Work Programme

Fundamental Principles

The fundamental principles regarding the understanding of the interaction between nomadic and settled peoples within the Collaborative Research Center, as developed in the first two phases, may be summarized as follows:

Object of Research: The research amalgamation involved in the Collaborative Research Center examines the interconnection of nomadic and settled living forms in their regional and temporal variety, in which this network of connections can be seen as directly influencing the process of civilization formation. The interconnectedness of both living forms implies that a spatial interrelation usually exists between cities, rural settlements and areas used by nomads, which conditions different forms of contact. The old world dry belt, which connects parts of Africa and Eurasia, constitutes the spatial center of focus, which is examined under the viewpoint of the longue durée. In the final phase it is intended to expand the spatial viewpoint, so as to incorporate the outer European borders as areas of contact and contrast.

Approach: Our research approach is shaped by the notion that nomads exist in a distinct relationship with settled societies, through economic intersections, political connections and processes of cultural exchange, so much so that these interconnections are imperative to the understanding of nomadic life processes and their consequences. A defining aspect of this relationship can be seen in the way that nomadic pastoral agriculture usually requires, or at least strives for, agrarian products and other items originating in a settled context. Nomads utilize other resources, they do not solely engage in mobile pastoral agriculture, and usually profit from the complex labor divisions and the socio-political organization of settled societies, which allow for the exchange of various services and products. Markedly nomadic cultural forms, such as the imagined social order, system of law, morality and language forms, are intimately connected to settled societies in their reception and transmission.

Positions: Two complementary perspectives support this approach. On the one hand there exists the sheer multiplicity of societal forms of pastoral agriculture, which accompany nomadic living forms. From this multiplicity one can draw the conclusion that it is impossible to discern one central, overriding notion of nomadic economic existence, as permanent flexibility and long-term adaptation to constantly evolving processes can be seen as central characteristics (Salzman 1996, Schlee 2005, Chatty 2006). On the other hand nomadic existence also presupposes a certain specific commonality of living forms (Scholz, 1995, Spittler 1998), to the extent that natural and social resources are often incorporated into certain forms of mobility. This is most significant in the molding of inner and outer operative identities along the - often constructed - border between nomadic and settled peoples (Leder 2005, Binay 2006). The nomadic way of life can, therefore, be seen as both unique and variable.

Assumptions: The complex interdependence of nomadic and settled living forms can be seen as a starting point (Khazanov, 1984), which has since received widespread recognition (Müller-Mahn, 1989, Golden 1992, Tapper 1997, Lancaster/Lancaster 1996, Leder/Streck 2005). The significance of the nomadic mixed economy and economic entanglement, which forms the basis for the connections between the two living forms (Beck 1988), has also been widely emphasized as the historically proven basis of nomadic existence (Lancaster/ Lancaster 1990, Ibid 1999, Breuer 2007 a) and has now become established as the historical analytical model (Streck 2002). Arguments of a “purely” geo-determinist nature must be seen in a relative sense. A spatial differentiation of arid areas, unsuitable for growing water dependent vegetation, areas suitable for more extensive growing and cities are only, at first glance, related to the difference between nomadic and settled forms of living. However, between living forms and natural spatial distinctions there does not exist any stable and necessary relationship, as the ordering of mobile animal-based farming to distinct natural spaces is indefinite, remains ambiguous and is always seen as problematic in research attempts. Nomads often find themselves in areas, which may be used for other means (Marx 1996). It is also very much doubted that arid zones, suitable for nomadic herd-based agriculture, are constantly used in this way over extended periods. Mobile herding is also, in its manifestations as full-nomadism, part-time-nomadism, mountain-nomadism and transhumance, present in settlement areas of various natural preconditions and is also, at times, linked to quite distinct agrarian zones (Ehlers/Kreuzmann 2000, Kreuzmann 2006, Roba/Witsenburg 2004, Chiche 2007). A sporadic, reciprocal penetration of various spaces by various forms of living, under diverse political, agrarian and technical conditions, can be noted. As well as anthropocentric changes with regard to spatial conditions and variously determined usage profiles of naturally diversely equipped spaces, there also remain climatic and geo-physical conditions that may be seen as causal factors for the alteration in spatial usage and its incorporation of migrating nomads (Scoones 1995, Bollig 2006).

The interaction of nomadic and settled groupings is carried out within an uneven varying of relations, consisting of various processes of demarcation and integration, which influence all relevant economic, political and societal fields of agency, as well as greatly shaping the linked areas of perception and representation. An interconnected life of complementary specialization, as one may view nomadic forms of existence (Gellner 1990, see also Scolz 1995), makes interaction necessary, yet its form and influence depends upon a multiplicity of various factors. As well as peaceful exchange there also exists conflicts of interest and processes of segregation, the expansion of state control over nomads interchanges with the extension of nomadic zones of influence in agrarian, as well as urban spaces (Marx 2005, Drieskens 2005).

The long-held view that nomadic and settled forms of living existed as closed societal formations, facing each other in a position of latent conflict, has been largely debunked by more recent research. It is not the confrontation but, rather, the merging of nomadic and settled systems, with their differing forms of political organization, social order, notions of law, spatial understanding and sense of morality etc., which has been, historically, of wide-ranging influence and has shaped the face of vast regions and their societies (Paul 2004a, Franz 2007a). The political and administrative expansion of states and state supported agents within nomadic dominated spaces, nomadic services and adaptation strategies, which orientate themselves towards the necessities and norms of settled societies and allow nomads to enter, as well as the plurality of nomadic forms of existence, mold greatly the influence of nomads in their interchanging relationships with settled societies (Barfield, 1993, 2001).

It must, however, be stated that, in the historical (Leder 2004) as well as the contemporary context (e.g. Weisleder 1978), this dichotomy of living forms has been a historically pertinent and identity forming thought structure relevant to both nomadic and settled groupings. The dichotomy relates less to irreconcilable practical differences, but, rather, conveys the construction of self and other, in relation to nomadic and settled forms and relations of living, in a markedly traditional sense. The fairly overstated demarcating contours of this imagining of nomads can be seen as producing consequences, which appear as more significant than the economic potential inherent in the nomadic way of living (Khazanov 1981, Weiß 2007a). The basis for these consequences can be seen in the way that nomads constitute a certain independence, or al least uniqueness, in relation to their norms, morality and practical aspects of their lives, whose vitality has been confirmed in the way that these specifically nomadic forms have been continued in post-nomadic forms of living (Bocco 1989, Ababsa-Al-Husseini 2002), and the way these forms have been received in settled societies.

Forms of livestock based nomadic life styles, within their traditional areas, are today often “tied in” by the nation-state, as well as marginalized in their traditional forms, their freedom of movement and “active service” has been restricted, a factor in relation to camel and horse herders, as well as cattle and smaller animal-based nomadic forms of living. This is especially the case in areas where sovereign, well-established state structures are in place. With a reduction in state power, such as in Iraq and Sudan, where, in the 1980s, a reactivation of tribal organization was promoted by the state (Abdul-Jabar 2003, De Waal 1997, Beck 2003), supposedly renounced forms of ‘booty’ economics, connected to mixed forms of pastoral agriculture, can reappear.

In general it is true that, in its modern forms, pastoral agriculture, which has developed or at least can be seen as linked to nomadic lifestyles, has brought the intense transformation process into view (see: Kerven 2003, Finke 2005, Gertel/ Breuer 2007a). This is because functions, to which nomads used to contribute, such as transport or services relating to weaponry, are undertaken in different ways in a contemporary context, while motorization and the communications revolution has drastically changed the conditions of nomadic existence. Extensive pastoral agriculture has, therefore, oriented itself more towards local and trans-local markets (Schlee 2004, McPeak/Little 2006), new forms of resource merging and labor migration have emerged alongside livestock farming (Breuer 2007c) and the ideological claim to a historical connection to a – politically independent – nomadic lifestyle has become a source of individual and collective identity (Shryock 1997).

At the start of the 21st century all lives in the former intensely nomadically shaped societies of the world may be rightly depicted as complex, fragmented and, indeed, somewhat contradictory (Bollig/Österle 2003, Müller-Mahn/Rettberg 2007). All embracing socio-economic transformations have influenced almost all areas of life. They incorporate processes of economic differentiation and diversification, the selective assimilation of nomadic production systems in globalized markets (Zaal 1999), social polarization and the fragmentation of local communities, as well as the intensification of migratory rural- urban interconnectedness. The coming together of these factors represent, for the people in these situations, massive new challenges, especially in relation to the maintaining of their existence and crisis situations (see: Spittler 1989, De Waal 1989, Meier 1995, Bollig 2006). This is reflected in the existing life of localities: they are partly entangled with the outside world and constitute an area of tremendous diversity. The most heterogeneous forms of poverty and wealth, the individual climbing and falling of the social ladder, the varied methods of existence maintenance and utilization of resources can be seen as existing simultaneously in the most intimate of spaces: within individual families and village communities and directly beside one another. The everyday experience of a number of people is marked by financial security and wealth, of other groups by a lack of security, extreme poverty and a long lasting struggle for existence (Janzen 1999, Manger et al. 1996, Rass 2007).

While some elements within these new constellations display historical continuity, such as varied economic practices, diverse relations with regard to the radius and frequency of nomadic mobility, as well as the calling for a political understanding of the nomadic existence, other factors, especially the influence of globalization, are without historical precedent (Gertel 2002). The appreciation of nomadic economic and living forms are also moving towards more specific contexts, when, e.g., poor economic returns translates into a loss of social prestige, nomads are idealized as constituting a distinct nationality or when the ecological advantages of more suitable pasture usage are emphasized.

The examination of the interaction between nomadic and settled forms of living shifts, therefore, necessarily between the deconstruction and correction of contrasting schematic imaginings and the investigation of actual crossings over, entangled relations and their consequences (Müller-Mahn 1989). For this reason the existing research examines repeatedly arenas, in which nomadic and settled groupings exist in close relation to one another. Thus, these arenas include: small spaces where nomads and settled people live side by side, where relevant under the same political administration (Rowton 1973, Briant 1982), situations where settled communities are not entirely settled (Scharrer 2002) and nomads engaged in various forms of mobile pastoral agriculture, as well as groups which are neither Bedouins nor settled (Lange 2003). It is these mixed relations between the groupings, in which borders and points of entry exist in sequence, that offer, using a historical perspective, a continuous image. Linked to the significance of this representational dichotomy is also the notion that the self and other definition of  “nomad” is not only shaped by socio-economic relations, but must also be understood as part of a process of negotiation, whose consequence results from its own contextualization (Rachik 2000, 2007).

Considering this background a fairly extensive concept of nomadism, incorporating various types of livestock herding and riding nomads, as well as part time nomadism and transhumance, would constitute a helpful starting point. For the third phase of the project we see nomadism as involving the following aspects: Firstly, mobility, whether permanent or cyclical and, therefore, influential in relation to living forms and usually marked by exclusivist marriage rules and group organization. Secondly, including a distinct basis for living involving extensive pastoral agriculture or another activity involving mobility. Thirdly, that nomadism is defined in relation to interaction with settled peoples.