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Lois Beck, Julia Huang
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

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In both historical and contemporary times, tribes have played important roles in the Islamic world. Tribal groups facilitated the rapid spread of Islam across vast territories in the early Islamic period. They contributed to the demise and rise of empires and states throughout the premodern period. Their political and military support of rulers at the local, regional, and wider levels helped to sustain many regimes in power, and their opposition weakened these entities and contributed to their collapse. In modern times, tribal groups have continued to exert influence on many regimes. Foreign and occupying military forces—such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early twenty-first century—have discovered that they needed to take seriously the tribal systems there.

The English term “tribe” is one that scholars and others use confusingly to depict what they perceive as a group of people, a political entity, a form of social organization, or a structural type. Although they often equate tribes with nomads and pastoralists, not all nomads or pastoralists have been tribally organized, and more tribal peoples have been settled than mobile. Often negatively, scholars and others associate the adjective “tribal” with certain cultural systems, ideologies, attitudes, modes of behavior, and material culture. A “tribal mentality,” for example, implies a narrow, partisan outlook. Scholars and others classify certain aesthetic forms (such as weaving and poetry) as “tribal” art without specifying how the label relates to these entities. For some, the term “tribal” invokes primitive and traditional traits as compared to modern ones. The expression “tribes with flags” conveys the notion that even nation-states in the modern era (such as Somalia and Lebanon) might be little more than tribes disguised as more complex polities.

People have imagined the characteristics of tribes according to their specific intentions and have created images to suit their vested interests. Tribal people, those who encountered them (such as nontribal citizens of states), governmental officials who aimed to control them, and social scientists have each used the term “tribe” and its local equivalents in different ways. “Tribe” is a translation, not always accurate, of multiple indigenous terms whose uses and meanings could vary according to context. The analytical constructs of outsiders do not duplicate indigenous concepts; the official terminology used by governments is not the same as popular discourse. People have invoked the term and acted on their perception of its representations for their own differing purposes.

Many settled people have viewed the tribes they feared as synonymous with outlaws and thieves. For their part, tribespeople have feared the loss of autonomy and have considered themselves fiercely independent and loyal to their own groups. Settled people have often perceived tribal society as inferior to urban society (ḥadārah), the so-called civilized Islamic ideal. [See ḥadārah.] They have seen cities as centers of government and order and tribes as rebellious and destructive. From an urban perspective, “tribe” has often meant nomads or other rural people beyond the government's reach. State officials have tended to reify the concept of tribe in order to facilitate their own administration. Declaring tribes to be identifiable corporate bodies with fixed memberships and territories, they have produced lists of the tribes under their supposed authority and have acted in terms of those entities. Such attitudes and the resulting policies have created and fortified political, social, and physical boundaries.

For people who have proclaimed themselves members of tribes, the issue has not been so problematic. Within their societies, their own tribal identities and those of others have been effective ways of classifying people. Their political, social, and symbolic systems have demonstrated the traits that were salient for them.

It is often more appropriate to speak of tribal or tribally organized society than of tribe because drawing boundaries around a specific group may be difficult. Many Kurds, for example, have been tribally organized and have asserted tribal identities, but the Kurds as a whole have not been a tribe or a group of tribes. Rather, Kurdish society has included tribal as well as nontribal components.

Tribal identities have not been exclusive or fixed because tribal people have also demonstrated other traits (linguistic, cultural, ethnic, religious, residential, regional, occupational, and socioeconomic) that have risen and fallen in importance for them depending on the circumstances. A nomadic pastoralist who attended university and accepted employment as an engineer might view herself primarily in terms of her newly achieved status. Yet at home with her family she might strive to demonstrate that she had not abandoned her tribal roots and the customs and values she had learned while growing up. These cross-cutting and overlapping traits make it difficult to speak of tribes as bounded, clear-cut entities. Since the middle of the twentieth century especially, tribal people have been urbanites of all occupations and socioeconomic classes as well as mobile pastoralists and settled agriculturalists.

Tribal identity, like ethnic and national identity, has been an imaginary one based on continually revised conceptions of history and tradition. Tribal groups, like ethnic groups and modern nation-states, have been “imagined communities” for their members and others. In constructing their identity, tribal people have invented and reasserted traditions according to changing sociopolitical circumstances. Many tribal groups have consisted of people of diverse ethnolinguistic origins, yet each group has forged its own “unique” customs and has created origin legends that appeared ancient to outsiders. Symbols of group identity—such as the rituals, dwellings, apparel, and notions of honor that group members have considered distinctive—have emerged out of a political context and have served political ends.

Formation of Tribes.

Tribes have emerged when people, their strategic location, and their vital resources have intersected with the interests of external powers and mediating agents. These resources have included land for pastoralism and agriculture, water, raw and processed materials, labor forces, migratory routes, trade routes, and markets. The mediating agents have been tribal leaders, governmental officials, regional elites, foreign powers, and outside analysts. The people so organized, their leaders, and external powers and agencies could all benefit by this association.

Tribally organized people have created their local ties voluntarily by centering them on residential communities within certain territories and drawing upon the principles and processes of kinship, marriage, coresidence, economics, and political affiliation. Their ties with wider sociopolitical entities—their tribal groups—have tended to be less concrete and more abstract than their local ones.

Individuals and groups have formed tribes when they affiliated politically with local and sometimes higher-level groups and leaders. Various factors explain the extent of supralocal, wider tribal ties: the geopolitical and strategic setting, the value placed internally and especially externally on local resources and labor, the extent of external pressures (from foreign invaders, colonists, state governments, and urban-linked institutions), the ability of groups to organize and act in their own interests, and the level of military expertise and power. As each of these circumstances has changed, so, too, have the characteristics of tribal groups, leadership systems, and identities. For millennia, tribal people have associated with more complexly organized society, in particular the state, the market, and urban-centered institutions; no local group has remained isolated. The main stimulus for tribal formation has related to this wider association, and tribal leaders and governmental officials have served as the principal mediating agents. Tribal leaders have represented state power for tribal members while they simultaneously acted on behalf of the interests of the tribal polity for the state.

Some scholars identify tribes as socially egalitarian units while others see greater complexity. Tribes have not been static entities, however, but rather have demonstrated historically and situationally defined dynamics and egalitarian as well as hierarchical tendencies. Rather than defining tribes rigidly, scholars should examine the conditions under which decentralizing or centralizing tendencies have dominated within a society at a given point and then trace the transformations through time. A continuum of possibilities can range from decentralized to centralized society (characterized by inegalitarian, hierarchical, and perhaps class-based traits). Groups at one end of the continuum have lacked leaders beyond the level of local elders; those at the other end have possessed powerful, wealthy leaders who formed part of a wider elite and participated in provincial and wider politics.

Tribal groups have expanded and contracted. Small groups have joined larger ones when, for example, state officials attempted to restrict their access to essential resources or a foreign power sent troops to attack them. Large groups have divided into smaller entities in order to be less visible to the state and escape its reach. Intertribal mobility—the movement of people from one tribe to another—has been a common process in tribal formation and dissolution.

Tribes and States.

A state in any historical period can be characterized by several traits: territorial borders (not necessarily secure or clearly delineated), a bureaucratic apparatus, some success at monopolizing physical coercion (especially for suppression), some degree of legitimacy, rules for the succession of leadership, extraction of resources (especially taxes), maintenance of order associated with the distribution of goods and services (such as constructing and policing roads), occupational specialization (such as artisans and priests), and a socioeconomically stratified population. Asserting centralizing goals, state rulers have tried to control the territories they claimed and to subjugate or integrate any autonomous or rebellious groups within them. They have not always succeeded. Problems with legitimacy and rules of succession have meant that rulers were vulnerable to competitors, especially those having independent military resources, such as tribal leaders.

Rigid definitions and models of states do not necessarily apply to the early Islamic era and the premodern period and can be problematic as well for modern times. Few states in the early period could claim recognized, legitimized power, and rulers did not always succeed in achieving territorial control. The polities represented by Afghanistan and Iraq in 2007 demonstrated few similarities with nearby established nation-states such as Iran and Turkey. Premodern and modern states should be distinguished, although certain so-called traditional or premodern elements have persisted in modern times. Kinship and tribal ties including genealogies extending back to the Prophet Muḥammad, for example, have enhanced the legitimacy of rule in modern-day Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco. Constitutional regulations in a newly independent Kazakhstan (formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991) required citizens who sought major political offices to speak the Kazakh language fluently. All Kazakhs had been members of clan and tribal groups, and these affiliations (at least superficially) have continued to be important in the running of the new state.

Modern nation-states are legal and international entities to be defined, also, in these terms. Modern rulers coming to power have usually relied on Western-style militaries and bureaucracies. Through state centralization, they have aimed to cause changes in government and society by supporting a nationalist ideology, economic development and control, modernization (including such features as the expansion of formal education), and some secularization.

States in history have ranged from fragmented polities lacking autonomous structures of authority, to decentralized polities with rudimentary institutions, to centralized states maintained by a functioning bureaucracy and standing army and claiming a monopoly of the legitimate use of power.

The structure, organization, and leadership of tribal groups have reflected their relationship with states. Thus, they have also ranged from being small, loosely organized, diffuse, noncentralized entities; to fragmented and ephemeral tribal confederacies; to large statelike confederacies with centralized hierarchical leadership. From before Islam until the mid-twentieth century (and in some locales into the early twenty-first century), challengers to state rule as well as founders of states have often required the military and technological prowess of tribal groups, while established state rulers have needed tribal support for levies, revenue, and regional security. Tribes have always offered a reservoir of military force. State rulers have often needed to share power with tribes, and their ability to penetrate the countryside has often depended on the extent of their ties to the tribal elite there.

Even in the early twenty-first century, tribal leaders and structures have continued to facilitate the rise, survival, and demise of state rulers and institutions. Afghanistan and Iraq offer recent examples of the ways that tribal entities (and others) could disrupt state-building efforts by foreign occupiers. Tribal polities have both coordinated with and opposed the Taliban (itself based partly on tribal and ethnic ties) in Afghanistan, and they have either assisted or impeded international al-Qaʿida forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Even in more stable, established states such as Morocco, tribes have thwarted the government's efforts to control its vital border regions.

Tribal formations have enabled the integration of people into state structures, while at the same time preventing these peoples from being subordinated to or assimilated within the state. Tribal structures have emerged as components of state rule while simultaneously enabling people to resist certain forms of state interference. A loosely formed, noncentralized tribal group has been as much a response to external pressures as has been a complexly organized, centralized one; both entities have exhibited adaptive strategies. A loosely organized group, protected by its structural diffuseness, has offered little to state agents to manipulate, while a centralized group has used its complex organization to resist state pressure as well as to benefit from being an instrument of state control.

As a result of these formative and functional relationships, tribes and states through history have demonstrated interdependence and have maintained each other as a single (yet complex) system. Tribes and states have represented alternative polities, each creating and solving political problems for the other. State rulers especially have depended on tribes for military power, revenue, and regional security. They have exploited and strengthened the polities they encountered, which often required minimal effort and expense on their part and yet provided some order and security. Tribal people in turn have sometimes depended on state intervention in regional competition and conflict, and their leaders have drawn power, authority, and wealth from their connections with states. A weak state has facilitated the emergence of strong tribes; strong tribes in turn have helped to ensure a weak state. Strong states and strong tribes have also coexisted with tolerance or antagonism. Especially in the premodern era, many states began as tribal dynasties from which emerged statelike confederacies and eventually empires, such as the Ottoman empire.

At any time up to the mid-twentieth century, what was “tribe” and what was “state” depended on prevailing political circumstances, especially when foreign powers interfered. Anxious to influence the policies of states, foreign powers supported tribal leaders and buttressed tribal structures in order to threaten state rulers into complying or to force changes in state leadership. Some complex polities demonstrated both tribal and state features, for example, Kalat (1638–1955) and Swat (1849–1969) in the territory of modern-day Pakistan. In general, the term “state” is best used to refer to a higher level of political, economic, and social complexity than has usually been found in tribal groups.

Albert Hourani's discussion of three spheres of radiation from cities helps to explain the emergence of different kinds of tribes in the Middle East. The first sphere, the city and its dependent hinterland, was an area that the government administered directly. The second sphere, the intermediate areas where the city and its government could exercise control only through the powers located there, contained organized and permanent tribes with effective leaders. The third sphere, the mountains and deserts and distant agricultural lands where a city-based ruler might have exerted some influence but where administration was weak or nonexistent, held a different kind of tribal entity. Here “tribalism” was a system of ideas, symbols, and rituals that sometimes remained dormant. Activating such a system only periodically, tribal leaders in the third sphere exerted intermittent authority and no effective or permanent power.

Islamic beliefs and institutions have sometimes served as mechanisms for integrating tribes into states. Particularly in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, tribal society has often been closely connected with Islam in its formal institutions such as mosques, legal courts, and schools, as well as its popular forms such as sufi orders and saintly lineages. Urban-based religious and legal scholars sometimes wielded authority over tribal groups but sometimes also polarized tribal society and the state.

Tribes and Kinship.

Some scholars define tribes in terms of kinship, by which they usually mean descent. Notions of kinship (a symbolic system of classification similar to that of tribe) have been important in relationships among tribal people at the local level, but kinship ties alone have not formed tribal polities. Hence, a definition of a tribe as a kinship or kinship-based group is not sufficient or accurate because it places too much weight on the factor of kinship and neglects other, more significant factors. Kinship principles have often given tribal people a sense of solidarity, especially at the local level, but many nontribal societies, rural and urban, have functioned similarly. In addition, all tribal polities have contained people whose links to local and wider groups have not been defined by actual or fictive kinship ties. In the larger tribal polities, no kinship system has been elaborate enough to encompass all members. Tribal people who have asserted genealogical connections were making a political statement; such genealogies were charters of organization, not maps of actual kinship ties. Some tribal people might have conceptualized political relationships within and between tribal societies in terms of kinship bonds. By these strategies, which should not be glossed simply as “kinship,” people have aimed to create a political context and act within it.

Tribal people have all operated within different spheres: residential and socioterritorial groups (in which they recruited members voluntarily), kinship groups (which they defined on notions of descent—actual or fictive—and marriage), and sociopolitical or “tribal” groups (in which they recruited members through political allegiance). Their ties in any one of these groups could have linked them to the others. Each tribal person has drawn on these residential, kinship, and political ties in different ways, depending on the circumstances. Hearing the news of an elder's death, for example, individuals may decide to attend the possibly distant funeral based on the strength of their bonds with the person and his family and group. Socioterritorial and kinship ties may or may not have connected them to the deceased person; tribal links, which the attendees sought to enhance, may have played a more significant role.

Tribal Leaders.

Tribal leaders have emerged from local, regional, and state relationships and processes. High-level tribal leaders have drawn power and authority from their contacts with the state and other external forces, but they also have depended on support and allegiance at the local level. They have often based their legitimacy on ideologies and systems of values that they shared (or claimed to share) with their political supporters.

Various symbolic systems have linked tribal leaders of all levels with supporters. For some, notions of shared beliefs in Islam have united them, especially when these beliefs have differed from those of surrounding nontribal societies. Shīʿī Muslim tribes in southern Iraq differentiated themselves from the tribal and nontribal Sunnī Muslims who supported the regime of Saddam Hussein (and they suffered violence and discrimination because of their Shīʿī identity). Common affiliations as members of Ahl-e Haqq (a Shīʿī sect) in eastern Turkey unified some Kurdish tribespeople against the secularized, nontribal Sunnī Muslims who controlled the Turkish government and aimed to force dissident minority groups to integrate themselves in the state.

Other symbolic systems include notions of a shared history (often invoking past military exploits), genealogies (political charters), rituals, language, notions of territory, tribal names, sentiments of honor, and conventions of residence, migration, dwellings, apparel, and expressive arts. A Qashqaʿi shepherd in Iran proclaimed his allegiance to the paramount Qashqaʿi khan by always wearing a distinctive felt hat that symbolized Qashqaʿi identity. (Naser Khan Qashqaʿi had introduced the hat as a unifying emblem when he returned to tribal territory from exile after the ouster of Iran's ruler, Reza Shah, in 1941.) Tribal people have recognized and supported leaders more because of shared beliefs than because of threats of coercion.

Leaders have often been limited in their ability to apply force because tribespeople could “vote with their feet,” deny allegiance to them, and ally with other groups and leaders. High-level tribal leaders have also played economic roles in a regional, often nontribal, context and have developed a base of power there as well. Such contacts may have benefited their tribal supporters. The most successful leaders have simultaneously cultivated the allegiance of their political followers and their regional and governmental contacts.

Tribal leaders who have wanted to expand their power and authority beyond immediate tribal boundaries have often needed to invoke wider Islamic, ethnic, national, or state notions. For example, the Bakhtiārī tribal khans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries shared Iranian, Shīʿī values and notions of kingship with many nontribal, urban Iranians. In Turkey, Iraq, and Iran in the past several centuries, Kurdish tribal leaders drew on the institutions and ideologies of Sunnī, Shīʿī, and Ṣūfī Islam, particularly religious brotherhoods and saintly lineages, in order to transcend local tribal sources of authority. In the early 1950s, the paramount Qashqaʿi tribal khans supported the nontribal National Front, an Iran-wide political association espousing liberal, secular, democratic, and nationalist goals. In these and other ways, such tribal leaders relied on extralocal, nontribal connections, which also could enhance their internal, tribal links.

Ethnic and National-Minority Groups.

Scholars and others sometimes consider tribes to be part of ethnic groups, especially if the ethnic groups have been large and complex (e.g., the Kurds). Like tribal identities, ethnic identities represent symbolic systems of classification invoked for political reasons under changing circumstances. Ethnicity is a wider, more inclusive construct than that of tribe. During socioeconomic change in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, many tribal groups have gradually assumed some characteristics of ethnic groups (without necessarily abandoning all tribal—that is, sociopolitical—traits), especially when the state has increasingly drawn the people under its control and administration. When state or other pressures have undermined or eliminated key tribal organizations and institutions (particularly the leadership), the people formerly encompassed by these systems have sometimes adopted or enhanced other traits associated with ethnic groups, particularly a self-conscious sense of distinctiveness. In Iran, for example, when the conservative, hardline clergy of the Islamic Republic undercut the power of the Qashqaʿi tribal khans in the 1980s, the Qashqaʿi people reasserted the importance of their Turkic language and culture in order to differentiate and unify themselves within the wider Iranian society, where ethnic Persians dominated.

Some tribally organized ethnic populations could also be considered national minorities or parts of them, groups united by a shared political consciousness—a sense of “nation”—and by an interest in achieving political and cultural self-expression. The Baluch in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan provide an example. At the local and regional levels, the Baluch shared kinship and tribal links; they also held notions of linguistic and ethnic distinctiveness in common; and they formed part of the wider Baluch nation that overlapped these international borders and also included the Baluch in diaspora (in Kuwait and Great Britain, for example).

Benefits of Tribal Affiliations.

Through history, the tribal peoples of the Islamic world have often found protection by belonging to such polities. They have gained advantages over many others in the countryside, especially peasants and some other agriculturalists, who have lacked such organizations and leadership systems. Through tribal membership, people could maintain some degree of political autonomy and defend and expand their economic and territorial interests. Sometimes they could avoid state interference through their diffuse structure, and sometimes they could resist or exploit such manipulation through their centralization. Tribal people have also received prestige and support from tribal membership. They have comprehended the benefits that tribal membership often conferred, and their allegiance to and support of leaders have assisted the process of tribal formation and expansion. Tribal structures, organizations, and ideologies have offered long-term survival value because of their highly adaptive and flexible nature. State structures, organizations, and ideologies have not always provided people with similar advantages, especially in times of volatile, disruptive political change.

By holding firm to their notions of tribal solidarity and common ethnolinguistic identity, the Qashqaʿi of southwestern Iran withstood the military attacks of Reza Shah (r. 1926–1941), the unwelcome assimilative policies of Mohammad Reza Shah (r. 1941–1979), and the oppressive sociopolitical restrictions of the ayatollahs of the Islamic Republic (1979–). For nearly a century, they have often succeeded in their goals and strategies, unlike the failed regimes that had attempted to eliminate, subjugate, or integrate them.

Tribal ties and identities have often been more permanent and enduring for tribal people than the affiliations and loyalties sought, sometimes demanded, by states. States have come and gone for the tribespeople; tribes may have remained a constant for them.

The scholarly literature and media reports on the Muslim world often regard tribes negatively, despite the corruption and abuse characterizing the states in which many tribal people live. Instead, by understanding the perspectives of people who fall under the ruthless policies of states, a consideration of alternative polities (such as tribes) proves informative. The persistent failure of many modern states to provide equality and justice for the majority of their citizens suggests that scholars and others could benefit by examining other kinds of political formations without succumbing to false, alarming, or stereotyped notions.



  • Abu-Lughod, Lila. Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Berkeley, Calif., 1986. Study of the role of ideology and oral poetry, with a focus on women, in a settled Arab tribal community in rural western Egypt.
  • Barfield, Thomas J.The Nomadic Alternative. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1993. Ethnographic and historical examination of tribally organized nomadic pastoral societies in the Middle East, central Eurasia, and East Africa.
  • Beck, Lois. Nomad: A Year in the Life of a Qashqaʿi Tribesman in Iran. Berkeley, Calif., 1991. Intimate account of daily and seasonal activity for the nomadic pastoralists of one of Iran's most prominent tribal confederacies. The volume chronicles the multiple roles of a tribal headman.
  • Beck, Lois. The Qashqaʿi of Iran. New Haven, Conn., 1986. Sociohistorical study of the formation of the Qashqaʿi tribal confederacy of southwestern Iran over a two-hundred-year period, concluding with an account of the Qashqaʿi insurgency following the 1978–1979 revolution.
  • Caton, Steven C.“Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe. Berkeley, Calif., 1990. Anthropological study of the role of oral poetry in Yemeni tribal society.
  • Cronin, Stephanie. Tribal Politics in Iran: Rural Conflict and the New State, 1921–1941. London, 2007. Historical analysis of the impact of tribal politics on the state and government of Reza Shah Pahlavi.
  • Davis, John. Libyan Politics: Tribe and Revolution. Berkeley, Calif., 1987. Discussion of how Libya's government works through tribal structures.
  • Dresch, Paul. Tribes, Government, and History in Yemen. Oxford, 1989. Historically based anthropological analysis of the structure and function of tribes in Yemen.
  • Eickelman, Dale F.The Middle East and Central Asia: An Anthropological Approach. 3d ed.Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1998. Useful text containing a review of the literature on tribal society and nomadic pastoralism.
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E.The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. Oxford, 1949. Classic study of the mediating role of Islamic institutions in North African tribal society.
  • Harrison, Selig S.In Afghanistan's Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations. New York, 1981. In-depth assessment of Baluch tribal organization in southwestern Asia and the significance of an emerging Baluch nationalist movement in regional ethnic conflict.
  • Hourani, Albert. “Conclusion: Tribes and States in Islamic History.” In Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East, edited by Philip S. Khoury and Joseph Kostiner, pp. 303–311. Berkeley, Calif., 1990.
  • Huang, Julia. Tribeswomen of Iran: Weaving Memories among Qashqaʿi Nomads. London, 2008. Ethnographic account of four generations of women in a small Qashqaʿi tribe.
  • Khoury, Philip S., and Joseph Kostiner, eds.Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East. Berkeley, Calif., 1990. Diverse collection of theoretical and regional case studies covering historical and contemporary times.
  • Lavie, Smadar. The Poetics of Military Occupation: Mzeina Allegories of Bedouin Identity under Israeli and Egyptian Rule. Berkeley, Calif., 1990. Postmodernist exposition on tribal people in the Sinai Desert under shifting military rule.
  • Layne, Linda L.Home and Homeland: The Dialogics of Tribal and National Identities in Jordan. Princeton, N.J., 1994. Study of the interplay of local, tribal, and national political processes as they affect the formation of collective identities in Jordan.
  • Schatz, Edward. Modern Clan Politics: The Power of “Blood” in Kazakhstan and Beyond. Seattle, Wash., 2004. Account of the political role of family, lineage, and tribal affiliations in the formation of Kazakhstan following its independence from the Soviet Union.
  • Tapper, Richard. Pasture and Politics: Economics, Conflict, and Ritual among Shahsevan Nomads of Northwestern Iran. London, 1979. Anthropological study of economic, political, and social processes among nomadic pastoralists of the Shahsevan tribal confederacy.
  • Tapper, Richard, ed.The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan. London, 1983. Illuminating collection of case studies by authorities on tribal and state forms in these two areas in historical and contemporary times.
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