Chapter 32: The Near East
Julia Elyachar Economic anthropology of the Near East is a subfield waiting to exist. Of 213 listings under the heading ‘economic anthropology’ in the Library of Congress system, there are only two books that deal with the Near East (Manger 1984; Tully 1988). Similarly, there were only five articles on the Near East published in the journal Research in Economic Anthropology between 1978 and 2002. The lack of articles on the Near East in recent important collections in economic anthropology is also striking (Appadurai 1986; Hann 1998; Humphrey and Hugh-Jones 1992; Parry and Bloch 1989).1 This lack of attention to the Near East in economic anthropology, or the lack of attention to economic anthropology among scholars of the Near East, is particular noteworthy in a period where the region was often at the centre of attention of global political concerns, for better or worse. The Near East has traditionally been associated with three theoretical concerns in anthropology: Islam, segmentation and the harem (Abu-Lughod 1989). That limited focus has now changed somewhat, but Abu-Lughod’s statement (1989: 299) that ‘economic anthropology has hardly been done in the Middle East’ remains true. In political discourse as well as in anthropology, the Near East is still stereotyped as a place where religion, honour and family are more important than economy or the market. The old ‘zones of theory’ in anthropology of the Near East (Abu-Lughod 1989) still seem to hold fast. In our publications, if not in our thinking, the region appears to...
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