellent fashion in this comment!). i’m of the opinion that al-farabi had it more right: asabiyyah is clannishness and, while clannishness can and does draw clans and tribes together, it is also very much a divisive force which pulls apart arabized societies. asabiyyah is the “me and my cousin against the world” attitude. and, most importantly of course, i think that the behavioral traits that are related to asabiyyah are genetic in origin, and, therefore, it will be very difficult to get the arabized world to behave differently anytime soon.
anyway…so, by way of a few examples, i thought i’d outline some of the clannish elements of the abbasid caliphate that i think worked against it. this is far from a complete list — it’s just a few of the things i can think of off the top of my head. to be completely honest with you, i need to do a lot more reading on the medieval caliphates/medieval arab world. oh. before i get to my little exploration, i want to mention one other thing. pseudo also said:
“[I]n the actual outcomes of territorial consolidation and fragmentation in the Middle East and North Africa, I don’t see much difference between that region and Europe or any other region for that matter. — *in the premodern period*. Which region in Eurasia was not subject to repeated cycles of imperial consolidation and fragmentation?”
well, quite. but europe and other regions of the world were also clannish in the premodern period. europe didn’t move out of that phase until the end of the middle ages. so maybe it’s not fair of me to compare the medieval arab world with the modern european one (although i do the same for medieval europe all the time); however, i do think that clannishness was, and is, particularly difficult for the arabs/arabized world since these populations practice father’s brother’s daughters (fbd) marriage — they’ve burdened themselves with a social structure and a set of innate behavioral traits that makes building and maintaining bigger alliances very difficult. (they didn’t mean to, of course — it just worked out that way.) in fact, i bet that matters have gotten progressively worse over the past thousand years or so in the middle east/maghreb/afghanistan/pakistan since these populations were arabized and started practicing fbd marriage (and due to the actual introduction of arab peoples to these regions who have probably been practicing fbd marriage since the second century a.d.?). having said all that, pseudo is also quite right in saying that trying to hold an empire together is difficult in most circumstances for any population, and was especially so in the past for populations which had more primitive technologies and transport systems, etc., etc. the one set of factors does not rule out the other, though, i don’t think.
right. clannishness and the abbasid caliphate.
well, first of all, the abbasid caliphate was founded in 750 a.d. by an extended family/subclan — the abbasids — which replaced a rival subclan. it really doesn’t get much more clannish than that. (~_^) both the abbasids and the umayyads before them were subclans of mohammed’s clan, the banu hashim, these subclans being, in turn, part of the larger quarysh tribe. before i continue about the abbasids, here’s a bit about the umayyad caliphate from A History of the Arab People [pg. 30]:
“The growth of the Muslim communities in the eastern cities and provinces created tensions. Personal ambitions, local grievances and party conflicts expressed themselves in more than one idiom, ethnic, tribal and religious, and from this distance it is hard to say how the lines of division were drawn.
“There was, first of all, among converts to Islam, and the Iranians in particular, resentment against the fiscal and other privileges given to those of Arab origin, and this grew as the memory of the first conquests became weaker. Some of the converts attached themselves to Arab tribal leaders as ‘clients’ (*mawali*), but this did not erase the line between them and the Arabs.
“Tension also expressed themselves in terms of tribal differences and opposition. The armies coming from Arabia brought tribal loyalties with them, and in the new circumstances these could grow stronger. In the cities and other places of migration, groups claiming a common ancestor came together in closer quarters than in the Arabian steppe; powerful leaders claiming nobility of descent could attract new followers. The existence of a unified political structure enabled leaders and tribes to link up with each other over wide areas and at times gave them common interests. The struggle for control of the central government could make use of tribal names and the loyalties they expressed. One branch of the Umayyads was linked by marriage with the Banu Kalb, who had already settled in Syria before the conquest; in the struggle for the succession after the death of Mu’awiya’s son, a non-Umayyad claimant was supported by another groups of tribes. At moments some common interst could given substance to the idea of an origin shared by all tribes claiming to come from central Arabia or from the south. (Their names, Qays and Yemen, were to linger as symbols of local conflict in some parts of Syria until the present century….)”
so the rapid urbanization of the arabs as they moved into the middle east actually exacerbated their clannishness/tribalism.
anyway — back to the abbasids. the abbasids thought that they ought to be in charge since their ancestors were more closely related to mohammed — the founder of their subclan was a paternal uncle of mohammed. the founder of the umayyad subclan was just some guy that was adopted into yet another subclan related to mohammed’s (who then went on to found his own subclan, the umayyads). the abbasids had a whole load of supporters who were not abbasids, of course, including plenty of non-muslims, but there was definitely an element of an inter-clannish spat here, as there was across the histories of all of the caliphates. for example, the founders of the fatimid caliphate in 909 a.d. claimed to be descendents of mohammed’s daughter fatimah — and, therefore, more worthy of being caliphs — so yeah…more family intrigue. from A History of the Arab Peoples [pg. 33]:
“In some ways ‘Abbasid rule did not differ much from that of the later Umayyads. From the beginning they found themselves involved in the inescapable problem of a new dynasty: how to turn the limited power derived from an uneasy coalition of separate interests into something more stable and lasting. They had won their throne through a combination of forces united only in opposition to the Umayyads, and the relationships of strength within the coalition now had to be defined. First of all the new caliph rid himself of those through whom he had come to power; Abu Muslim and others were killed. There were conflicts too within the family itself; at first members were appointed as governors, but some of them grew too powerful, and within a generation a new ruling elite of high officials had been created. Some were drawn from Iranian families with a tradition of service to the state and newly converted to Islam, others from members of the ruler’s household, some of them freed slaves.”
yup. gotta get rid of competing members of the family when you’re in a clannish society.
one of the first things the abbasids had to deal with was the alid revolt of 762-763 undertaken by a couple of brothers who, yes, claimed descent from fatimah and who thought/claimed (for various reasons) that they deserved to be in charge rather than the abbasids. so, this was more infighting between rival subclans of mohammed’s quarysh tribe. the abbasids defeated this particular branch of the family that was behind this revolt, but one of the brothers of the leaders of the revolt went on to found the idrisid dynasty of morocco, which was one of those dynasties constantly picking away at the edge of the abbasid empire, even though the idrisids always at least nominally swore allegiance to the caliphate. (one of the offshoots of the idrisid dynasty, btw, is the senussi dynasty of libya, which may or may not make a comeback one of these days.)
between 809 and 827, we’ve got the fourth fitna (civil war) over succession to the caliphate’s throne. the contenders were two half-brothers, the sons of the deceased caliph: al-amin and al-ma’mun. al-amin was caliph for a while until his brother desposed him. the caliph had named al-amin as his successor, but al-ma’mun was actually slightly older, so he was p*ssed off at not having become caliph. the thing was, al-amin’s mother, zubaidah, had been a cousin of the caliph and of the house of abbasid, while al-ma’mun’s mother was just some persian concubine.
about the aftermath of the fitna, wikipedia says:
“The long civil war shattered the social and political order of the early Abbasid state, and a new system began to emerge under al-Ma’mun, which would characterize the middle period of the Abbasid Caliphate. The most tangible change was in the elites who supported the new regime: the abnaʾ, the old Arab families and the members of the Abbasid dynasty itself lost their positions in the administrative and military machinery, and with them their influence and power. The provinces of the Caliphate were now grouped into larger units, often controlled by a hereditary dynasty, like the Tahirids in Khurasan or the Samanids in Transoxiana, usually of Iranian descent. At the same time, however, al-Ma’mun tried to lessen his dependence on the Iranian element of his empire, and counterbalanced them through the creation of two new military corps: Mu’tasim’s Turkish slaves, and the Arab tribal army of the Byzantine frontier, which was now grouped together and placed under the command of al-Ma’mun’s son al-Abbas. This system was further elaborated and acquired its definite characteristics in the reign of al-Mu’tasim, who created a tightly controlled, centralized state, and expanded his Turkish corps into an effective military force with which he waged campaigns against the Byzantines and internal rebellions alike. Its leaders came to political power as provincial governors, while the old Arab elites were sidelined.”
so the entire character of the caliphate changed — and many of the arab clans and tribes lost power — thanks to a clannish family feud. al-ma’mun probably favored non-arab groups — like the tahirids or samanids — for anti-clannishness reasons. this is a common practice in clannish societies around the world, especially the arabized world which suffers from particularly strong clannishness: to try to work around your rival clannish groups by allying yourself with some other groups. never works out, though. from A History of Islamic Societies [pgs. 103-104]:
“To win control of the Caliphate, he [al-ma’mun] had depended on the support of a Khurasanian lord, Tahir, who in return was made governor of Khurasan (820-22) and general of ‘Abbasid forces throughout the empire, with the promise that the offices would be inherited by his heirs. Despite the momentary usefulness of the arrangement, the concession of a hereditary governorship defeated the Caliphal objective of integrating provincial notables into the central government. Now the empire was to be governed by an alliance of the Caliph with the most important provincial lord.
“To offset the power of the Tahirids and regain direct control of the provinces, the Caliphs were eager to create new military forces. Thus, al-Ma’mun and al-Mu’tasim (833-42) raised two types of forces. The first were *shakiriya*, intact units under the leadership of their local chiefs, from Transoxania, Armenia, and North Africa. Though the soldiers were not directly beholden to the Caliphs, they served as a counterweight to the Tahirids. The second type of force was Turkish slaves, called
the unsullied *ghilman* (pl.), who were purchased individually, but grouped into regiments. For the sake of efficiency and morale, and a balance of power between the regiments, each lived in its own neighborhood, had its own mosque and markets, and was trained, supplied, and paid by its commander. Thus slave regiments also became self-contained units which gave their primary loyalty to their officers rather than to the Caliphs….
“These new regiments strenghthened the hand of the Caliphs, but the Transoxanian and Turkish soldiers soon ran afoul of the Baghdadi populace and of the former Arab soldiers in the Baghdadi army, and bloody clashes ensued. Eventually, the Caliph al-Mu’tasim built a new capital, Samarra, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, to isolate the troops from the masses. While Baghdad remained the cultural and commercial capital of the region, from 836 to 870 Samarra was the military and administrative headquarters of the Caliphate. However, the new city only created further difficulties. The Caliphs, who had hoped to avoid clashes between the populace and the troops, instead became embroiled in rivalries among the various guard regiments. The officers took civilian bureaucrats into their patronage, won control of provincial governorships, and eventually attempted to control succession to the Caliphate itself. Regimental rivalries led to anarchy. Between 861 and 870 all the leading officers were killed, and the troops fell out of control and turned to banditry. The employment of slave armies further alienated the Caliphate from the populace it ruled. While the early ‘Abbasid empire had depended upon the military support of its own subjects, the late empire tried to dominate its peoples with foreign troops….”
clannish behaviors everywhere! even in “socially constructed” clans. (if you’ve got “genes for clannishness,” whatever they might be, you’re going to behave clannishly.)
in the late 800s, the abbasids had to deal with the breakaway hamdanid dynasty in northern iraq/syria (hmmm…familiar territory) which was founded by hamdan ibn hamdun who was p*ssed off when the caliph tried to give the governorship of mosul to some turkish guy. hamdan’s tribe — the banu taghlib who were originally from eastern arabia and who waited until quite late to convert from christianity to islam — rebelled. hamdan’s son, husayn, made peace with the caliph, though, and regained the governorship of the region for the family…buuuut, he did wind up eventually being beheaded for taking part in yet another revolt. a couple of husayn’s rather ruthless nephews managed to set up “semi-independent emirates” operating out of mosul and aleppo. although they, too, like the fatimids, swore allegience to the caliph, i view all this clannishness and literal tribal behaviors as further examples of the chipping away at the caliphate. oh — another dynasty, the uqalyids, took over in mosul in 990, and they were of the banu uqayl clan out of western arabia. so, more literal tribalism.
some of the other foreign dynasties that chipped away at the abbasid caliphate were not tribal arabs, but many of them were certainly very clannish themselves. the samanid dynasty of persia, for instance, was founded by saman khuda of the house of mihran, one of the seven parthian clans of the earlier sassanian empire. al-ma’mun appointed four of saman’s grandsons governors as a reward for the family’s loyalty to the caliph. clannish! the last of the samanids, isma’il muntasir (i.e the “victorious”), who was trying to restore his family’s then-dying glory, was killed by some arab guy, so unfortunately he wasn’t so victorious after all.
many of the other central asian dynasties that conquered areas previously, or maybe better intermittantly, held by the abbasid caliphate also read like hatfield versus mccoy stories: the buyids, the ghaznavids, the simjurids, even the seljuks. much of this rather extreme clannishess — like that of the samanids above — happened before these groups converted to islam or very shortly afterwards, so probably too soon for them to have adopted fbd marriage as part of any broader arabization process. this makes me guess that these populations in persia and afghanistan, etc., were probably practicing quite a bit of close cousin marriage before the arabs got there, just presumably not fbd marriage (if the anthropologists are right). don’t know. Further Research is RequiredTM.
but clannishness didn’t just chip away at the edges of the caliphate — internal clannishness, even though the caliphs had tried to eliminate the powers of the arab clans, worked against the caliphate. from A History of Islamic Societies [pg. 105]:
“By the late ninth century…numerous small cliques attached to many leading officials had become polarized into two great factions, called the Banu Furat and the Banu Jarrah. Each of these factions was built around a wazir and his relatives and clients. The families also had a larger following based on social and ideological affiliations. The Banu Jarrah faction was composed mainly, though not exclusively, of Nestorian Christians or Christian converts, often educated in the monastery of Dayr Qunna in southern Iraq. By the middle of the ninth century, this faction had already grown powerful enough to influence state policy. In 852 al-Mutawakkil (847-61) was persuaded to assure Christians freedom of religion, freedom from military service, and the right to construct churches, and to give the Nestorian Catholicos full jurisdiction over all Christians…. The other major faction, the Banu Furat, were mainly Baghdadi Shi’a.
“The chiefs of these factions eventually gained control of the whole government services…. A wazir and his faction would come to power by intrigues and by bribing the Caliph and other influential courtiers. Their main concern then would be to exploit their offices, earn back the bribes, and prepare for future hard times by various frauds, such as padded payrolls, false bookkeeping, illegal speculations, and taking bribes. The officials regarded their positions as a property which they bought, sold, and exploited for private gain.”
after the late 800s, the caliph was very often the caliph only in name (it varied depending on the individual caliph). governmental officials and their extended families and clients (patron-client systems are typical of clannish societies — think: sicily) ran the show within the core of the caliphate, and virtually independent familial dynasties typically ruled the peripheral regions.
what i find even more interesting than all this clan and tribal intrigue, though, is how clannish society within the caliphate actually was. this sort-of societal arrangement is always fraught with difficulties — from A History of Islamic Societies [pgs. 61-63]:
“Local government was organized for taxation. Surveys were taken in the villages to determine the amount of land under cultivation, the crops grown, and their expected yield, and the information was passed up to the central administration. The taxes for whole regions would be estimated, the sums divided up for each district, and the demand notes sent out describing the responsibilities of each subdivision. Each sub-unit received its bill and divided it among the smaller units. At the next stage, taxes were collected, local expenses deducted, and the balance passed upwards until the surplus eventually reached Baghdad….
“How was the state to know if crops were concealed? The state came to the villages with staffs and technical specialists such as surveyors to make land measurements, weighers and measurers to estimate the size of crops, and bankers and money changers to convert currencies or to give credits. It came with legal specialists, judges to adjudicate disputes, witnesses to transactions, registrars of deeds, and the like. Alongside the technicians, it came with specialists in violence, collectors, soldiers, police extortionists, stool pigeons, and thugs. Fear was no small part of the business of tax collection.
“Yet, with all this, the potential for passive resistance and the problem of inadequate information could not be solved without the cooperation of local people. These included family patriarchs, village headmen (such as the *ra’is* in Iran, or the *shaykh al-balad* in Egypt), and village landowners, who controlled a large part of the village land and were much richer than the average peasant, but not so wealthy as the great estate or iqta’ holders….
“These notables played an important intermediary role in the taxation process. As the most powerful people connected with the villages, they handled negotiations, made a deal on behalf of the peasants, and paid the taxes. The arrangement suited everyone. The bureaucratic agents were never absolutely sure how much money they could raise, and wished to avoid the nuisance of dealing with individuals. The peasants did not have to confront the exorbitant demands of the tax collectors directly. The notables underestimated the taxes to the state, overestimated them to the peasants, and pocketed the difference. ‘Abbasid officials understood perfectly well the importance of these people, whom they called their *a’wan* (helpers)….”
clannish corruption. long-standing tradition in the middle east, then.
anyway…those are just some of the clannish elements of the abbasid caliphate that, imho, caused it to “collapse” — or nearly collapse — or get chipped away over time both on the edges and internally. i guess that there were plenty more such elements and that one could find similar examples from other arab states, too, both in the past and in the present.
new working theory, btw: that the populations of the middle east, maghreb, afghanistan/pakistan have become more and progressively clannish and dysfunctional (in terms of attempts to build western-style states in these places) since they’ve become more and more arabized (especially since they began practicing more and more fbd marriage) beginning at the earliest in the ca. early 600s. the actual migration of the (already at the time) very inbred, and therefore very clannish, arabs didn’t help, either.
(note: comments do not require an email. as-saffah, the first abbasid caliph.)
so the wikipedia entry for blitzkrieg was apparently *very* accurate for a few minutes yesterday…
one of the neatest things i learned from Albion’s Seed is that there wasn’t one american revolution, there were four! they never teach you this sort of exciting history in middle school — at least they didn’t in the working-class, roman catholic middle school that i went to — which wasn’t a middle school at all but just the seventh and eighth grades. i was sooo deprived as a child… [kindle locations 13525-13555]:
“The Revolution was not a single struggle, but a series of four separate Wars of Independence, waged in very different ways by the major cultures of British America. The first American Revolution (1775-76) was a massive popular insurrection in New England. An army of British regulars was defeated by a Yankee militia which was much like the Puritan train bands from which they were descended. These citizen soldiers were urged into battle by New England’s ‘black regiment’ of Calvinist clergy. The purpose of New England’s War for Independence, as stated both by ministers and by laymen such as John and Samuel Adams, was not to secure the rights of man in any universal sense. Most New Englanders showed little interest in John Locke or Cato’s letters. They sought mainly to defend their accustomed ways against what the town of Malden called ‘the contagion of venality and dissipation’ which was spreading from London to America.
“Many years later, historian George Bancroft asked a New England townsman why he and his friends took up arms in the Revolution. Had he been inspired by the ideas of John Locke? The old soldier confessed that he had never heard of Locke. Had he been moved by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense? The honest Yankee admitted that he had never read Tom Paine. Had the Declaration of Independence made a difference? The veteran thought not. When asked to explain why he fought in his own words, he answered simply that New Englanders had always managed their own affairs, and Britain tried to stop them, and so the war began.
“In 1775, these Yankee soldiers were angry and determined men, in no mood for halfway measures. Their revolution was not merely a mind game. Most able-bodied males served in the war, and the fighting was cruel and bitter. So powerful was the resistance of this people-in-arms that after 1776 a British army was never again able to remain in force on the New England mainland.
“The second American War for Independence (1776-81) was a more protracted conflict in the middle states and the coastal south. This was a gentlemen’s war. On one side was a professional army of regulars and mercenaries commanded by English gentry. On the other side was an increasingly professional American army led by a member of the Virginia gentry. The principles of this second American Revolution were given their Aristotelian statement in the Declaration of Independence by another Virginia gentleman, Thomas Jefferson, who believed that he was fighting for the ancient liberties of his ‘Saxon ancestors.’
“The third American Revolution reached its climax in the years from 1779 to 1781. This was a rising of British borderers in the southern backcountry against American loyalists and British regulars who invaded the region. The result was a savage struggle which resembled many earlier conflicts in North Britain, with much family feuding and terrible atrocities committed on both sides. Prisoners were slaughtered, homes were burned, women were raped and even small children were put to the sword.
“The fourth American Revolution continued in the years from 1781 to 1783. This was a non-violent economic and diplomatic struggle, in which the elites of the Delaware Valley played a leading part. The economic war was organized by Robert Morris of Philadelphia. The genius of American diplomacy was Benjamin Franklin. The Delaware culture contributed comparatively little to the fighting, but much to other forms of struggle.
“The loyalists who opposed the revolution tended to be groups who were not part of the four leading cultures. They included the new imperial elites who had begun to multiply rapidly in many colonial capitals, and also various ethnic groups who lived on the margins of the major cultures: notably the polyglot population of lower New York, the Highland Scots of Carolina and African slaves who inclined against their Whiggish masters.”
pretty sure most of you are familiar with fischer’s four american folkways and their origins. i’ve written a handful of posts on the histories of the original populations of these folkways — when they were still back in england that is.
there’s this post: east anglia, kent and manorialism — the puritans who went to new england were mostly from east anglia, or at least the eastern/southeastern part of england. the east anglians seem to have been quite outbred comparatively speaking, but perhaps not quite as much as the populations of southern and central england (i.e. the home counties). they seem to have hung on to extended families — village- or hamlet-based groups of brothers and their families — for longer than other populations in the southern half of britain, although perhaps that was more a side-effect of the lack of manorialism in the region rather than some residual inbreeding. the new englanders had fought their war of independence because they “had always managed their own affairs” — that was pretty true of east anglians, too, since they had (mostly) never been under the yoke of manorialism. interestingly, they had a remarkably (for the time) low homicide rate in the thirteenth century.
i’ve got a couple of posts related to those rambunctious folks from the backcountry whose ancestors came from the borderlands between england and scotland. libertarian crackers takes a quick look at why this group tends to love being independent and is distrustful of big gubmint — to make a long story short, the border folks married closely for much longer than the southern english — and they didn’t experience much manorialism, either (the lowland scots did, but not so much the border groups). did i mention that they’re a bit hot-headed? (not that there’s anything wrong with that! (~_^) ) see also: hatfields and mccoys. not surprising that this group’s war of independence involved “much family feuding.”
i wrote a whole series of posts on the north midlands/mid-atlantic quakers, because i knew the least about them. you might want to start with the last one first — quaker individualism — since it sorta sums up everything i found out about them. the other posts are (in chronological order): geographical origin of the quakers, on the topographical origins of the quakers, and the myddle people. what i reckoned about the midlanders/quakers is that they are some of my inbetweeners — they are some of the outbreeders of europe, but they came to The Outbreeding Project a bit late since they’re right on the edge of “core” europe (i.e. roughly the area circled in green on this map). so they don’t have the extended family orientation of the more recently inbreeding border reivers who were even further away from the “core” (to the north), but they had a very strong orientation toward the nuclear family — almost kinda freakish (not to be rude). the midlanders/quakers lean towards a strong individualism, too, reminiscent of the backcountry folk, but without the strong familism. that’s why i dubbed them inbetweeners. (the east anglians might be inbetweeners, too. not sure. Further Research is RequiredTM!) colin woodard said of the quakers [reference in this post]: “Quakers were also by nature inclined to challenge authority and convention at every juncture.” so, not surprising that they, too, rebelled against the english king!
unfortunately, i haven’t got a single post on the virginians from the south of england — fischer’s distressed cavaliers and indentured servants. they ought to be some of the most outbred of the english, which, perhaps, was why they fought for lofty ideals like life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the belief that all men are equal…except for (*ahem*) the slaves. the different origins of the settlers of the tidewater versus the deep south (per colin woodard) perhaps make a difference here — the landowners of the deep south were a self-sorted group of the second sons and grandsons of plantation owners in places like barbados (just like benedict cumberbatch’s ancestors!) — they might not have been big on universalistic ideas. need to find out more about the origins of both of these groups.
if you haven’t read Albion’s Seed, you really ought to! colin woodard’s American Nations, too, which divides up the u.s.’s folkways in a slightly different manner plus adds a whole bunch of others not considered by fischer (like french and spanish north america). and jayman has written approximately eleventeen gaZILLion posts on the american nations which you should definitely check out! i don’t even know where they all are, but you can start with one of the most recent ones, if you haven’t seen it already. (^_^)
that there were four american revolutions is a result of the fact that four (five?) somewhat different english populations settled in different regions of north america. the cultural and attitudinal differences between these regions persist to this day because, undoubtedly, there are genetic variations between the populations — probably average genetic differences in the frequencies of genes related to behaviors, personality, and even intelligence. these regional differences also persist because, since the very founding of the united states, like-minded people have been self-sorting themselves within the country so that they group together — and that sorting process has not been slowing down.
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