1st Edition

Photography and Making Bedouin Histories in the Naqab, 1906-2013 An Anthropological Approach

By Emilie Le Febvre Copyright 2024
    292 Pages 68 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Introducing a novel anthropological study of photography in the Middle East, Emilie Le Febvre takes us to the Naqab Desert where Bedouin use photographs to make, and respond to, their own histories.

    She argues Bedouin presentations of the past are selective but increasingly reliant on archival documents such as photographs which spokespersons treat as evidence of their local histories amid escalating tensions in Israel. These practices shape Bedouin visual historicity, that is the diverse ways people produce their pasts in the present with images. This book charts these processes through the afterlives of six photographs (c. 1906–2013) as they circulate between the Naqab’s entangled visual economies – a transregional landscape organised by cultural ideals of proximity and assemblages of Bedouin iconography. Le Febvre illustrates how representational contentions associated with tribal, civic, and Palestinian-Israeli politics influence how images do history work in this society. She concludes Bedouin visual historicity is defined by acts of persuasion during which photographs authenticate alternating history projects. Here, Bedouin value photographs not because they evidence singular narratives of the past. Rather, the knowledges inscribed by photography are multifarious as they support diverse constructions of history and society with which members mediate a wide range of relationships in southern Israel.

    This book bridges studies of anthropology, photography, Palestinian-Israeli politics, and Bedouin Middle East history.

    Preface: Ethnonyms and Being Bedouin  Introduction: Contours of Place, People, and Ethnography  Part One – Histories  1. Naqab Bedouin Social History and Historiography  2. Making Histories in a Bedouin Society  Part Two – Photography  3. Anthropology of Bedouin Photography and Photographs  4. Photographic Presences and Entangled Visual Economies  Part Three – Photographs  5. Circulating Images: Tribal Histories of Lineages  6. Circulating Images: Community Histories  Conclusion: Historical Persuasion and Photographs in the Desert


    Emilie Le Febvre received her DPhil and MSc from the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

    Emilie Le Febvre’s book, Photography and Making Bedouin Histories in the Naqab, 19062013, is a truly original exploration of how the Bedouin of the Naqab have used the unique qualities of photographs to turn them into ‘objects of historical persuasion’ to evidence their longstanding presence in the region. Her book is the first of its kind to bridge the anthropology of Bedouin and visual culture, and offers a refreshing interpretation of how a cultural landscape and its objects (photographs) can be understood in the study of the Middle East. 

    - Dawn Chatty, Professor Emerita of International Development Studies, University of Oxford