The Long Walk III-Pastoral Nomads and Anthropology: An Interview with Emanuel Marx

By Abu-Rabia, Aref | Nomadic Peoples, June 2001 | Go to article overview

The Long Walk III-Pastoral Nomads and Anthropology: An Interview with Emanuel Marx


Abu-Rabia, Aref, Nomadic Peoples


As the author and editor of ten books and over sixty papers, and the recipient of three prestigious awards (President Ben-Zvi Prize, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, Israel Prize), Emanuel Marx needs no introduction to scholars of nomadic pastoralism or to those interested in the contemporary societies of the Arab world. Born in Munich, Germany, in 1927, he studied first at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he took his M.A., and then went on to do his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester. In terms of professional experience, Emanuel is a cosmopolitan, having lectured and researched at the universities of Manchester, Tel-Aviv, Berkeley, Brandeis, Cape Town, Oxford, Copenhagen and at the Institute for Desert Research of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and finally at the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo

This interview took place at the Marx home in Ramat-Hasharon, Israel on March 14, 2000.

AAR--First of all, I am very happy to do this interview with you.

EM--And I am very happy that you are doing it.

A--Let's first talk about the most important things. How many children do you have?

M--We have three children, one daughter and two sons. Dina is the eldest. She works in a nature reserve. The eldest of her three children is now graduating from high school and is about to do her military service. She swims in competitions, and I hope she will not become a professional sportswoman. The second one is thirteen, and is determined to become a dancer. The third one is nine years old and, like every other child nowadays, he is interested in computers.

Our second child, Yuval, is a psychologist who is especially concerned with mental retardation. He works in a home for retarded youths and also in the Holon schools (Holon is a city in the Tel Aviv conurbation). He has recently moved into a new apartment in Modi'in, a rapidly growing new town, and intends to set up a private practice.

The third one, Alon, is a computer engineer in one of these fabulous start-up companies. He loves his job, and for all I know he is developing a videoconferencing programme. He has two daughters, a four-year-old and an eight-months-old.

A--You see how time is flying, because if you had asked me I would have told you that he only married two years ago. Now we are coming to Dalia, your wife. What was the role of Dalia in your academic career and also during your Ph.D. fieldwork?

M--Dalia has been a full partner in my academic career. When the anthropological upheaval in our lives began I was assistant to the Israeli Prime Minister's Advisor on Arab Affairs, and Dalia was working as a schoolteacher. When I went to Manchester to study social anthropology we both left secure and satisfying jobs. For several years we had to live on scholarships, which meant a great deal of insecurity. Nor did we have any idea what was going to happen after I completed my studies. While I did not want to go back to work for the government, it was clear that I would not get a job in an Israeli university because anthropology was quite peripheral to the sociology taught there. I had an enticing job offer in Cambridge, but Dalia was adamant that we should return to Israel. Not that she herself had a job to come back to. She simply thought that we should not cut ourselves off from our social environment. I realised then, and still believe, that she was right.

A--I am sure that you appreciate that very much.

M--I do. I would like to emphasise that we made this and other decisions jointly. The return to Israel worked out far better than expected. For, in 1963, two totally unanticipated events happened: first, I was invited by the newly established Faculty of Social Science at Tel Aviv University to set up an anthropology department; and second, the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester received a tempting offer to study new immigrants to Israel. …

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