1. Tribalism and Family AffairsSebastian Maisel, Grand Valley State University
Tribal values have been a fundamental ingredient in the social structure of families in the GCC states. Prior to the discovery of oil, social life was organized around the tribe and the (extended) family was the backbone of society. This was layered with the economic component of the urban-rural-nomadic divide. The rapid transformation of the GCC states led most families enter the urban world. Life-styles, occupations and material things changed; however traditional customs and practices remained. This study seeks to understand how much of this ancient notion of tribalism is left in current family practices. I argue that the majority of lower and middle class families in the region have retained traditional values of family building and interaction. These intangible customs show little difference to the practices in the pre-oil period. However, recently, public life in the GCC states witnesses an increase in tribal activities through television programs, literature outlets, legal decisions, and political participation. Thus, the study also aims to measure the impact of increased public tribalism on domestic family dynamics and representations. For comparative reasons, the study begins with an overview of past tribal customs from the pre-oil era, while the main body of the study analysis contemporary expressions of tribalism within the private and public sphere exploring local, regional and transnational themes of interest. Revealing the official position of GCC states toward current tribal family practices will be the final component of the study. The research for this study is based on anthropological fieldwork (residence, participant observation, oral histories) in the area, interviews with tribal family members and leaders as well as public officials. Another primary source and forum of tribal expression is the tribal online discussion board, which serves as an uncensored vehicle of tribal self-representation and whose contents shall be analyzed with regard to new tribal concepts of identities across political and hierarchical boundaries. Local newspaper and research archives will provide another layer of documenting private and official attitudes towards tribalism and family affairs.
2. The Soaring Bride-Price (Mahr) in a Context Of Modernization: A Complex Variable that is Affecting The Formation Of The Gulf Family: Case Studies In The Sultanate Of Oman, Qatar And Bahrain
Jihan Safar, Sciences-Po Paris, Collège de France, and Laurent Pouquet, Quadrat-études, Sciences-Po Paris
The Gulf family is facing a key challenge as a result of higher marriage costs. The bride-price (mahr) -which is the sum of money a man has the obligation to offer to his future bride- is becoming a major concern for youth, family and state. The mahr’s dramatic boom is affecting the whole marriage equilibrium, increasing the age at first marriage and the celibacy rate. The consequences range from more frequent mixed marriages and non-conventional ones (misyâr), to psychological problems and conjugal conflicts. Contrary to modernization theory that presumes a breakdown of the mahr system in a context of modernization and urbanization, the mahr has paradoxically risen in Gulf societies. According to theory, educated people who acquired modern norms should be the first to abandon the mahr system, en raison of a greater independence in the spouse selection and fewer arranged marriages. But despite modern influences in the Gulf, the traditional practice of the mahr seems resilient. Using qualitative and quantitative approaches to be conducted in Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, our study will contribute to answer fundamental questions regarding matrimonial decision-making, the evolution and the main drivers of the bride-price. Semi-directive interviews, a survey and data collected from marriage registers will all be gathered to fill the literature gap and produce material on the mahr, a micro-familial issue that has a wider impact on the macro level and constitutes a major economic, psychological and demographic challenge for the development of Gulf nations.
3. Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Historicizing the Qatari Family as a Category of AnalysisRogaia Mustafa Abusharaf and Amira Sonbol, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar Qatar has enjoyed a rather diversified ethnographic makeup, a byproduct of its geographic location, its proximity to vital trade routes, and the influences of political, economic and environmental processes beyond its border. It is more than simply a “Bedouin” or “maritime” society, but a complex mosaic of diversified identities and family backgrounds making up the greater whole. It must be recognized that these identities have been constantly re-negotiated and re-shaped by political and socio-economic factors, with “boundaries” constantly dissolving and recreated. This project employs a historical ethnography of the Qatari family to unravel its hybridity since the early times of migration to the Peninsula and throughout the pre-oil period. In addition to historicizing the concept of the family and kinship in Qatar over time, this project explores heretofore ignored categories such as gender. We contend that the family as any structure of sociability is susceptible to change as evidenced in the dramatic change in the concepts of Fareej (residence) and the powerful debate on consanguinity. Although the nature of this change varies in magnitude, the boundaries of the family may still be explored through problematizing the concepts of pure blood and the public/private sphere binary. In this project we will collect archival material, personal narratives, examination of the extant literature to probe the underlying processes that led to the segmentation of the large families to illuminate the less salient element of social construction of the family through the lenses of migration, population dynamics and ethnicity as well as gender and marriage. These elements have not been addressed in studies that relied heavily on inferential “evidence” on genealogy and ancestry. The aim is to analyze the social, cultural, and political structures that influenced the very conceptualization of the Qatari family as a society. We expect that the project will yield nuanced understanding of the very historicity of social and political institutions in Qatari society and subsequently its families. Since Qatari society does not represent a monolithic entity, we propose to explore more specifically the question of family itself—a topic that remains contentious due to social and political sensitivities within modern day Gulf societies in general and Qatar in particular. 4. Mixed Marriages among Qataris: A Research ProposalMohamed Mohieddin, Sanaa Taha Al Harahsheh, Feras Al Meer, Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) There are growing evidence that mixed marriage is on the rise worldwide and Qatar is no exception to this reality. This important research project constitutes the first attempt to study this phenomenon among Qataris thus filling a gap in academic literature and provide bases for policy debate. This research raises questions concerned with the trends and characteristics of those involved in mixed marriage, its structural determinants and consequences for the individual, family of spouses, community and the Qatari society as a whole. More specifically, the role of the macro processes of globalization, international migration and social differentiation in the rise of mixed marriage over the last thirty years, its impact on certain demographics such as differential fertility patterns and celibacy. Furthermore, and at the micro level, it looks at variables related to individual motivations for mixed marriage, adjustment of mixed spouses. Furthermore, it addresses state policies, family, community and society attitudes towards mixed marriage as well as issues of identity of children of mixed marriage and their acceptance within the family, community and society at large. To address these issues, this research project adopts multiple research methods (techniques) to collect quantitative and qualitative data including 30 face-to-face case studies and a questionnaire on a sample of 600 cases for comparison purposes. Quantitative data will be analyzed using SPSS while qualitative data will be analyzed using content, thematic analysis. The proposal details a dissemination plan through participation in seminars, conferences and publication in peer review journals. 5. The Gulf Child: A New Phase of Family Law Reform?Lena-Maria Möller, Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law Families are shaped by a variety of factors, including the social, political, and economic context in which they exist and operate. Equally influential for family structures and family transformations is the legal framework that states establish to govern the family. With regard to family laws in Muslim countries, however, scholarship has largely focused on questions of marriage and divorce and has thus excluded legal policies directed at the parent-child relationship. Yet without an adequate understanding of the development of child law regimes and the trends affecting them, we are left with an insufficient analysis of the legal dynamics shaping the family in Muslim-majority countries. My proposed project will remedy this gap in the scholarship by examining the notion of ‘the best interests of the child’ (maṣlaḥat al-ṭifl, maṣlaḥat al-maḥḍūn) as a paramount principle permeating family law in the Arab Gulf in recent years. My project is devoted to a thorough understanding of how child law, as one central aspect of family law, has developed in the course of the past decade and what perspective it holds in the Arab Gulf States of Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The study of the notion of the best interests of the child, encountered as an overriding principle in Gulf family law since the early 2000s, will provide a better understanding of the societal values and public attitudes towards the family in the Arab Gulf. The project will examine the legal and public discourse bringing about reforms in child law, the introduction of the concept of the best interests of the child into statutory law and its application by the judiciary. The aim is to contextualize these results within the overall social, political, and economic transformations that Gulf societies have undergone in the past decades. Having worked on family law regimes in the Arab Gulf for the past four years, I am familiar with the gaps in the scholarly research on Muslim family laws. I therefore expect the project to play an important role in shaping the scholarly debate from the perspective of child law and its development.