GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Daniel Martin
Title of Paper:
After the Snake has Bitten: Can Tribalism Rebuild Yemen?
Paper Proposal Text :
Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih once noted that ruling Yemen was like dancing on the heads of snakes. For Salih the snakes have bitten, but they are still loose in a state without a stable government and internecine regional conflicts. Since the arrival of Islam in Yemen the dominant political force in much of Yemen has been tribal, especially in the north where the Zaydi imamate was established in the late 9th century CE. Throughout much of Yemen’s history, tribal support was essential for effective governmental rule and maintaining civil society outside urban areas. Although tribal loyalty is still strong, it now competes with imported ideologies of Salafism, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda as well as indigenous counters from the Huthis in the north and Hirak in the south. As an evolving polity, the role of tribal authority and customary law faces new challenges posed by multiple religious, regional and national identities. This paper analyzes the nature of Yemeni tribalism as a historical feature of Yemeni society in terms of potential ways in which tribal values and legal mechanisms need to be reckoned with for future state building. The author draws on his ethnographic fieldwork in a tribal community in the late 1970s, multiple trips to Yemen over the next three decades, historical research on tribalism in Yemen, and recent anthropological and political studies, especially on the Huthi issue.