Practices of Identity in the Tribal Community of Medieval South Arabia
With the decline of the Himyarite Empire in the sixth century AD and the subsequent occupation of South Arabia by the Abyssinians and Persians, centralized control over the region declined and numerous disunited and competing factions across its landscape emerged as the primary units of political power. During this transformation the intricate web of relationships among these groups took on a local tribal identity that was expressed through the idioms of territory and (fictive) kinship. While this articulation of the regional social network demonstrated a certain level of cohesiveness within South Arabia, it also served both to connect these groups to, and distinguish them from, those of North Arabia. Hence, a new sense of a regional South Arabian identity began to form in the early Islamic period and continued to develop over the course of the medieval period as interaction with various political entities of the wider Islamic world increased. This research focus aims at analyzing the symbolic and practical construction of both local and regional identity in the South Arabian tribal community in and through various genres of texts such as historical narratives, genealogies, and geographies.
Researcher: Johann Heiss, Daniel Mahoney