Skip to main content

CGP | Tribalism Peacebuilding Initiative

The Tribalism Initiative recognizes the tribal unit as an indigenous civil society organization. Utilizing research, fieldwork, and engagement, we are exploring how people understand their tribal identities in order to have a window on how shared loyalties, morality, honor and the nature of society relate to concepts of civil society, good governance and democracy as we understand them. Civil society, in its broadest sense, seems to imply a society in which the interests, concerns, and dignity of the civilian, the citizen, the "ordinary person," are taken seriously. In the Middle East today, itcan be argued that tribes represent a vibrant part of civil society in that they represent a safe space for open discussion of events of the day and have the necessary attributes to support a democratic transition under the proper conditions. Tribes represent a communal identity which is both a form of sociopolitical organization (e.g. a state, nation-state or a kingdom) and a cultural identity based on notions of kinship and genealogy, honor and autonomy. Tribal identities may appear more exotic to westerners than identities based on language, ethnicity, or shared religion. However, far from being a relic of the past or a 'primitive' vestige of social organization, 'tribe' in some modern contexts can be a constructive element in sustaining modern national identity (e.g. Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia) and  supporting democratic processes such as elections (i.e. Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar). Both now and in the past, many states work through tribes rather than against them.