The sedentarization of a Bedouin community in Saudi Arabia
This thesis examines the sedentarization of bedouin nomads in Saudi Arabia: partly in general, but mostly focussing on a particular region (Sajir) which was studied in the field. Our approach emphasizes that such bedouin communities were never self-contained, but rather an integral part of their regional and (latterly) national setting. Their integration has been crucially affected by broader processes: early political changes, development of the oil-based national economy, and recent rural policies (not all targeted specifically at bedouin). Moreover, we show how the bedouins themselves, far from being passively shaped by these pressures, have actively taken advantage of their opportunities and thus internalized these broader developments. Particular attention is paid to the settled agricultural alternative, with its associated land reforms and development programmes. More broadly, the heritage and shifting meanings of "bedouinism" are scrutinized in this context of rapid change. To these ends, the early chapters aim to: 1) Develop theoretical framework on nomads and sedentarization from the relevant literature (mostly authropological); 2) Review and evaluate previous studies of the sedentarization of Saudi nomads in particular; and 3) Give a comprehensive overview of the Saudi agricultural sector as a whole, thereby assessing its land reforms and development programmes. The latter four chapters report observations gathered from fieldwork in Sajir. These examine this comunity's sedentarization patterns, their present mix of agricultural and pastoral activities, and some of the specific socio-economic factors operative in the region. The main conclusions of the thesis emphasize: 1) The strength of bedouin integration (politically, socially, and economically) into the national context; 2) The unbalanced and differentiated nature and consequences for the bedouin of national land and agricultural policies; 3) The definitive impact of recent transformations of the rural econony on traditional bedouin occupations and livelihood; and 4) The continuing active (if changing) role of a specifically bedouin identity and ideology within the comunity.