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The Basseri of Iran: How Pastoralism Impacted Kinship, Social Organization, and Political Organization - Research Paper Example

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This paper will explore some of those connections as outlined in published ethnographic work. The Basseri of Southern Iran are traditionally a nomadic, tent-dwelling people, descended from Arabic, Persian, Turkic, and Gypsy ancestors. Amanolahi informs us that the Basseri have now been detribalized and integrated into the national Iranian state, however…
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The Basseri of Iran: How Pastoralism Impacted Kinship, Social Organization, and Political Organization
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Download file to see previous pages Pastoralists have “pre-state” societies and therefore do not have a state, by common definition in anthropology (see Scupin, 1995). They are instead organized through tribal kinship relations, encompassing often thousands of persons. The Basseri were divided into 13 tirehs, with each tireh further subdivided into several oulads.
For most pastoralists, descent is traced through the male (“patriliny”) unlike horticulturalists where matrilineal or matrilocal kinship patterns are common (Nowak & Laird, 2010). The Basseri follow this pattern, and membership in an oulad is determined by descent in the male line, and the structure of the tireh is based on connections of descent in the male line (Keesing, 1981). This type of tribal kinship pattern could be considered a segmentary lineage system, in which sub-groups were ideally arranged in a complex structure of complementary opposition and alliances by various groups and sub-groups, though real life often strayed from this ideal (Lindholm, 1986). This tribal kinship organization, rather than any state-like institutions, was used to manage the collective use of land and other resources by the Basseri in their pastoral mode of subsistence. The entire social organization, in fact, was based upon these tribal kin relationships. Social Organization The Basseri migrated seasonally through a strip of land some 300 miles long, an area of about 2,000 square miles, settling in one pasture area during summer, when they would also grow some wheat, and being more nomadic during winter (Keesing, 1981). This frequent movement pattern of thousands of people, of necessity, required a society and social organization that was flexible and mobile. Family groups were conceived of as “tents” and were the main units of production and consumption. These tent groups were represented by their male heads, and held full rights over property and sometimes acted as independent political units, according to Barth (cited in Keesing, 1981, p. 138). All of the property of a tent group – tents, bedding, cooking equipment – moved along with the herds when the group migrated. An average family would have 6 to 12 donkeys and somewhat less than 100 sheep and goats. In winter, the families separated into small clusters of 2 to 5 tents, associated as herding units. The rest of the year, larger camps of 10 to 40 tents moved together. Members of these camps comprised solidary communities, but because of their mobile patterns, quarreling would sometimes lead to temporary or even permanent fission (Keesing, 1981). Nowak & Laird (2010) have noted that living in camps of 30 to 50 tents, Basseri would strike camp and move every three to four days. This requires great organizational skills, with the animal herder, a young boy or girl, leaving early in the morning with the herd while the adults break camp, loaded their possessions onto pack animals, and moved to the new camp, set it up, and prepare for the herds, which would need ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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