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Arab Family Studies

Arab Family Studies: Critical Reviews

Edited by Suad Joseph
With a Foreword by Noor Al Malki Al Jehani
Copyright Date: 2018
Published by:
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  • Book Info
    Arab Family Studies
    Book Description:

    Family remains the most powerful social idiom and one of the most powerful social structures throughout the Arab world. To engender love of nation among its citizens, national movements portray the nation as a family. To motivate loyalty, political leaders frame themselves as fathers, mothers, brothers, or sisters to their clients, parties, or the citizenry. To stimulate production, economic actors evoke the sense of duty and mutual commitment of family obligation. To sanctifytheir edicts, clerics wrap religion in the moralities of family and family in the moralities of religion. Social and political movements, from the most secular to the most religious, pull on the tender strings of family love to recruit and bind their members to each other. To call someone family is to offer them almost the highest possible intimacy, loyalty, rights, reciprocities, and dignity.

    In recognizing the significance of the concept of family, this state-of-the-art literature review captures the major theories, methods, and case studies carried out on Arab families over the past century. The book offers a country-by-country critical assessment of the available scholarship on Arab families. Sixteen chapters focus on specific countries or groups of countries; seven chapters offer examinations of the literature on key topical issues. Joseph's volume provides an indispensable resource to researchers and students, and advances Arab family studies as a critical independent field of scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-0-8156-5424-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)

    The Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) was established by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development to support the aims of the 2004 Doha Declaration on the Family by contributing to the global knowledge base on Arab families, making family issues a priority for policy makers through its advocacy and outreach at the national, regional, and international levels, and encouraging a knowledge exchange on issues related to the family across an international and interdisciplinary network of researchers, policy makers, and service providers. Furthermore, DIFI promotes and supports the development of high-quality research on Arab families.

    Our commitment to...

  2. Introduction: Family in the Arab Region: State Of Scholarship
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Arab Spring 2011 and its frequently disastrous fallouts—the ongoing occupation of Palestine; the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the collapse of Syria and the dire situation of displaced Syrians; the stumbling new nations of Sudan; the four-decades-long instability of Lebanon; the re-installment of military rule in Egypt; the ongoing bloodbath of Libya; the relentless suppression of protests in Yemen and Bahrain; the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)—are images through which the Arab region appears to be refracting life/death choices. World press coverage of the Arab region focuses on such urgent issues. The Arab region occupies...

  3. Part One. North Africa

    • 1 Algeria
      (pp. 17-38)

      This chapter examines the construction of knowledge of the Algerian family since the 1950s from a historico-critical perspective. It traces knowledge of the family’s main concepts; what they left out or kept under silence; their resilience, or mutation over time; and attempts made to destabilize their meanings in a society undergoing intermittent social upheavals as it searches for its political identity.

      Using Michel Foucault’s conception of “episteme,”¹ this chapter approaches knowledge of the family as being composed of various discourses predominant in a specific historical period. Given the monopoly of knowledge that French colonial social science had over Algerian society...

    • 2 Egypt
      (pp. 39-56)

      The abundance of excellent scholarship on the family in Egypt is striking. There is such a wealth of documentation by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and demographers that the problem for an overview becomes which studies to include and which to exclude. In the following review, I examine how family in Egypt has been studied, both as a particular form of social organization and as a part of holistic studies of Egypt, focusing on the anthropological literature, which in itself is a large and rich field of knowledge. When making a specific point about the basic premises of historical and political conceptualizations...

    • 3 Libya
      (pp. 57-74)

      This chapter reviews the literature on Libyan families. The survey covers the period from 1951, the year of Libyan independence, to 2011, which signals the end of the Qaddafi era. The getting of independence marked the beginning of a local scholarship and a new interest in Libya by various Western countries in addition to the former colonial powers. The chapter is organized into an introduction, two main sections (literature in Arabic and literature in European languages) divided into subsections, and conclusions.

      The introduction offers general observations on the scholarship on Libya as a whole, explaining the reasons for the paucity...

    • 4 Morocco
      (pp. 75-95)

      Morocco has been firmly rooted in the European imagination since the early eighteenth century. The fall of Algiers in 1830 increased the French interest in penetrating Morocco through data collection. This was the task of the “French Scientific Expedition” created in 1904 in the Moroccan northern city of Tangier. French administrators institutionalized research by compiling “data” in periodicals including theArchives Marocaines, created in 1914; theArchives Berbersin 1915; andHesperis, published by L’institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines, which opened in 1920. The birth of sociology and anthropology in the nineteenth century put Morocco at the locus of European...

    • 5 Somalia
      (pp. 96-110)

      The limited literature available on the Somali family is diverse in its approaches. For heuristic purposes, we will group these into four paradigms that align well with three historical eras: from the colonial era to independence in 1960, from independence to the collapse of the Somali state (1960–88),¹ and the subsequent dispersal of the Somalis as refugees in the far corners of the world (1988–2014).

      The first and oldest paradigm continues to dominate not only our understanding of the Somali family but Somali studies in general. This paradigm represents work generated through classic anthropological approaches utilizing ethnographic immersion...

    • 6 Sudan
      (pp. 111-131)

      Publications in the form of books with a focus on “the family” are very few in the Sudan. More accurately, only one book entitledFamily Life in Sudan, edited by Mohamed Mohamed-Salih and Margret Mohamed-Salih (1987) has been published, by Khartoum University Graduate College. The book was essentially a summary of distinguished master’s degree awards. Several studies that dealt with women’s issues were related to food; space, reproductive health, and women’s agency and empowerment were relevant and within the context of what could be viewed as part of family studies. Furthermore, it was important to state that the family as...

    • 7 Tunisia
      (pp. 132-150)

      This article is a critical review of the scholarship on the “Arab” family in Tunisia from the French colonial period through the first decades of independence until the present moment. While several theoretical lenses have been deployed to study the Tunisian family in general—namely, French colonial anthropology, Tunisian anthropology and sociology, psychoanalysis, linguistics, historiography, gender studies, socioeconomics, and legal studies—none of them used the ethnic category of the Arab family; even for scholars on the Islamist end of the political spectrum, the “Arab family” remains a political utopia, not a reality. This article has three main conclusions: (1)...

  4. Part Two. Eastern Arab States

    • 8 Iraq
      (pp. 153-168)

      Academic knowledge production about Iraq in general has been very much shaped and limited by political authoritarianism, militarism, wars, economic sanctions, invasion, occupation, and sectarianism. All these developments have had a severe negative impact on academic publications about and within the country. Much of the existing scholarship on Iraq is based on either historical archival research or international relations/politics with a focus on macropolitical developments related to political economy, governance, and war and conflict.

      Lack of academic freedom, difficult access to a country ruled by an extremely authoritarian regime, and lack of security have resulted in an acute paucity of...

    • 9 Jordan
      (pp. 169-189)

      In Jordan, as in any society, there are two main aspects to researching and understanding the social institution that is “family”:

      1. Analyzing the prevalent forms of family units through a focus on the structural and statistical occurrence of different types of kinship and household relationships; and

      2. Interpreting the social perceptions and discourses (official and vernacular) about a cultural construct in society called “family.”

      Following this general guideline, the available literature in English and Arabic produced during the past fifty-five years (1960–2015) on Jordan will be assessed in terms of the extent to which the literature explores the range of...

    • 10 Lebanon
      (pp. 190-211)

      Studies of family are often focused on classification and description, taking family as already assumed to be a cornerstone institution of society and relationships within it as natural. Research on families in the Arab world, including Lebanon, was dominated in the early part of the twentieth century, like research on other topics of the Arab world, by Orientalist (E. Said 1979) and positivist theoretical frameworks. Lila Abu-Lughod (1990) argued that Orientalism’s legacy meant that researchers reduced the region to three research topics—segmentation theory or tribalism, the harem, and Islam—generalizing from popular research hot spots to the whole region....

    • 11 Palestine
      (pp. 212-232)

      Scholarship on Palestinian families has been influenced, shaped, and impacted by major historical transformations in Palestine, thus has resulted in extensive literature on the subject. “Biblical Palestine” was a first paradigm that triggered study of the “people of the land” to depict, as a methodology, their ancient biblical life as drawn in the Bible.

      The colonization of Palestine by the national Zionist movement was a factor in producing another set of scholarly works on Palestinian society and families governed by a paradigm of the “inferior, underdeveloped and superstitious” family. A Eurocentric, functionalist, comparative methodology was used to show the inferiority...

    • 12 Syria
      (pp. 233-246)

      This chapter is organized by chronological time periods starting with a systematic review of contemporary studies of the Arab family in Syria from the 1920s to the present time. However, in order to ground this critical analysis of the Arab family in Syria, it is prefaced by a brief examination of a historical analysis of the Arab Ottoman family in the nineteenth century as uncovered by contemporary archival research conducted by Margaret Meriwether (1999) in the 1980s. Meriwether’s valuable exploration of the broad dimensions of the normative Syrian family, the relations of women in the household, bride price (mahr), marriage,...

  5. Part Three. The Arab Gulf

    • 13 Kuwait
      (pp. 249-274)

      The proper names of the ruling families of Arabia generally take the form of the Arabic wordAl, which means “family,” followed by the name of the eponymous founder of the family (in Kuwait, for instance, the man named Sabah who ruled in the middle of the eighteenth century). Occasionally in Arabic texts an extraal- is prefaced to the name of this ancestor, resulting in for instance, Al al-Sabah (Herb 1999, xviii).¹

      As enshrined in its constitution, the family, not the individual, is seen as the basic unit of Kuwaiti society, similar to the rest of the Arab world....

    • 14 Saudi Arabia
      (pp. 275-294)

      A black-and-white sign pasted on the entrance of a generic restaurant door in Saudi Arabia reads “Only for families.”¹ Manal Al-Dowayan, a Saudi Arabian photographer, took the sign and replicated it to create an entire landscape of a hypothetical city in Saudi Arabia designated exclusively for families.² The image captures the complexity by which the construct of the “family” features in contemporary social, political, and economic life in Saudi Arabia, both as an ideology and as an institution. Demarcating a space for “families only” means asserting certain types of exclusions (non-families, which are single males and in some cases single...

    • 15 United Arab Emirates and Oman
      (pp. 295-319)

      Countries of the Arab Gulf—Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—share a common history and have experienced similarities as well as differences in their social, political, and economic development.¹ Consequently, much writing about this region addresses the Gulf countries as one unit.² This means that the available literature varies: some scholars address an individual Gulf country and others address all or many countries. This chapter initially included all four Gulf countries and identified the major theoretical and methodological approaches used. The resulting document was large in page count, so a decision was made to divide...

    • 16 Qatar and Bahrain
      (pp. 320-348)

      This chapter is a continuation of the previous chapter, United Arab Emirates and Oman.¹ It starts with the chronology of the literature on Qatar, Bahrain, and other literature on the Gulf states, followed by the main characteristics of and reflections on the methodology used in the reviewed literature on all four Arab Gulf States (AGS) in this study: the UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. Then the chapter provides definitions of the key paradigms used to study family in the Gulf and explores how these paradigms drive particular research topics. The paradigms include (1) descriptive travelogues and ethnographic histories, (2) structural...

    • 17 Yemen
      (pp. 349-366)

      Studies on South Arabia, today known as Yemen, emerge from the fact that this is a people with ancient history that looks back with pride to a chain of high civilizations reaching back to the Neolithic times.¹ The best known of these civilizations, the Sabaens, was at one point ruled by a woman, Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, whose wisdom is mentioned in both the Bible and the Qur’an (Chelhod 1985a, 28; de Maigret 2002, 28; Doe 1971, 75). The same way as in ancient times, in today’s Yemen, family lineage and descent ideology continue to play a crucial role...

  6. Part Four. Critical Issues

    • 18 Acculturation Paradigms to Feminist Intersectionality Paradigms and Arab American Families
      (pp. 369-386)

      This chapter will explore four paradigms: (1) singular acculturation paradigms; (2) multifaceted acculturation paradigms; (3) feminist postcolonial diaspora studies paradigm; and (4) intersectional feminist paradigm. The first two are interrelated and are the primary paradigms that frame most research on Arab American families. The majority of research relies on one of the two acculturation models focusing on processes of cultural change, and most research exists in the fields of health (mental health, aging, medicine) (Abdulrahim and Ajrouch 2014; Amer 2014; Dallo, Archer, and Misra 2014; Jaber and Al-Kassab 2014; Wrobel and Paterson 2014) and social work (Ajrouch and Antonucci 2014;...

    • 19 Migration and Transnational Arab Families
      (pp. 387-398)

      This chapter discusses the writings found in the literature on transnational Arab family relations and Arab family migration studies. It seeks to explain not only the scarcity of scholarly writings on this subject but also the use of particular theoretical perspectives that we encounter in these writings. In relation to the deficiency of writing on the subject in Arab countries, it is argued that the absence of a well-established tradition in anthropological studies in most Arab universities could be one of the main reasons for this deficiency. In broader terms, anthropological studies on Arab societies are still dominated by Western...

    • 20 Arab Families and Islamic Law
      (pp. 399-415)

      The literature on Arab families and Islamic law, which began as a branch of Islamic legal studies, is now characterized by attention to historical, social, and political context.¹ The body of relevant scholarship has taken a number of different approaches and paradigms: an exegetical approach, which focuses largely on traditional legal doctrines (fiqh); a sociological approach, which studies premodern and modern legal practices in relation to social context; an etatist approach, which highlights the place of law in the governmentality of modern states, both colonial and postcolonial; a culturalist approach, which explores law as a site of identity formation and...

    • 21 Education and Arab Families
      (pp. 416-436)

      For more than a century, debates about the shape and form that formal education should take have been central to broader concerns and preoccupations with modernity, progress, nationalism, and state-building. These debates have also been consistently linked to conceptions of the family and to what form a “modern” family should take. At the same time, formal public education was believed to be central to the socialization of youth above and beyond their parochial identities and family loyalties. Reformers such as Émilie Durkheim (1961) argued that “moral education” should not be left to the family. These associations, while not unique to...

    • 22 Media and the Arab Family
      (pp. 437-448)

      InDying Colonialism, Franz Fanon’s pathbreaking work on the Algerian revolution of 1956, Fanon explains how under French colonial rule the radio served as a means to reinforce colonial power. He writes, “The radio in occupied Algeria is a technique in the hands of the occupier which, within the framework of colonial domination, corresponds to no vital need insofar as the ‘native’ is concerned” (Fanon 1965, 72–73). Prior to 1954 the very act of turning on the radio “meant allowing the colonizer’s language to filter into the very heart of the house” and to “give voice to the occupier”...

    • 23 Fertility, Demography, and Masculinities in Arab Families
      (pp. 449-466)

      The Arab world is often portrayed in popular media, academic circles, and policy reports as a region of high fertility—a state of demographic affairs often attributed to inherent Muslim pronatalism and patriarchy (Kirk 1967; Nagi 1984). However, this portrayal of Arab “hyperfertility” is both outdated and inaccurate (Eberstadt and Shah 2012). During the past three decades, fertility rates have plummeted across the Arab world (Courbage 1999; Fargues 1989; Roudi-Fahimi and Kent 2007; Tabutin and Schoumaker 2005)—a fertility decline that has been profound, even revolutionary (Qutayqat 2007).¹ According to theUnited Nation’s World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision(United...

    • 24 War, Violence, Refugees, and Arab Families: Focus: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine
      (pp. 467-481)

      A century of wars in the Arab region—world wars, colonial wars, wars of national independence, civil wars, and popular insurgencies—would suggest that scholarship on war, families, violence, and refugees must offer salient insights both on the understandings of the past histories of Arab families and on the urgencies of the present for so many war-torn or refugee families. Indeed, nowhere do the themes of this chapter intersect with greater salience and poignancy than in the contemporary circumstances and experiences of Syrian refugee families (including Palestinian twice-refugee families fleeing Syria). Let us begin then by considering what their experiences...

  7. Conclusions: Research on Arab Families Matters
    (pp. 482-492)

    Understanding Arab families is necessary (though not sufficient) to understanding Arab societies. While anthropologists (myself included) would likely argue that such an assertion is true for all societies, it is particularly so in Arab societies. The body of research on Arab families is increasingly rich. Although often policies and planning by NGOs and state governments proceed on the basis of modest research or in the absence of research, the need (and market) for more research on Arab families that can be the basis for policy-making and planning is also growing. Similarly, at times, academics build their macro theories of politics,...

  8. Bibliography on Arab Families and Youth With English References through 2017
    (pp. 495-614)