This article examines the transformation of communal identities and social hierarchies on Soqotra Island. This is done through a “structural anatomy” of Soqotra’s changing social organization and a “lexical genealogy” of the collective identities ascribed to, or assumed by, Soqotrans in response to the polity formation strategies of a succession of British and Yemeni political regimes from the late nineteenth century until the present. Following a brief historical and theoretical introduction, Part I outlines the status stratification system that prevailed only a generation ago in the form of an ascriptive hierarchy based on ethno-occupational specializations and territorial segmentation linked to distinct ecological habitats, which continues to mediate the integration of Soqotrans into the emergent modern social formation. Part II describes how communal identities over the past generation have been leveraged by various national and transregional political and cultural forces, leading to an emerging hierarchy of ethnicity-based identities. The concluding section updates the current status of Soqotra’s traditional social groups and highlights the dynamic relationality between communal identity transformation and political and historical contingencies.


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pp. 23-66
Launched on MUSE
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