Rodionov M. A. Tribal Customs in Al-Mishqas, South Arabia: the Alteration of Social Norms
Mikhail A. RODIONOV — Doctor of Historical Sciences, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Saint Petersburg)
ABSTRACT. Al-Mishqas, a region in South Arabia, brings together pre-Islamic cultural features of Hadramawt, Mahra, Socotra Island and Iran. A local scholar Abd al-Rahman Abd al- Karim al-Mallahi (1936–2013) was the first to start collecting field data in the area and involved other researchers into this process, including the author of this article. The collected materials allow us to address essential aspects of social normative culture which have been practiced in this specific area some thirty years ago by two tribal federations, thain and al-humum. After the unification of Northern and Southern Yemen into the Republic of Yemen in 1990, official social and cultural norms in the South began to alter. Thus, liberal social status of females regarded in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen as a part of progressive folk heritage, an impetus for women liberation, is castigated now as a shameful survival of pagan jahiliyya, incompatible with Islamic standards and mores. It applies also to another social institute - the collective circumcision of teenage boys. This rite of passage, extremely important for the tribes of al-Mishqas, was not long ago viewed as a public manifestation of cultural legacy (mahrijan).
KEYWORDS: South Arabia, Hadramawt/Hadhramaut, al-Mishqas area, social norms, cultural practice, females social and legal status, collective circumcision of boys,wedding terminology
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