Title

The New Calculus of Bedouin Pastoralism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Publication Title

Human Organization: Journal of the Society for Applied Anthropology

Department

Sociology & Anthropology

Abstract

Recent debates have challenged the very foundation of political ecology. One important critique, stemming from the work of Vayda and his associates, promotes a problem-specific, ecological, and positivistic approach to the analysis of the causes of environmental change. Their focus on the “event,” however, is seemingly at odds with earlier concerns with process. Utilizing a case study of the Bedouin people in Saudi Arabia, I argue that the key ecological events upon which this research focuses, the Kuwaiti oil fires and the ongoing process of desertification, provide poor isolates of the human-environment relationship. If we accept the Kuwaiti oil fires as an environmental event, or better, as a point of departure for working backward in time and outward in space, it becomes evident that these events are best comprehended as nodes in a complex web of determination, or nodes in a web of interlinked processes. It is a web that reaches outward to the ebb and flow of the global economy, one that remains inseparable from the nuances of national politics and policy, one that reaches inward to the core cultural values of Bedouin society, and one that reaches backward in time to a series of historic conjunctures and processes.

Volume

62

Issue

3

pp.

267-276

ISSN

0018-7259