A Tribal Order: Politics and law in the mountains of Yemen [Archives:2007/1073/Reportage]

August 2 2007

Review by: Dr. Aviva Klein-Franke,
Martin-Buber Insitute for Jewish Studies, University of Colgone, 50923 Colgone, Germany

This book is the result of fieldwork in Jabal Razi in the northern area of Yemen. The anthropologist Shelagh Weir visited the region three times and spent there in the years 1977, 1979-80 and in 1993 about twenty months. Most of the time during her fieldwork she dwelled in madinat al-Nair and studied the cultural and social institutions of the village. The village is inhabited by one of ten small tribes that settled in the Razi region. The author found this village an ideal fieldwork-base, because it was socially and occupationally heterogenous; personalities in official positions, men prominent in tribal and government affairs lived in the illage, and the weekly market was a good meeting place of locals and visitors from remote places.

At the time of her first visit in 1977, travelling in the area was difficult, for instance, no motor truck was available and most places could only be reached in the traditionally way, by foot, as hundreds of years before. First in 1979 routes for a Trans-Razi trucks was established. During the periods of her research the Razihis used two currencies, the Saudi Riyal (SR) for everyday transaction and for bigger business transactions, like land purchase or sale the used the Riyal

Faransi (Maria Theresia Taler). Weir investigated the institutions of a traditional society in transition to modernity and therefore her description of life in al-Nair is an “ethnographic present” document of the 1970s.

The book has three parts with a total of eleven chapters. It also includes two appendixes:

1. A list with chronological events affecting Razi

2. A catalogue of Razi documents