Accepted Paper:

Moral confrontations: mobility, sedentarism and the struggle for place  


Andrew Leary (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the moral underpinnings of the displacement of the Bedoul Bedouin from their home in Petra Jordan. It also highlights the counter morality, emerging from a history of mobility and sedentarism that the Bedoul propagate to hammer home their right to live and prosper in Petra.

Paper long abstract:

For many, the term Bedouin congers images of nomads navigating vast oceans of sand in an insatiable search for water. Bedouin were characterised as the scourge of farming communities on the desert-fringe and the human representation of the war between the "desert and the sewn" the struggle for survival of arable lands against the inexorable encroachment of the desert. For those who ruled the sedentary populations of the desert fringe Bedouin have always represented chaos. But this point of view is embedded in ways of life and forms of social order quite different to those that shaped Bedouin life. They carry a morality that does not contain the morality of Bedouin social life. Indeed the characterisation of Bedouin as nomads does not contain the historical diversity of a way of life in which mobility figured as one option among many, including sedentarism, available for meeting the changing socio-political conditions of life on the fringes of empire. Often those settled communities on the desert fringe that fell prey to marauding Bedouin were Bedouin themselves and where, perhaps, liberated from Ottoman rule; for a time at least.

These views of Bedouin mobility and lawlessness have carried on into the modern era, and are often used as a moral justification for the forced displacement, settlement and "development" of Bedouin. This paper investigates the struggle of the Bedoul Bedouin of Petra as they fight for their homeland against the imperatives of the tourism-industry, aspirations of the Jordanian state and competing claims to Petra.

Panel Dwe02
Placing nomads