“Bedouin” and “Shawaya”: The Performative Constitution of Tribal Identities in Syria during the French Mandate and Today

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Katharina Lange Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) Berlin

Search for other papers by Katharina Lange in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


Drawing on archival research, ethnographic fieldwork in Syria in the 2000s, and texts published in print and on the Internet, this article investigates how social and collective identities in Syria’s tribal milieu have been negotiated through interactions between different social actors during the period of the French Mandate (1920-46) and the decade 2001-11. By scrutinizing administrative distinctions between “nomadic” and “semi-sedentary tribes”, or “Bedouin” and “Shawaya”, adopted during the Mandate, the article explores how notions of social order, which were partly informed by stereotypical imaginations of the Bedouin, have shaped local politics and influenced social dynamics in northern Syria. The article also traces how the experiences of the Mandate years resonate in articulations of social and political identity in Syria around the beginning of the twenty-first century. Taking inspiration from Judith Butler’s exposition of the performative constitution of gender identities, it is suggested that the constitution of tribal identities in Syria, too, can productively be regarded as a performative process.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 636 141 22
Full Text Views 270 23 1
PDF Views & Downloads 105 59 3