Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Ben Ali's family and 'clans' in general

Le Monde's family tree for Ben Ali and his family is the best I've seen so far. The former Tunisian president had an unusually high proportion of female relatives -- three sisters, two wives and five daughters, compared to two brothers and one son. And PM Ghannouchi said that his wife was the one really running the country. The family tree only mentions five of his wife's family (three brothers and two nephews). 'Clan' may be the right word because of its Mafia connotation, but I have argued elsewhere that in the Arab context the word might give readers the impression that Tunisia is a tribal society, which is very far from the case. 'Arab tribalism', demographically a rather peripheral phenomenon (what percentage of Arabs can identify their tribe? 20 percent?), is of course a favoured premise for neo-Orientalist analyses of the Arab world. The prominence of Iraq in recent years has helped to reinforce that premise, though even Iraqi is only partially tribalised.

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