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Hirschler, Konrad (2008) 'Konformität und Randständigkeit: Bettler im vormodernen Nahen Osten (Conformity and Marginality: Beggars in the Pre-Modern Middle East).' In: Pistor-Hatam, Anja and Richter, Antje, (eds.), Bettler, Prostituierte, Paria: Randgruppen in asiatischen Gesellschaften. Hamburg: EB-Verlag, pp. 67-105. (Asien und Afrika (ZAAS) Kiel)

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Beggars were a common feature of pre-modern societies in the Middle East. This article discusses whether beggars constituted (a) marginal group(s), focusing on the period from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. The examination of specific sub-groups shows that beggary was perceived in highly differing terms. The moral right to beg was conceded to those who were not supported by a family network and unable to work because they were disabled or elderly. This contrasted with vagrant beggars belonging to the Banu Sasan, who clearly were considered as marginal. They played on this status through various means, such as developing a distinctive sociolect. In the same vein, mendicants of some mystical brotherhoods did not perceive themselves as normal members of society – nor did society perceive them as fulfilling the minimum cultural and moral norms. A further group subject to criticism were the urban settled beggars. However, as they conformed more closely to hegemonic cultural norms (e.g. in terms of appearance and language), they stood on the fringes of society to a lesser degree, and can hardly be described as a marginal group. The second question of this article concerns the nature of the relationships between power-holding elites and beggars. During the period under consideration, systematic repressive measures against beggars were infrequent and beggars rarely tended to form some kind of institutionalised fraternities in order to interact on an organised basis with the elites. It was only in the later Ottoman empire that beggars were subject to disciplinary regulations and were organised into associations.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History
ISBN: 9783936912531
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2009 16:30

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