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The Basseri

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amanda matthews

on 25 February 2013

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Transcript of The Basseri

Amanda Matthews, The End The Chief Pastorals The Basseri encampment's isolation and autonomy is a big feature of life for the members of each local group
They consider themselves and by others, to be one unified tribe because they are all subsumed under the authority of a single leader, the chief of all Basseri
The position of Chief is typical of Middle Eastern centralized leadership in that the power "emanates" from him
A crucial aspect of the role is the expectation that the Chief invite tribesmen to visit his tent and receive his generous hospitality Chiefdom Marriage Every year the Basseri migrate on a trail called the il-rah (Tribal Road)
They constantly migrate to keep their animals healthy by giving them land to graze in, average daily trek is 3 hours
Families with smaller tents and fewer things leave first, larger families/tents leave 1.5hrs later. This helps split up the groups who move at different paces. Location The Basseri have always been.We have always been on this land; We were created from it's dust. The Basseri Fredrik Barth Expected to live lavishly and bestow gifts generously
Depends on inheritance and taxes payable by sheep to fund his wealth and living (collecting 8,000 sheep a year)
He retains the sole prerogative to command and to render decisions that affect an individual living in another tent
The Chiefs responsibilities revolve around allotting pastures and organizing migratory patterns, settling disputes, and acting as the tribes representative with outside authorities.
The Basseri are a plural society, as such the chief's role as their representative to both the Iranian government and non-Basseri peoples is crucial
As is the fact that the chief does not maintain a nomadic lifestyle Sexual activity is forbidden before marriage. If caught kissing, girls are punished
The groom's father must pay a bride-price or "milk price." Some of that money will go for buying essentials for survival. (rugs, blankets etc)
Mullah (Holy Man) will perform the marriage ceremony
Elaborate Ceremony: First there is a ritual feasting, then the bathing of the Bride and Groom where they are shaved, bathed and oiled
Upon marriage the bride will stay with her husband's family in their tent but only until they are capable of surviving on their own
They will form their own nuclear tent once they can support themselves The land they travel is about 300x50
They are never greatly dispersed during their journey
The Basseri Province is quite ethnically heterogeneous
They form a discrete unit, operating under one chief and are recognized as such by the Iranian government The Basseri are a pastoral nomadic society in Southern Iran, whose migration takes them to the mountains and steppes to the east, north and south Number about 16,000 (or 3,000 tents)
Today their numbers are between 20-25,000
They are associated with other groups in the area who claim origins within the Basseri or common heritage
The Basseri are descendents of very diverse groups such as the Persian's, Arabic's, Turkic's and Gypsies
Population Land Agriculture and Pastorial Society Agriculture is not the main food source for the nomadic Basseri; they rely on domesticated sheep and goats that travel with them
Cereals and grains are still a staple of the Basseri diet and are planted and harvested around migration patterns
Most agriculture is practiced indirectly Foraging is mostly done in the spring time and is not a major food source of food Domesticated Animals Sheep and goats provide the bulk of the Basseri diet
These sheep and goats have adapted to the nomadic life, it ensures that they have areas to graze and keeps them out of extreme climates
Shepherds are responsible for the herding and milking of 300-400 animals
A family unit requires a flock of around 100 sheep or goats to live comfortably
Lambs and kids (goats) are slaughtered for meat and hides
Cattle do not travel as well as sheep or goats and are not used Milk products are the staple of the Basseri diet
Mixed sheep and goat milk is heated before use
Stomach acid is added to fresh milk so it sours
Sour milk is used to make curds and whey
Watery whey is used to feed guard dogs and curds are shaped and made into cheese
Sour milk can also be processed into buttermilk or butter which is often sold or traded
While on the move, meals are held after the milking has occurred Butter, wool, hides and animals are often traded for luxury items, small radios, wheat, sugar, tea, fruits and vegetables
Other sought after goods are clothing, cooking utensils, saddles, jewelry, narcotics and portable radios
Wheat is the most important trade item, as unleavened bread is a staple with every meal The Lifestyle Marriage Religion Death Sexual activity is forbidden before marriage. If caught kissing, girls are punished
The groom's father must pay a bride-price or "milk price." Some of that money will go for buying essentials for survival. (rugs, blankets etc) Ceremony Mullah (Holy Man) will perform the marriage ceremony
Elaborate Ceremony: First there is a ritual feasting, then the bathing of the Bride and Groom where they are shaved, bathed and oiled
Upon marriage the bride will stay with her husband's family in their tent but only until they are capable of surviving on their own
They will form their own nuclear tent once they can support themselves The Basseri are Shia Muslims, and are uninterested in religion for the most part
No ritual specialist among the tribe Do not regard people with sacred status but with respect A mullah (holy man) is likely to preform marriage ceremonies Other ceremonies and rituals are based around the seasons or life-cycle events
Prayer is infrequent and done alone No sheep shearing practice on Muslim holidays Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, is recognized Nothing is observed that will get in the way of migration Death and burial are accompanied by minimal ceremony
Bodies are immediately buried in village cemetery after being washed
Grieving is done in the tents
The burials are mostly silent
Graves are often visited every Friday with gifts of sweets
Shrines are made along the routes for important figures and holy men
Respect is shown at these shines, but there is no myth or ritual attached to them
Certain shrines where all camps pass by are different, and are a cause for animal sacrifice and feast Beliefs Based on good luck and bad luck depending on their herds
The "evil eye" means envy
People get sick or die from being envied
Blue eyes are suspicious
Children or animals are used as a distraction In 1875 the Basseri became part of the Khamseh confederation alongside the Arab, Nafar, Baharlu and Nahalu tribes
This was interrupted by the reign of Reza Shah
Struggles and arguments dominated this time between various nomadic groups and the central government who wanted to take power from the local tribal leaders
In 1923 the government disarmed the Basseri to control them
In 36' the Basseri were forced to become sedentary and their chiefs were removed, most settled but some remained nomadic
Reza Shah's abdication in '41 allowed most to return to the old ways
The Basseri again faced change during 1941-1979 Struggle Milk Trade The Basseri's herds of animals are most important, and most of their time is spent tending to them
Economically they are important for meat, milk, wool and hides
Large numbers of sheep are kept and are more productive than any others but are less resistant to tumultuous temperatures thus the need for migration
Animals are used for trade
The first extensive research on the Basseri was conducted by the Norwegian anthropologist Fredrik Barth.
He chose the Basseri because they spoke standard Persian.
He spent some of this time living among the nomadic Basseri, with the family of Ghulam Islami.
He also visited various sedentary communities and studied other tribes in the Fars region.
His research on the Basseri is documented in the book Nomads of South Persia: The Basseri tribe of the Khamseh Confederacy, originally published in 1961.
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