Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives

By Pnina Werbner | Go to book overview

8
A Native Palestinian Anthropologist in
Palestinian-Israeli Cosmopolitanism

Aref Abu-Rabia


Background

This chapter will dwell on the meaning of being a native anthropologist in Palestine-Israel in the twenty-first century. It will also explore the roles of the native anthropologist in conflicted Palestinian-Israeli society. Complex questions will be discussed — such as whether cosmopolitanism can really exist in such types of societies and whether anthropologists have a role in facilitating or maintaining cosmopolitanism — and the issues raised will be illustrated by case studies from fieldwork in Israeli and Palestinian societies.

I will begin by describing my background, in order to present my position and, more importantly, to be very explicit to you concerning myself. I was born into the Abu-Rabia tribe, a Bedouin tribe in the Negev Desert. My tribe migrated to Palestine in the seventeenth century as descendants from Bili clans in the area of the Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula (Abu-Rabia 2001: 130–31; Al-Aref 1934; Bailey 1985: 20–49, 1989: 9–21). I have, to date, never visited the Arabian Peninsula. Nonetheless, I am a Bedouin man whose spiritual and ethical universe and worldview is based on the Arabic language and civilisation, and the Islamic religion.

I grew up as part of a semi-nomadic family, and until the age of twenty I lived in a tent with my parents, brothers and sisters. My family raised livestock and camels and pure breed horses. When I was a young boy I studied three to four hours a day with a tribal teacher along with half a dozen other boys. When I was eight, my father sent me to follow my three brothers at a tribal primary school run by the Israeli Ministry of Education, situated seven kilometres from our encampment. I shared a donkey with my brothers and it was very hot in the summer and cold in winter. We were all sons of the leaders and notables of our tribe (Abu-Rabia 2001). I did not like school very much, but one day, the teacher gave me his bicycle to ride and this made me feel happy. That was the first time in my life I saw a bicycle. When I completed primary school my father sent me with my eldest brothers to the high school in Nazareth. It was one day's travel

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