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Bedouin of Mount Sinai

Bedouin of Mount Sinai

Emanuel Marx


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The Sinai Peninsula links Asia and Africa and for millennia has been crossed by imperial armies from both the east and the west. Thus, its Bedouin inhabitants are by necessity involved in world affairs and maintain a complex, almost urban, economy. They make their home in arid mountains that provide limited pastures and lack arable soils and must derive much of their income from migrant labor and trade. Still, every household maintains, at considerable expense, a small orchard and a minute flock of goats and sheep. The orchards and flocks sustain them in times of need and become the core of a mutual assurance system. It is for this social security that Bedouin live in and retire to the mountains. Based on fieldwork over ten years, this book builds on the central theoretical understanding that the complex political economy of the Mount Sinai Bedouin is integrated into urban society and part of the modern global world.

“This unique book is based on a long-term and detail-oriented ethnographic research the author conducted among the Bedouin population in Mount Sinai region. [...] Marx's book is a significant contribution to the ethnographic research on pastoral nomads as it illuminates myriad ways in which global and local political economic arrangements are reflected in the ways of life and social customs of the Bedouins. […] Scholars and students studying Bedouin tribes in the Middle East as well as scholars in the fields of economics, sociology and anthropology more broadly will benefit tremendously from reading the book." · Israeli Sociology

“Marx’s analysis of their contacts with regional systems is fresh and original. Although a marginal people of miniscule numbers, their circumstances expose the inherent frailties of powerful states and regulated markets…the book features historical depth… at the same time, his arguments also recognize a rich legacy of sociological debate… Familiarity is not enough. Rather his book suggests that passionate study and long reflection – not to mention an intellectual gift – are further preconditions for understanding how representations arise from circumstance.” · Review of Middle East Studies

“This book will be most valuable to researchers studying nomadic life and its challenges as well as those requiring more information about anthropology and its ethnographic interpretation tools.” · Anthropos

Marx’s study is a valuable contribution to the ethnographic study on pastoral nomads, and is useful reference for universities, colleges, researchers, students and individuals interested in the Bedouin tribes in the Middle East, economy, sociology and anthropology. · Geography Research Forum

This concisely written book of seven chapters is tightly focused on the coping strategies of the Bedouin of Mount Sinai following Israeli occupation and subsequent withdrawal as an “open system.”… this is a volume of interest to wide range of readers, including almost anyone interested in arid zone adaptations, political scientists interested in the incorporation of tribes in the Arab world in nation state polities, and all concerned with this historically vital and dangerous geographic conduit between Africa and theMiddle East. Certainly anyone interested in the now shattered world of Mt Sinai cannot ignore this ethnography…This book is highly recommended.· Human Ecology

“Marx's data and analysis firmly put to rest persistent notions of Bedouin as primitive, backward, and timeless. This major achievement opens up trajectories for future comparative research on the transformation of communities formerly engaged in nomadic pastoralist production in areas once remote from nation-state power throughout the Middle East and beyond. Indeed, Marx's moniker of ‘urban’ breaks a glass wall that has all too often served to idealize and isolate Bedouin from the wider polities in which they exist and should participate as citizens…Lessons learned from this book about economy and society…can contribute to a better world for the Mount Sinai Bedouin and beyond.· International Journal of Middle East Studies

There is a wealth of information and insight here which is simply lacking in many instances nowadays in academic work. More to the point, the author was privy to a time and place which no longer exists; his knowledge, let alone experiences, cannot be replicated. He has a unique story to tell here, and it is certainly a story worth hearing.” · Steven C. Dinero, Philadelphia University

The arguments of the book are theoretically sophisticated, while the writing style is clear, direct and informative. Marx has something to say and he says it well. This is a book that will be welcomed by specialists and a wider readership alike. Marx’s lucid account of the political economy of the Mount Sinai Bedouin is a valuable contribution to the ethnographic literature on pastoral nomads and on the central Middle East… The extraordinary geographical position of the Sinai between Israel and Egypt, and Marx’s fieldwork in the region over many years and under different political regimes, adds considerable weight to the book.· Nancy Lindisfarne, SOAS, University of London

A unique and long-needed book, based on many years of in-depth ethnographic research. It is well-informed, informative and a responsible representation of the various aspects of the life and economy of Bedouins in the Sinai… [that] provides… thought-provoking explanations of diverse aspects of nomadic life. The author succeeds in demonstrating the complexity of the nomadic way of life and the specific problems and dilemmas encountered by Bedouins…in the context of economic and political changes within Israeli and Egyptian society. This book will definitely become a classic.” · Dina Siegel, Utrecht University

Emanuel Marx is Professor Emeritus of Social Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. He has published books and articles on the Bedouin of the Negev (Israel) and South Sinai (Egypt) and edited, with Sir Jack Goody, the work of Emrys Peters on the Bedouin of Cyrenaica (Libya).