Nasab: Lineage and Genealogy in the Arab East

21.03.2016, Workshop, OI Beirut

This workshop explores modern and pre-modern knowledge and practice of nasab in the Arab East, in the Gulf and the Levant in particular, in a long-term and cross-disciplinary perspective (cultural anthropology, history, Islamic studies, etc). With the complex notion of nasab we refer to concepts of belonging usually expressed in terms of agnatic descent, i.e. lineages. The ancient scholarly interest in these lineages is often translated as “genealogy”.

From Arab intellectuals and writers to tribal leaders and various national and non-Arab governments and their agencies in the contemporary period, ansāb have come to serve political uses and generate a genealogical imagination or consciousness among families and nations. Yet how these ansāb are represented and then imagined may be encountered and negotiated differently in everyday life.

Taking into account both the ideological and pragmatic dimensions of nasab, we are interested in the diverse trajectories of genealogical thinking from the early-modern era until today, positing the colonial period as crucial for new forms of production and articulation of genealogical knowledge.

Consequently, the contributions investigate particularly who produces this knowledge, towards what end and with what intended or unintended consequences and how this relates to daily practices of belonging and identity construction. Accordingly, this workshop further seeks to unpack the process of intisāb – that is, the making of kinship or solidarity, alongside official and unofficial knowledge of ansāb.