18109. (Philip Carl Salzman) Black tents of Baluchistan

This is an unusu­al­ly clear-head­ed work of ethnog­ra­phy, describ­ing the Sarha­di Baluch, a peo­ple of south­east­ern Iran. Salz­man is splen­did­ly immune to the the­o­ret­i­cal fads that have suc­ceed­ed each oth­er like Third Cen­tu­ry Roman Emper­ors. He looks at the Sarha­di, describes what he sees in plain lan­guage, inter­prets it with the min­i­mum of abstrac­tions and jar­gon. He has a par­tic­u­lar­ly sharp instinct for describ­ing polit­i­cal life. Focus­ing on who makes deci­sions, how they are imple­ment­ed and enforced, and what exter­nal and inter­nal cir­cum­stances trig­ger, lim­it, or mod­i­fy them, he avoids most of the essen­tial­ist, pseu­do-evo­lu­tion­ary and a pri­ori quag­mires. There’s no “post-mod­ern” gib­ber­ish. There is no roman­ti­ciz­ing, no pom­pos­i­ty in his obser­va­tions. I strong­ly rec­om­mend this to any­one who is inter­est­ed in the nature of deci­sion-mak­ing in nomadic seg­men­tary soci­eties.

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