Bedouin Ethnobotany
416 pages, 6 x 9
35 b&w illustrations, 11 tables
Release Date:16 Apr 2019
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Bedouin Ethnobotany

Plant Concepts and Uses in a Desert Pastoral World

The University of Arizona Press
A Bedouin asking a fellow tribesman about grazing conditions in other parts of the country says first simply, “Fih hayah?” or “Is there life?” A desert Arab’s knowledge of the sparse vegetation is tied directly to his life and livelihood.

Bedouin Ethnobotany offers the first detailed study of plant uses among the Najdi Arabic–speaking tribal peoples of eastern Saudi Arabia. It also makes a major contribution to the larger project of ethnobotany by describing aspects of a nomadic peoples’ conceptual relationships with the plants of their homeland.

The modern theoretical basis for studies of the folk classification and nomenclature of plants was developed from accounts of peoples who were small-scale agriculturists and, to a lesser extent, hunter-gatherers. This book fills a major gap by extending such study into the world of the nomadic pastoralist and exploring the extent to which these patterns are valid for another major subsistence type. James P. Mandaville, an Arabic speaker who lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, focuses first on the role of plants in Bedouin life, explaining their uses for livestock forage, firewood, medicinals, food, and dyestuffs, and examining other practical purposes. He then explicates the conceptual and linguistic aspects of his subject, applying the theory developed by Brent Berlin and others to a previously unstudied population. Mandaville also looks at the long history of Bedouin plant nomenclature, finding that very little has changed among the names and classifications in nearly eleven centuries.

An essential volume for anyone interested in the interaction between human culture and plant life, Bedouin Ethnobotany will stand as a definitive source for years to come.
Mandaville writes clearly, unpompously, and with affectionate respect for the people he describes as 'consultants.' . . . He has patiently disentangled a highly evolved Bedouin ethnobotany.'—Review of Middle East Studies

'This is by far the best and most thorough account of mainland Arabian ethnobotany. Mandaville’s work brings new sophistication to studies of Middle Eastern ethnoscience.'—E.N. Anderson, co-author of Political Ecology in a Yucatec Maya Community
James P. Mandaville has integrated all of his experience and narrative brilliance in a volume that is much more than just another ethnobotanical inventory. It is a well balanced monograph touching on many aspects of a culture that is transforming with dramatic speed and in many directions.'—Ethnobiology Letters
James P. Mandaville is the author of Flora of Eastern Saudi Arabia. Now retired, he resided in Saudi Arabia for much of his working life. He received his BS in Arabic from Georgetown University in 1957 and his PhD in arid lands resource sciences from the University of Arizona in 2004. He began his career in Saudi Arabia as an employee of the Arabian American Oil Company (now the Saudi Arabian Oil Company) and has worked as a consultant for rangeland restoration in Saudi Arabia. He now resides in Tucson.
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