Category Archives: Member News

AIYS at MESA

 madrasataiz
المدرسة المعتبية في تعز

This word just in.  An AIYS panel proposed for the 2014 MESA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. has been accepted. The panel was organized by AIYS President Varisco and the abstract of the panel is provided below:

Making Yemen’s Islamic History: Engineering, Endowments, Monuments and Qat

Panel Abstract:
Scholarship on Islamic history has paid less attention to Yemen than to Iraq, Syria or Egypt.  Despite an important corpus of manuscripts and the publication of several significant primary sources, the historical reconstruction of Islamic Yemen lags behind these other regions.  This panel brings together historians who work on various periods in Yemen to illustrate how the current historiography is being made.  Archaeological fieldwork on the Islamic era has been limited with the notable exception of the Royal Ontario Museum project on Zabid.  Based on the excavation of water works in Zabid, one paper compares the material evidence with the description of water engineering schemes in the 16th century Yemeni text History of Zabid by Ibn al-Dayba’, thus showing the importance of archaeology for fleshing out the tantalizing details in written texts.  Another paper focuses on the 10th century multi-volume al-Iklil of the Yemeni savant al-Hamdani, who provides a rhetorical landscape of monuments as an aid in the formation and maintenance of the South Arabian political identity in a fashion akin to modern cultural heritage texts. At the same time, al-Hamdani’s reconstruction of Yemen’s pre-Islamic past serves as a mirror of the politics of his own time, with the retreat of the Abbasid presence and the recent arrival of both Zaydis and Isma’ilis to northern Yemen, more than a century before the Ayyubid invasion.  The Zaydi presence in Yemen’s north since the late ninth century is the focus of a paper on the tax policies of the Zaydi imams, especially the tension between the traditional zakat on production and other kinds of taxes.  This paper discusses both the theological debate about tax collection and recorded information on how taxes were actually collected. Another paper examines the evidence for the introduction of both coffee (Coffea arabica) and qat (Catha edulis) into Yemen, probably during the Rasulid era. Recent research has resolved the issue of the origin of the term “qat” and there is a need to update discussion of the stimulant in previous sources, including the EI.  This paper will examine historical, literary, legal and lexical sources as well as Yemeni folklore.  Overall the panel provides both an indication of current research and an invitation for other scholars to help make Yemen’s history as well.

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Najwa Adra on Yemen

AIYS member and fellow, Najwa Adra, now a Visiting Scholar at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University, has been active speaking about her research and consulting experience in Yemen over the past academic year. Dr. Adra first arrived in Yemen in 1978 to conduct ethnographic research in the highland valley of al-Ahjur.  She has returned many times since then on projects for the Population Council, FAO, UNICEF, USAID and the World Bank.

Publication:

• 2013 – 2014 Women and Peacebuilding in Yemen: Challenges and Opportunities. Policy Brief, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF). Available online: http://www.peacebuilding.no/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/The-Gulf/Publications/Women-and-peacebuilding-in-Yemen-challenges-and-opportunities  Republished in Open Democracy, January 21, 2014 http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/najwa-adra/women-and-peacebuilding-in-yemen-challenges-and-opportunities

Seminars, Professional Papers and Lectures:

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Carapico on Yemen

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[AIYS board member and former president Sheila Carapico published a commentary on Mouftah about the ongoing political crisis in Yemen.]

Of Transitology and Counter-Terror Targeting in Yemen

by Sheila Carapico, Mouftah, April 22

Far from the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, tucked at the underside of the Arabian Peninsula where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean, Yemen is at the periphery of Middle East studies and beyond the attention span of mainstream American media. It is a counter-terror target.

It is as if this country of some 25 million citizens is not a real place, as much as it is an outer space or a basket case. According to various journalistic tropes, Yemen is a ‘terrorist haven,’ the ‘ancestral homeland of Usama Bin Ladin,’ an untamed frontier where presumably the only choice for the United States is to shoot first and ask questions later.

To the extent there is conventional wisdom on Yemen, it presents the country as host to all manner of problems. It is the poorest and most poverty-stricken Arab country, with the youngest population. The capital city and other metropolitan areas have soaked up all the fresh water. There is an openly irredentist popular movement in what used to be the People’s Democratic Republic of (South) Yemen, and an obscure but persistent rebellion near the Saudi frontier by a group known as the Huthis who the Saudis say are backed by Iran. Yemen is also a sanctuary for a terrorist entity called al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, often abbreviated as AQAP, the target of American drone strikes that occasionally kill hapless civilians. Tribesmen blow up oil installations, block roads, and occasionally take hostages. Most of the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Prison come from Yemen, but even after being cleared for release US authorities are reluctant to repatriate them to their home country.

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Varisco speaks on Yemeni Crisis at Lund University

On April 10, AIYS President Daniel Martin Varisco gave a public lecture at Lund University in Sweden entitled “Rebuilding Yemen after the Arab Spring:  A Cultural Anatomy of a Crisis.”  The talk was sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University, directed by Dr. Leif Stenberg.  About 30 students and faculty attended the talk.

The abstract of the talk is noted below:

“The Arab Spring that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya eventually caught up with Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Salih, who was forced to resign in late 2011 after three decades in power.  In the aftermath of Salih’s fall, a national dialogue has taken place to rebuild Yemen as a federalist state with a new constitution and eventual election of a replacement for the current interim president, Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi.  This talk will lay out the political history of contemporary Yemen, identify the major power brokers in the rebuilding process, analyze the ongoing cultural issues including Yemen’s tribes, survey the critical economic and environmental obstacles facing Yemen’s population and put the role of “terrorism” on Yemeni soil into perspective.  I will draw on my experience as a cultural anthropologist who first conducted research in Yemen in 1978, as a development consultant in Yemen over the past three decades and as a historian.”