By Thomas C. Patterson
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Extra resources for America's Past: A New World Archaeology
In his History of the Arab Peoples, Hourani goes further and defines assabiya as ‘a corporate spirit oriented towards obtaining and keeping power’ which was ‘held together by the sense of common ancestry, whether real or fictitious, or by ties of dependence, and reinforced by common acceptance of a religion’ (Hourani 1992: 2). Assabiya, then, provides an alternative framework for understanding the maintenance of societies and their ability to overcome the fundamental environmental challenges faced by all societies in the Middle East.
Western geographers and explorers quickly discarded these cosmological inferences and emphasized the barrenness of the landscape, and consequently their achievements in conquering it. As we shall see, the great sandy deserts of the Rub al-Khali were rarely ‘empty’ of human and animal life in the periods with which this book is concerned. Traversing the deserts is very difficult without the use of dromedaries or more modern forms of transport, and the width of the Rub al-Khali and its northern extension in the UAE varies considerably.
As Pauketat has noted: ‘Investigating the relationship between the appearance of towns and domestic life is about understanding how different people caused, accommodated, or resisted change. It is about understanding how collective memories were negotiated, remembered and forgotten, how traditions were invented and reinvented continuously and how politics and daily practice intersected’ (Pauketat 2007: 107). Indeed, in several cases, the tensions created by increased societal stress as a result of foreign trade and contact were too great and society began to fundamentally change.