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Black-Michaud, Jacob (1969) Feud and stratification with special reference to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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After a review of much of what has been written by sociologists and social anthropologists on the typological classification of different forms of violence, feud is provisionally defined, following Peters' work on the Bedouin of Cyrenaica, as a permanent relationship between social groups the changing character of which is expressed in terms of violence or the threatened exercize of violence. Peters' original definition of feud is then expanded to cover a much wider range of social interaction than he initially suggested. It is proposed that the word feud be taken to describe almost any kind of persistent relationship between individuals or groups in which it may be said that the principal motivation on both sides is fear of aggression. It is postulated that the prevalence in social interaction of fear over all other motivations is characteristic of a specific type of social structure which arises in response to a given set of historical and oecological circumstances. A general picture of the structure of such a 'feuding' society emerges from the discussion (in chapters II and III) of what actually happens in the course of individual feuds which, it is argued, despite frequent statements in the literature to the contrary, cannot be concluded and are in practice 'eternal'. In the fourth chapter, the postulate that the occurrence of feud is invariably coincident with a particular constellation of historical, oecological and structural factors is examined in greater depth. An attempt is made to construct a universally valid model of feud which is found to be in all points congruent with a minimal model of society. It is shown, with reference to feuding societies in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, that feud operates to create a form of social stratification - that is, to express changing patterns of dominance and subordination between individuals and groups - and that it may be regarded as a social system per se which evolves as a surrogate for more sophisticated political institutions where oecological conditions inhibit their development. Finally, the dual theme of feud as a relationship and a social system is again central to the last chapter, where it is manipulated in conjunction with a number of current ideas concerning the nature of ritual action to account for the ferocity of attitudes to women in many feuding societies and to provide a tentative explanation of certain details of feuding behaviour the significance of which would otherwise remain obscure.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:14

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