South Arabia between Late Antiquity and Early Modernity
This project part focuses on the formation and development of communities in South Arabian history including the transitional phases of Late Antiquity and the early Islamic period (5th-8th centuries AD) as well as the medieval period (9th -15th centuries AD). Key sources are examined that primarily relate to social interactions within South Arabia and beyond. These include unedited manuscripts and documents as well as published sources, which contain potential for further analysis and inquiry through the means and concepts of historical anthropology. In this way, this project views these historical sources as containing frequent and explicit references to the regional diversities of South Arabia as well as the communities’ encounters with external groups. The communities mentioned in these sources vary as to their religion, language, and other social dimensions such as tribal identity. The main research contexts are the Islamization of South Arabia and its role as a haven for marginalized Islamic denominations, the tribalization of South Arabia’s vast rural areas and the memory of its former political glory, and the network of interregional commerce between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The changing role of tribes and their relationship to more centralized political entities represent a special feature of South Arabian history that provides an extremely fertile scale of comparison with similar communities in medieval Europe and Tibet. Similarly, regional and local belief communities throughout South Arabian history demonstrate the region’s enduring capacity to absorb and integrate minorities of all kinds.
Overall, these research foci in the framework of the VISCOM project will provide original and fresh perspectives on the interplay between the formation and maintenance of communities and their subjective understanding of these social processes.