Abstract

The current enthusiam in anthropology for the concepts of transnationalism and globalization has significant implications for Refugee Studies as an emergent field, for understandings of the contemporary Middle East, and for the practice of ethnography. In discussing forced migration in the Middle East the argument is made for the importance of retaining the analytical concern for forms and forces of regionalism, while at the same time rethinking them in the light of global changes. This entails a consideration of two problematic topics: Arab nationalism, or rather al-‘uruba (which translates best as Arabness, and which highlights the identity rather than the ideology); and contemporary Islamic identity, which is better conceptualized as transnationalism rather than fundamentalism. A critical reading of the history of a Somali woman offers a commentary on the place of ethnography in the context of these analytical concerns, and highlights the problem of using static concepts of Islam and tradition to interpret lives that are transnational.

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