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Tapper, Richard Lionel (1972) The Shahsavan of Azarbaijan: A study of political and economic change in a Middle Eastern tribal society. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This is a study of the economic and political organization of the Shahsavan, nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists inhabiting the region of northeast Azarbaijan (Persia), and arises from fieldwork carried out among them and from an examination of historical records relating to them. Until very recently the Shahsavan formed a confederation of some 30-40 tribes, but now much of this overall political organization has been dismantled by the Persian Government. The central theme of the study is the changing relationship between the nomadic groups and their economic and political environment. For the purposes of analysis I have divided the study into two parts. In Part I, I show how the organization of the nomadic community - a corporate group of roughly thirty households and the basic social and political unit of Shahsavan society - can be understood in terms of a few cultural principles and ecological and other constraints. The argument proceeds in a cumulative fashion by analysis of the household organization, herding and husbandry activities, camping patterns, kinship and affinal relationships within the community, and finally ritual organization and leadership. The community elder emerges as the key political figure in Shahsavan nomadic society today. However, the role played by the elder, the nature of some of the principles and constraints affecting the organization of the community, the grosser economic and political patterns of tribal organization and the manner in which the nomadic groups are encapsulated within the tribe, the region and the Persian State, can be fully understood only by an extended discussion of the processes of economic, political and ideological change of which these features are largely the result. In Part II, I attempt to provide such an understanding through an examination of the historical development of the tribal confederation, and conclude with an analysis of the organization of the tribes and the political role of their chiefs.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:57

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