The Stubborn Mobility: Nomads and Political Agency in the Arab East, 1920–2015
This project places the Bedouin nomads such as the Shammar and Anizah under scrutiny as trans-border and transpatial political actors in the Arab east. It argues that nomadic trans-border mobility and solidarity, which they occasionally struggled with the governments to maintain, granted them a major advantage against the states’ plots and designs during the twentieth century. It additionally asserts that the nomads were major autonomous and transpatial political actors, who significantly influenced the order of things in the region. They were utterly sensitive about their lifestyle which also meant considerable political autonomy in the regions they controlled. To protect this autonomy, they developed two major strategies; they established partnerships with the governments during the Mandate and independence periods; when they were exceedingly pressed by the governments, as in Syria and Iraq during the early independence era, they benefitted from their mobility and migrated to the neighbouring states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where they were welcomed by their relatives. This represented a serious crisis as the migration of the Bedouin resulted in considerable deficits for the national economies. Therefore, the governments had usually to retreat from their social engineering policies with regard to the Bedouin communities. Consequently, the Bedouin both protected their autonomy and maintained control over the desert space that constituted the majority of lands in the Arab east.
A focus on the attitudes of the nomads in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the Northern Arabia (and those in Turkey who left the country in the early 1920s due to the political pressure to become sedentarized) will enable us to understand better the problems of the contemporary Arab world where both global actors and regional states have failed to solve ‘ever-mounting’ problems, now a serious global issue threatening the stability in a wide region extending from Europe to China.