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Tribeswomen of Iran: Weaving Memories Among Qashqa'i Nomads

Tribeswomen of Iran: Weaving Memories Among Qashqa'i Nomads
Julia Huang

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Since the revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has permitted very few Western scholars to conduct research in the country. Foreign travellers and media persons have limited access and much Iranian scholarship tends to focus on the realms of politics and government. Here Julia Huang provides a remarkable account of local tribal Iranian life, offering a rare glimpse into the daily rhythms and social richness beyond the capital city of Tehran. The Qashqa'i are a confederation of nomadic tribes, of which the Qermezi ('Red Ones') are one, migrating semiannually between winter pastures near the Persian Gulf and summer pastures southwest of the city of Isfahan. Huang has visited and traveled with the Qermezi for extended periods across fourteen years. Drawing on her experiences, participation and observation, she offers an intimate window onto their life. She focuses on a small group of women spanning four generations who are part of a large extended family, and describes their ways of life, their activities and interactions, and their distinctive sociocultural and ecological setting.

Like other nomadic peoples around the world, the Qashqa'i increasingly face pressures that threaten their livelihoods, lifestyles and culture. Huang shows us how women negotiate compromises between customary tribal values and external influences, and sketches their efforts to resist the influences of an Islamizing, modernizing and centralizing government. With shadows and resonances that rebound across the stories of these women, Huang is able to present multiple perspectives on events and contentious issues, for instance the politicized issue of women's state-mandated modest dress. Huang also explains how the Turkic-speaking Qashqa'i relate to the wider Iranian society and the Islamic Republic of Iran, adapting to a rapidly changing world while retaining tribal values and a distinctive ethnolinguistic identity as one of Iran's national minorities. In describing life at the local level in Iran, Huang depicts a community largely beyond the scope and reach of foreign travellers and the Western media.

With rich ethnographic description and analysis, intimate portraits of the private lives and spaces of women and children, and diverse perspectives, this engagingly written account documents a disappearing way of life. 'Tribeswomen of Iran' is essential reading for all those interested in Iran, the Middle East, anthropology, nomadism and gender.

Author Info

Julia Huang has lived among Qashqa'i nomadic pastoralists in southwestern Iran for extended periods of her childhood and adolescence between 1991 and 2004, together with her mother, the distinguished American anthropologist, Lois Beck. Huang is the author of a chapter in 'Nomadic Societies in the Middle East and North Africa' (2006; edited by Dawn Chatty) and the co-author of an article on Iran in 'Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East' (2006). As a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, she conducts anthropological research on social entrepreneurs, and she is the regional coordinator for Central Asia and the Caucasus for AIESEC, an international NGO. Inducted in Phi Beta Kappa and proficient in Turkish, Persian and French, she graduated magna cum laude from Yale University with a degree in anthropology.


Tribeswomen of Iran takes the reader into the empty sectors of southwestern Iran. There, Huang describes earth and sky and a tribal people closely linked by kinship, history, and the new challenges that come from the Islamic regime in Tehran and from modernity itself. A work of power and complexity it is memoir, ethnography, and a work of literature. Tribeswomen of Iran is of such nuance and importance that I believe it may well do what the matriarch Falak says when she observes her youngest daughter bent over a loom: Writing is more important than weaving a carpet. When we finish a carpet and cut it off the loom, we have to give it away to someone, and then we never see it again. But writing lasts forever
William Honeychurch, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale University. Huang is a well-trained ethnographer and a highly disciplined observer, and this intensely engaging and readable book is clear evidence of her brilliant and wonderfully curious mind. As an Iranian-American scholar, I was enormously touched by Huang's descriptions of tribal women's lives in Iran and by her desire to represent accurately and to correct wrong perceptions about the people among whom she has lived for so many years. I am sure that readers will find enchanting Huang's observations as a child growing up with nomads in Iran
Shahla Haeri, Director of the Women's Studies Program and Associate Professor of Anthropology, Boston University.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: International Library of Iranian Studies

ISBN: 9781780765389
Publication Date: 29 Jun 2013
Number of Pages: 304
Height: 216
Width: 135
Illustrations: 10 in 8pp colour plates, 25 bw integrated

ISBN: 9781845118327
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2009
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 10 in 8pp colour plates, 25 black and white integrated illustrations

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