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Austrian Academy of Sciences
Institute for Social Anthropology

The Project

Tribal Elders
Tribal elders in al-Jawf.

‘Tribalism, religious radicalization, fossil energy, and the state: Deciphering local power politics in Yemen’s frontier provinces Sa’dah and al-Jawf’ is an interdisciplinary research project funded by the New Frontiers Groups Programme (NFG) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The project is based at the Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, and runs from November 2015 to October 2020.

The project aims at generating empirical and highly relevant knowledge about Yemen’s northern peripheries: a largely unexplored region of increasing international importance. Although being geographically remote, the area is not an isolated periphery but rather closely linked to and strongly influenced by translocal developments which render it into a linked ‘multisite’ and ‘multilevel location’.

The project explores the area’s profound social, sectarian, economic and political transformations by the means and tools of Social Anthropology and neighbouring disciplines. It particularly focuses on exploring the role of local people in the implementation of broader political, sectarian, and economic programmes. These local actors may not lead the political, ideological, and sectarian debates, but they formulate the local agendas and implement the policies on the ground.

Suq in Yemen
Market day in Suq al-Khamis Munabbih.

On this basis, the project focuses, in a typically socio-anthropological fashion, on bottom-up approach and ‘peripheral’ views and perceptions, rather than adopting a more centralized and general view. The range of the project’s research topics — state-tribe-relation, religious radicalization, boundary dispute, economic change—engages the researchers in quite different intellectual encounters, discourses, and methodological approaches.