Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Mobile Pastoralists: Development Planning and Social Change in Oman

Article excerpt

Chatty. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. xv + 193 pages. Notes to p. 203. Gloss. to p. 205. Refs. to p. 216. Index to p. 230. $17.50 paper.

Reviewed by Miriam Joyce

As project leader for a two year United Nations Development Program (UNDP), anthropologist Dawn Chatty made a needs assessment of an Omani tribe, the Harasis. Ironically, although Chatty focused on the entire Harasis tribe, for funding purposes the project was titled "Women's Component in Pastoral Community Assistance and Development: A Study of the Needs and Problems of the Harasis Population" (OMA/80/ WOI). In 1981, the nomadic Harasis, approximately 3,000 people, occupied a limestone desert plateau known as the Jiddat al-Harasis. Prior to the accession of Sultan Qabus bin Sa`id in 1970, the isolated Harasis had little contact with the government in Muscat, but after assuming control of the Sultanate and ending the rebellion in Dhufar the new sultan attempted to modernize his country, build the infrastructure of a modern state, and promote the welfare of all his people. The government, of course, wished to include the Harasis. The population's conception of its "identity was basically tribal, and the broader concept of national identity was only to develop in step with their understanding of the services that a nation-state provided its citizens" (p. 76).

At the beginning of 1980, the Omani government wanted to find a method of providing basic social services to nomadic pastoralists without forcing them to settle down or interfering in their traditional way of life. Several Omani ministers enthusiastically supported Chatty's research. As a result, she was able to live among the Harasis and assess their needs. The tribesmen did not wish to have houses built for them-they preferred tents; they also requested a regional school with dormitories for both their sons and daughters; and they wanted access to health care and an adequate supply of water.

Chatty documents the process that led to the fulfillment of some of the tribe's requirements and the reasons why other requirements were ignored. She also provides a brief history of the transition from camel to truck, from subsistence to salary, and from reliance on family labor to partial dependence on foreign hired workers. …

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