Mahri Poetry Archive

Society

 

Native Mahri speakers belong to one of three basic (though fungible) groups: 1) those who possess a tribal lineage (Mahri-speaking or otherwise), 2) those lacking a publicly recognized familial or tribal affiliation (primarily the descendants of foreign manual laborers and manumitted slaves) and 3) those who claim a sacerdotal or trade-specific lineage.

What follows is not meant to be taken as a comprehensive analysis of Mahri society.  The reality is more nuanced than the segementary-lineage model of tribal society alone can describe. Historical shifts have occurred (and are still occurring) that alter the way that the Mahra perceive each other, local authorities and foreign powers. Employment, natal site, area of residence, degree of public piety and access to governmental resources are more relevant to interpersonal interactions in present-day al-Mahra than tribal affiliation (or lack thereof).  That said, the Mahra typically frame descriptions of their own society according to the idealized principles of tribal and familial kinship.  Therefore, what follows stems from indigenous accounts of society in al-Mahra, even if such accounts primarily reflect an idealized or pre-Republican era version of Mahri society. The data presented on these pages is derived from interviews with individual Mahri consultants as well as Arabic-language sources written by Mahri authors (Bākrīt, 1999; al-Qumayrī, 2000 & 2003; al-Mahrī, 1983) or non-Mahri residents of al-Mahra (al-ʾAhdal, 1999).  Further analysis of Mahri society that emphasizes its historical dynamism and that looks beyond the segmentary-lineage model of Arabian tribalism is sorely needed.

 

1) Tribal Mahra               2) Non-affiliated Mahra            3) Sacerdotal or Trade Lineages

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