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THE ORIGINAL ARABS: THE INVENTION OF THE “BEDOUIN RACE” IN OTTOMAN PALESTINE

  • Seraj Assi (a1)
Abstract

This article examines the symbiotic relationship between race and empire in British ethnographic discourse on the Arabs of Palestine. Drawing on the works of British explorers in late Ottoman Palestine, I show how native Palestinian Bedouin came to be viewed as a separate race within a hierarchy of Arab races, and how within this racial reconfiguration the Bedouin embodied not only an ideal model of racial purity, but also a racial archetype on which Arabness itself was measured, codified, and reproduced.

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NOTES

Author's note: I thank Judith Tucker, Salim Tamari, Osama Abi-Mershed, Emma Gannage, and the IJMES anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on my article.

1 See Stocking, George W., Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1968), 39.

2 For a thorough theoretical discussion of the concept of autochthony, see Geschiere, Peter, The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Africa and Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

3 Letter from Henry McMahon to Sharif Hussein, 24 October 1915.

4 See Hall, Catherine, Civilising Subjects (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); and Bolt, Christine, Victorian Attitudes toward Race (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971).

5 See, for example, Philippa, Levine, Gender and Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); and Burton, Antoinette, ed., Gender, Sexuality and Colonial Modernities (New York: Routledge, 1999).

6 See Linsley, Brett, “Feeble to Effeminacy: Race and Gender in the British Imperial Consciousness 1837–1901,” Grand Valley Journal of History 2 (2013): 2.

7 See, for example, Mallampalli, Chandra, Race, Religion, and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

8 Volney, C.F., Travels through Syria and Egypt: In the Years 1783, 1784, and 1785 (London: Printed for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787).

9 See Gribetz, Jonathan M., Defining Neighbors: Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist–Arab Encounter (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014), 1920.

10 Burton, Richard, “Letters on the Survey II: From Captain R.F. Burton,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (1872): 4.

11 Burton, Richard, and Drake, Charles, Unexplored Syria: Visits to the Libanus, the Tulúl El Safá, the Anti-Libanus, the Northern Libanus, and the 'Aláh (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1872).

12 Burton, Richard, “The Anthropological Collection from the Holy Land,” in Unexplored Syria, 2:227378.

13 Burton and Drake, Unexplored Syria, 2:254.

14 Marcy, Randolph, The Prairie Traveler: A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions (London: Trübner and Co., 1863), 140.

15 On the Anthropological Society, see Wright, Thomas, The Life of Sir Richard Burton (London: Everett & Co., 1906).

16 See Waitz, Theodor, Anthropology of Primitive Peoples (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1864); and Blumenbach, John et al., The Anthropological Treatise of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (London: Published for the Anthropological Society, by Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1865).

17 Burton, Richard, Wanderings in West Africa (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1863), 188.

18 Burton, Isabel, The Life of Captain Sir Richard F. Burton (London: Chapman & Hall, 1893), 251.

19 Burton, Richard, The Gold Mines of Midian and the Ruined Midianite Cities (London: C.K. Paul & Co, 1878), 157.

20 Burton, Richard, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913), 2:86.

21 Burton, Richard, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (London: Nichols, 1897), xxxvi.

22 Kennedy, Dane, The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2005), 23.

23 Burton, Richard, A Complete System of Bayonet Exercise (London: W. Clowes & Sons, 1853).

24 Burton, Richard, Scinde, Or, the Unhappy Valley (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1998), 271.

25 Burton, Personal Narrative, 2:76–84.

26 See Burton, Gold Mines, 9–10.

27 Burton, Personal Narrative, 2:285.

28 Burton, Gold Mines, 154–55.

29 Burton, Scinde, 2:92.

30 Burton, Richard and Waterfield, Gordon, First Footsteps in East Africa (London: Tylston and Edwards, 1894), 285.

31 Burton, Personal Narrative, 285–89.

32 See Burton, Scinde, 2:25, 192.

33 Burton, Personal Narrative, 114.

34 See, most notably, Bell, Gertrude, The Desert and the Sown (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1907); Bell, The Arab War: Confidential Information for General Headquarters from Gertrude Bell (London: Golden Cockerel Press, 1940); and Blunt, Anne and Blunt, Wilfrid S., A Pilgrimage to Nejd, the Cradle of the Arab Race (London: J. Murray, 1881).

35 For a historical background of British interests in Palestine, see Louis, William, Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization: Collected Essays (London: I.B.Tauris, 2006), 381419.

36 On British views of the Holy Land, see Khalidi, Rashid, British Policy Towards Syria and Palestine, 1906–1914 (London: Published for the Middle East Centre, St. Antony's College, Oxford, by Ithaca Press, 1980).

37 Howe, Kathleen, Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1997), 37.

38 See “Obituary: Colonel Claude Reignier Conder, R. E., LL. D.,” The Geographical Journal 35 (1910): 456–58.

39 Conder, C.R. et al., The Survey of Western Palestine (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1881).

40 Published in The Dublin University Magazine 2 (1878): 116–18.

41 See “Obituary: Colonel Claude Reignier Conder,” 456–58.

42 Conder, C.R., The Survey of Eastern Palestine (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1889).

43 Gavish, Dov, A Survey of Palestine 1920–1948 (London: Routledge Curzon, 2005), xvii.

44 Conder, C.R., Palestine (London: G. Philip & Son, 1889), 21.

45 Conder, C. R., Tent Work in Palestine: A Record of Discovery and Adventure (New York: D. Appleton, 1878); Conder, Palestine.

46 Conder, Palestine, 230–31.

47 Ibid, 110.

48 Conder, Tent Work, 206.

49 Ibid., 336. Italics added.

50 Ibid., 240

51 Ibid., 208–315.

52 See Chisholm, Hugh, The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), 489.

53 Clermont-Ganneau, Charles, “The Arabs of Palestine,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly 7 (1875): 208.

54 Ibid., 203.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid., 208.

57 Ibid., 203–8.

58 Palmer, Edward, The Desert of the Exodus (Cambridge: Deighton, 1871), 265.

59 Ibid., 103.

60 Palmer, Edward and Besant, Walter, Jerusalem, the City of Herod and Saladin (London: R. Bentley and Son, 1871), 204.

61 Conder, Survey of Western Palestine, 204.

62 Palmer, Desert of Exodus, 241. For Burton's views of Native Americans, see “Burton's City of the Saints,” Edinburgh Review 115 (1862): 94–107.

63 Ibid., 76

64 Palmer, Desert, 76.

65 For Palmer's ethnographic writing on Syria, see his article on “The Secret Sects of Syria,” British Quarterly Review (1873).

66 For more on this form of environmentalist discourse in Palestine, see Scorr, David, “Forest Law in Mandate Palestine,” in Managing the Unknown: Essays on Environmental Ignorance, ed. Uekötter, Frank and Lubken, Owe (New York: Berghahn Books, 2016), 7190.

67 For details on this episode, see Besant, Walter, The Life and Achievements of Edward Henry Palmer (London: Murray, 1883.); and Bidwell, R. L., “Edward Henry Palmer (1840–1882),” Bulletin of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies 13 (1986): 4550.

68 Conder, C.R., “The Fertility of Ancient Palestine,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly 8:3 (1876): 120–32.

69 Ibid., 132.

70 Published in The Dublin University Magazine 2 (1878): 117.

71 Conder, Tent Work, 376.

72 Auerbach, Eric, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1953), 15.

73 Conder, Tent Work, 376.

74 Ibid., 380. Italics added.

75 Conder, C.R., The Future of Palestine: A Lecture Delivered for the Palestine Exploration Fund (London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1892). Reprinted in Conder, C.R., Tent Work in Palestine: A Record of Discovery and Adventure (London: A.P. Watt & Son, 1895).

76 Conder, Tent Work, 377.

77 Ibid., 278–79.

78 Ibid., 237.

79 Ibid., 387.

80 Ibid, 384–87

81 Ibid., 278–383.

82 For the Arab nationalist view, see al-Aref, Aref and Tilley, Harold, Bedouin Love, Law and Legend (Jerusalem: Cosmos Publishing Co., 1944).

83 Philip Hitti starts his 1943 account The Arabs with a chapter on “The Original Arabs: The Bedouin,” whereas George Antonius's seminal Arab Awakening (1938) is replete with references to the Bedouin as the “original Arab race.” See Hitti, The Arabs (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1943); and Antonius, The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement (London: Hamilton, 1938).

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
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