It’s easy to dismiss ancient nomadic traditions as quaint relics of the past. But researchers are now discovering that these tribal traditions are not only the building blocks of Central Asian cultures but are also representative of values that continue to influence contemporary politics. Some of these insights were discussed in a recent article in the International Herald Tribune.
While the view that tribe and clan – the basic building blocks of nomadic, or semi-transient societies – influence the contemporary politics of some countries is nothing new, specialists in nomadic studies argue that policy makers have overlooked important “cultural intelligence,” like family relationships, when analyzing governments that grew out of tribal traditions.
“Families, tribes these are the things that matter here,” said Oraz Jandosov, co-chairman of a Kazakhstan opposition political party. “Foreigners talk about these things, but it’s only talk. They don’t understand them.”
Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan may take on the trappings of modern, Western nation-states, with parliaments, justice departments and other governmental agencies, researchers say. But politics are still driven by the customs and institutions of nomadism, in which political disputes were settled at the level of family, clan and tribe.
“In and of itself you can’t graft what happened two thousand years ago and say that’s what it is today, but it helps to understand how these societies have found successful strategies and how they respond to outside forces,” Frachetti said. “By not exploring the depth to which nomadic populations have contributed to local political systems, we are naive to an important aspect of the social fabric of parts of the Near East and Central Asia.”