The national historical narrative in Oman articulates territorial domain as the basis of a homogenous citizenry. However, in the city of Nizwa, and elsewhere in northern Oman, an unacknowledged slave legacy--a residue of the Ibadi sharī‘a past--produces unofficial tribal hierarchies. This paradoxical state of affairs has been further enabled by the active management – rather the abolishment -- of tribal hierarchies and their differential relationships under the aegis of the state. Marriage practices in Nizwa are one of the key sites of tension between those who are ‘pure’ tribal Arabs versus those descended from slaves or client tribes. The articulation of these distinctions ignites hostilities and passions between the two broad groups.
Amal Sachedina is a research associate at the Institute for Transregional Studies and lecturer at the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University. Her talk is based on her research in Oman and which resulted in the book titled Cultivating the Past, Living the Modern: Dynamics of Time in the Sultanate of Oman (Cornell University Press, 2021). She is presently doing research on the urban history of Saudi Arabia.