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Volume :13 Issue : 4 1985      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

A Critique of Typologies and Their Uses in the Anthropology of Middle Eastern Societies

Auther : Sulayman Khalaf

This papers offers a critique of the typological model at different levels of discourse. The construction and use of typologies occupied a significant position not only in the genealogical sense but also in the actual development of modern social sciences. The role and value of the typological model are first discussed and then, specific typological constructs relating to the study of peasant societies are examined critically; these include polar-types formulations- such as Redfield’s “folk-urban continuum” and Wolf’s “closed corporate community & open community”. Indeed these theoretical formulations have, in varying degrees, influenced researchers studying social change in Middle Estern communities and/or societies.

A critical assessment of the writings of three Western anthropologists and one sociologists who utilized typologies as a general theoretical framework for analyzing Middle Eastern societies represents the final and major part of this paper. These writings include: 1) Lerner’s “Traditional society Versus participant society “ , 2) Forney’s  “ Typology  of Middle East Village Studies”, “3) Patti’s Dynamic West/Static East”, and “ 4) Gallic’s Peril and Refuge Contrast”.

These anthropological studies undoubtedly have produced useful descriptions and some explanations of the structural nature and of the workings of cultural dynamics of social life in Arab and other Middle Eastern societies. However, our close critical reading of this genre of anthropological literature reveals that such usefulness is, in the final analysis, very much outweighed by methodological flaws, analytical limitations and irrelevances as well as ideological mystifications.

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