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This article critically discusses two judgments, recently delivered by the Israeli Supreme Court, which concern Bedouin land rights in the Negev (Al-Naqab), southern Israel. It is submitted that the narrow approach taken by the Court ignores the Bedouin traditional lifestyle and land tenure systems, thus preventing members of this indigenous and minority group from fully enjoying their human rights, and exposing them to further displacement and dispossession by Israeli authorities. The article also explains the relevance of these decisions to the Bedouin living in Area C of the West Bank which is occupied by Israel.

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

As in many countries in Asia, the concept “indigenous” is a highly contested term in Indonesia. The government is of the opinion that Indonesia is a nation that has no indigenous peoples, or that all Indonesians are equally indigenous. The article aims to analyse the role and the paradox of using ethnic narratives, i.e. distinct social, economic or political systems, as well as language, culture and beliefs as their material and political basis, in the articulation of indigenous rights. Upon discussing a case study from Papua, Indonesia, it is observed that the use of ethnic narratives does create opportunity structures necessary for the struggles of indigenous rights. However, the salience of these endeavours is shaped by how these groups, their autonomy and marginalisation are positioned in the wider context of development, sovereignty and territoriality, which make them also dependent on the design and orientation of the state.

Open Access
In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

The need for protecting indigenous peoples’ lands as human rights in domestic legislation dealing with climate change response measures, that is, initiatives meant to address adverse effects of climate change, has been emphasised in a range of resolutions and decisions made under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council (unhrc) and the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (unfccc). Where domestic legislation on climate change response measures fails to protect adequately indigenous peoples’ lands, what potentials exist within the African human rights system? Using Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania as illustration, this article demonstrates how key legislation dealing with climate change response measures fails to protect indigenous peoples’ lands in Africa. It then explores potentials within the African regional human rights system for addressing the inadequate gap existing within domestic legislation on the protection of indigenous peoples’ lands in the context of climate change response measures in Africa.

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

Many states offer constitutional protection to the traditional lands of indigenous peoples. International treaties protecting ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples also require protection of the rights of indigenous communities with respect to traditional territories. States have followed different routes in identifying the ownership and resource rights of indigenous communities. In Norway, the Courts have traditionally applied the rules on prescription and immemorial usage, developed through centuries in the farming societies of Scandinavia. The legislature has chosen to follow the same approach in the Finnmark area of Norway under the terms of the Finnmark Act (2005). By contrast, in Canada, a settled colony with an English common law tradition, the Courts have developed a sui generis approach to the recognition of Aboriginal title. This article examines the rules for identifying and legally recognising the traditional lands of indigenous people in Norway and Canada with a view to reflecting on similarities and differences.

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

In 1704 the Indo-Persian Sufi and poet Mirzā ʿAbdul Qādir ʿBīdil’ completed an autobiography entitled The Four Elements (Chahār ʿunṣur). Into the fourth “Element” of this text he set an account of a portrait of himself painted around 1677 by Anūp Chhatr, a painter famous for his portraits in the imperial Mughal ateliers of the time. Initially refusing his painter-acquaintance permission to paint him, Bīdil finally yields and is astonished at how the resulting portrait duplicates him like a mirror. After marveling at it for a decade, he falls ill. His friends visit him in his sickbed and one of them, leafing through his anthology of texts, comes upon the painting. He exclaims at how faded it is. Bīdil himself can barely make it out on the page. When he recovers his health, he opens the anthology to examine the faded portrait and is astonished and shocked, as his friends are, to see that it has recovered its brilliant colors. He tears the painting up.

This essay reads this ekphrastic account of self-transformation as an autobiographical and iconoclastic interpretation, playing on philosophical, literary and painterly traditions of visuality, in particular Ibn ʿArabi’s (d. 1240, Andalusia) theory of the imagination. Among the questions that will be pursued are: what understandings of self and self-transformation did Bīdil renew by this interpretation? How is this episode a focusing of concerns that pervade all of The Four Elements? What kind of reader and reading practices did this autobiography assume? And, finally, does an understanding of Bīdil’s iconoclastic self-transformation—turning on this episode—prepare us to better understand his works in other genres?

In: Philological Encounters
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How should the field of philology react to the ongoing quantitative growth of its material basis? This essay will first discuss two opposing strategies: The quantitative analysis of large amounts of data, promoted above all by Franco Moretti, is contrasted with the canon-oriented method of resorting to small corpora. Yet both the culturally conservative anxiety over growing masses of texts as well as the enthusiasm for the ‘digital humanities’ and the technological indexation of large text corpora prove to be unmerited when considering the complexity of the problem. Therefore, this essay advocates for a third, heuristic approach, which 1) accounts for the changes in global text production and storage, 2) is conscious of the material-political conditions that determine the accessibility of texts, and 3) creates a bridge between close and distant reading by binding quantitative approaches to fundamental, qualitative philological principles, thus helping philologists keep track of the irritating, provocative, and subversive elements of texts that automated queries inevitably miss.

In: Philological Encounters
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Is it possible to productively bring together two seemingly exclusive ideas: Africa and philology? This essay presents a case for working at multiple levels and numerous sites in bridging these apparently disparate realms. Indeed, there is already a tradition of philological study about and on the continent that reveal the many different trajectories of Islamic scholarship in particular. While surveying this field, which has advanced substantially in recent decades, it also suggests that there are key issues that require examination such as the question of the archive and the collection, their constitution and movement. Philology, no matter how it is conceived, rests on the availability of texts and therefore the histories of the way texts come to accumulate in certain places and are discovered or recovered at specific moments is part of the project of the philological encounter. We thus have to be mindful of the histories and practices before, in, and after the practice of deep, close reading.

In: Philological Encounters
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This essay explores the cultural geography of the Malay world writ large by examining the trajectories of texts beyond the conventional national and regional boundaries of Southeast Asian studies. Although the Malay world could be studied in relation to a number of transregional orientations, this essay highlights its interconnectedness with the Indian Ocean. This orientation offers a broad enough frame to examine the transregional scale without losing sight of the local. The essay focuses on a collaborative effort at examining textual trajectories. It proposes a rethinking of the normative vocabulary of the nation-state by exploring the subterranean histories of the present. The essay proposes the term “Malay world” as a helpful vehicle for exploring the transregional connections that are not captured by the language of territory and boundedness. The cultural geography of the Malay world that emerges in this essay is multifarious as its interconnectedness with the Indian Ocean has taken complex and diverse forms. The trajectories of the texts examined have traced a world that has been enmeshed in the transregional traffic of people, goods, and ideas. The pervasiveness of the thinking and practice of the nation-state, has undermined, but not eliminated the multifarious cultural geography of the Malay world.

In: Philological Encounters
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This article surveys the deep history of the discipline of comparative philology in the Indo-Persian world, and attempts to situate it within larger debates about global forms of intellectual modernity. From its early beginnings in the production of literary lexicons designed to help poets in different regional centers of the Persianate world understand each other’s works, comparative philology in South, Central, and West Asia developed into a key scholarly discipline in which a whole host of concerns relating to Indo-Persian intellectual life was negotiated: literary canon formation, the arbitration of good taste, the maintenance of cosmopolitan literary intelligibility in an increasingly vernacular world, and even the nature of language itself. These developments took place over many centuries, in a vast array of works, spread out over a vast region that stretched from Anatolia to India. But in their increasingly sophisticated scholarship, as well as their increasing cognizance of their own scholarly disciplinarity, we find several distinctly “modernizing” tendencies among many of the Indo-Persian philologists discussed here, long before the supposed “invention” of the discipline by western scholars like the British colonial judge and orientalist, Sir William Jones (1746-1794).

In: Philological Encounters