Black tents of Baluchistan
The nomadic Baluch of the highland Sarhad region of southeastern Iran depend upon a cultural multiplicity that has enabled them to respond flexibly to the predictable unpredictability of their physical, political, and economic environments. Remaining nomadic not only for pastoral purposes but also to pursue other forms of production, they engage in livestock pastoralism, runoff and irrigation cultivation, arboriculture, gathering, smuggling, trading, migrant labor, and guiding illegal emigrants. During periods of political autonomy, Baluch raided other groups and earned a reputation as fierce warriors. Since being conquered by the Shia Persians in 1935, they have replaced raiding with trading and have honed their identity as devout Sunni Muslims.
Drawing upon twenty-seven months spent among the men, women, and children of the Yarahmadzai tribe of Iranian Baluchistan, Philip Carl Salzman shows that such labels as "pastoral", "nomad", "chiefdom", "Muslim", and "subsistence" are misleading, because they reduce a complex and mutating multiplicity to an imagined essence. Relating the details of the group's life -- from tent living and the division of daily labor to kinship ties and religion -- Salzman discusses how Baluch shift between decentralized, egalitarian, segmentary lineage politics and centralized, hierarchical, chief-based politics.
Maintaining that scholarly conceptions of society have too often overemphasized unitary structural integration, Salzman argues that alternative stances or tendencies can remain embedded in a culture's repertoire, ready to be called forth in response to changing conditions.
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Black Tents of Pushti Kamal
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