Customary Strangers: New Perspectives on Peripatetic Peoples in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia

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Joseph C. Berland, Aparna Rao
Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004 - Social Science - 342 pages
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Social scientists have generally remained impervious to a major economic and cultural adaptation—namely, the peripatetic lifestyle—although this adaptation has been an integral part of developments within the socioeconomic and cultural networks that social scientists study. This lack of interest derives perhaps from the ambiguous integration of peripatetics into these networks as well as the often negatively charged constructs -Gypsies, outsiders, or marginal others—imposed on peripatetics by dominant cultures. As peddlers of the strange to borrow a phrase from Clifford Geertz, peripatetics are situated at the fringes of their host societies and many students of the social ecological and behavioral sciences still continue to overlook the roles of peripatetic peoples.

This collection presents the latest in cross-cultural comparative research on the nature of peripatetic peoples. Contributors examine the place of peripatetic peoples in the everyday lives and diverse cognitive maps of client communities. Relying on Georg Simmel's construct of The Stranger, the contributors to this volume suggest that peripatetic peoples are simultaneously outsiders and insiders, but most important, they are entrepreneurial middlemen traders par excellence. All told, the essays provoke vital reassessments of the anthropological focus on the role and status of cultural brokers and go-betweens in political, economic, and social interactions.


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A New Look at Peripatetic Peoples
Reconciling the Stranger
The Middle East
Roving Traders among the Bedouin of South Sinai
A Syrian Nawar Chief
Smith as Stranger among the Tuareg Susan Rasmussen
Mallemin Craftsmen Classification and Discourse among the Bidan Nobility of Mauritania
The Metamorphoses of Peripatetic Peoples in Africa
Conflict Continuity and Identity among Professional Strangers
A Note on Peripatetic Specialists
Some Thoughts on Peripatetics Insiders and Outsiders in Southwest Asia
Mughat Lyuli and Other Peripatetics in the Social Fabric of Central Asia
Owners of or Strangers in the Riau Archipelago of Indonesia?

Social Resources and Domestic Fluidity of the Peripatetic Karretjie People of the South African Karoo
The Nile Valley Gypsies in the Ethnic Mosaic of Sudan
About the Contributors

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Page 8 - ... the man who comes today and stays tomorrow - the potential wanderer, so to speak, who, although he has gone no further, has not quite got over the freedom of coming and going.
Page 9 - ... Between these two factors of nearness and distance, however, a peculiar tension arises, since the consciousness of having only the absolutely general in common has exactly the effect of putting a special emphasis on that which is not common. For a stranger to the country, the city, the race, and so on, what is stressed is again nothing individual, but alien origin, a quality which he has, or could have, in common with many other strangers. For this reason strangers are not really perceived as...
Page 9 - ... about the stranger are intended to suggest how factors of repulsion and distance work to create a form of being together, a form of union based on interaction. In the whole history of economic activity the stranger makes his appearance everywhere as a trader, and the trader makes his as a stranger. As long as production for one's own needs is the general rule, or products are exchanged within a relatively small circle, there is no need for a middleman within the group. A trader is required only...

About the author (2004)

JOSEPH C. BERLAND has lived and traveled with peripatetic communities in Southwest Asia for 25% years. He is the author of No Five Fingers Are Alike and is co-editor with Matt T. Salo of a special issue of the journal Nomadic Peoples devoted to peripatetic peoples. Formerly at Northwestern and Oxford Universities, he is now Adjunct Professor of Social Anthropology at Qaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He is retired from pedagogical activities and pursues full-time research.

APARNA RAO is Professor at the Institute fur Volkerkunde, Universitat zu Koln, Germany.

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