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Basseri culture is considered to consist of the traditional pastoral nomads who inhabited Iran. Most of the Basseri speak Basseri dialect, but there is a group that speaks the dialect of Faris and a few of them speak Arabic or Turkish. In the research paper, I am going to describe the culture of Basseri, their mode of subsistence and aspects of their culture.
Basseri is a community that has been living in Southern Iran. They are known all over Iran due to their pastoral practices rooted in their traditions. This part of Southern Iran has a large territory of land considered more effective in terms of pastoralist practices. Their unique political background characterizes the Basseri. Most of members of this community know Basseri dialect while some use Faris language (Huntington, 1972).
These people normally migrate along mountains and steppes throughout the year. They live in groups, which are typically divided by independent households known as tenets. Their leaders have to lead somewhat for the people because if the common Basseri do not believe or agree with a particular chief then they will take their heard to the next chief.
The major aspects in the lives of Basseri are trade and agriculture. This people depend much on seasonal work. Their diets are composed of products from agriculture and they consider flour to be of great importance to their meals. The flour is used to prepare unleavened bread for their meals. Tribesmen produce bulk of agriculture that is the basic diet for the Basseri community (Brath, 1961).
Basseri obtain other things such as luxuries through trade. As an exchange, they sell butter, wool, lambskins and curd. This community has adopted the belief and strategy to share responsibilities by working together. This belief helps them to encourage each other in work as well as strengthen the relations among the members of their community. Through sharing of responsibilities, age and sex is considered when dividing the labor (Dowling, 1975).
The duties in Basseri community are categorized as domestic tasks, frequent migration and herding. Women and young girls are responsible for domestic tasks. Domestic tasks in this case constitute of washing clothes and preparing food. Men and boys are given the responsibility to provide water and wood for domestic use. Men have also the responsibility of maintenance and repairing of their dwelling tents (Bradburd, 1996).
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Since frequent migration of this community consumes much time, men and boys are obliged to care for the flock. Other family members ride together with luggage and belongings on top of the donkeys and either a girl or a boy follows and drives the beasts on foot (Brath, 1961).
Herding is one of the major tasks in Basseri culture. Children of smaller age look after the flock of lambs. Most of married women and men rarely look after the livestock. The children are responsible to drive the herd and to determine which route to follow as well as the time and place to put up their tent for camping.
The women and children normally break down camp and move to the new location and set camp back up while men herd the animals.
Mode of Subsistence
The Basseri tribe’s main primary mode of subsistence is nomadic pastoralism; they migrate through steep mountains and valleys with animals of north, east and south Shiraz in Fars, South of Persia. Pastoralism is an economic activity based on herding. These people keep and maintain large herds of animals that are used as source of their livelihood through provision of products. Sometimes they trade these products for another gods of the neighborhood tribes. Their way of life demands that they move with their livestock seasonally in search of food and water. They raise goats, sheep, camel, donkeys, and horses. Donkeys are mainly used for draft work whereas horses are used by the headmen in transportation and controlling of the herd (Dowling, 1975).
Three Aspects of culture
Kinship is one of the major cultural aspects of Basseri tribe. It is organized by tents. The tents livelihood describes the social organization of the Basseri. A tent is shared by a husband, his wife and their children. The husband is usually the head of the family. They form large camps of usually 30 to 40 tents that form a social organization. Social relations are enhanced by good neighborhood. The tribe moves with their tents during their occasional migration illustrating the extensiveness of their kinship and the need for strong social organization that makes the tribe stable and cohesive (Dowling, 1975).
Beliefs and Values
Evil Eyes and Envy
According to the Basseri community belief, evil eyes and envious thoughts can adversely affect them and possibly cause illness and death. To prevent evil eye and envy, any time a joyful event such as hunting a large animal occurs, the sweets are distributed to the members of the community. “More diffuse are the beliefs in the evil eye of envy and in the means of production against it” (Brath, 1961).
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These people are Shia Muslims. However, most of them have low interest in religion. Rituals concerning birth, marriage and death are practiced according to Islamic religion.
Females mostly get married at the age of sixteen to twenty years; male marry at older age as compared to female. Mullah helps in performing the marriage ceremony. After marriage the husband and wife form an independent economic unit. Marriage is a sacred and important institution that all the members of the society value so much. Every person who is of age of getting married is always assisted by his family and the entire community in order to get a suitable suitor. The main purpose of marriage according to these people is for recreation and the continuation of the family lineage.
According to the Basseri cultural practice, the son inherits a portion of his father’s herd after the marriage. Also, the size of the herds dictates the level of wealth. Inheritance is to ensure that family members are able to protect their wealth in the absence of the departed family member to ensure that the family’s wealth is in safe hands.
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Several tents of the community form a camp which establishes a social group. The members and residents of the camp elect the leaders who enhance unity in the camp. The headmen and informal leaders represent the groups in the camp (Dowling, 1975). The headmen are recognized by the chief who act as the head of a centralized political system. The chief exercises coercive power and ensures unity of the Basseri community.
Headmen are leaders of a camp that are recognized by the Basseri chief. There are White Beards who are informal leaders that represent the camp if there are no Headmen in a particular camp. These leaders represent their respective camps in political and administrative ways. Headmen normally communicate much more freely with the Basseri chief than common tribe members. The Basseri chief is over a large centralized political system. He has more authority over all members of his tribe (Brath, 1961).
Basseri people are nomadic pastoralists. They face the challenge of provision of the food and water for their animals and therefore are involved in frequent migration in camps composed of several tents. They enhance unity in the camps by practicing well defined and organized political system; furthermore, the interrelationships are improved by sharing of responsibilities and good neighborhood. They have a diversified cultural system that has survived for lengthy period of time.
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These people are from a tribe of tent dwelling pastoral nomads who migrate in the arid steppes and mountains east, south and even north of Shiraz in Fars province. The tribe travels this strip according to set schedule and in a compact group so that the main body of the population is never dispersed over more than a fraction route.
This paper carries out a detailed cultural analysis of the Basseri people of Iran. This is a group of a pastoralist community that keeps on moving from one place to other in accordance to the prevailing climatic conditions. The paper analyses aspects regarding the beliefs and values of this pastoralist community, the economic organization, and the gender relations. It looks at the kinship relations among these people and is clear that kinship is a serious social subject that these people have strictly adhered to. Political organization, social change, and social organization are also given priority in this study. The paper caries out a comprehensive analysis of the social, economic, and political organization of this people.it is through this study that we are able to identify and understand the culture and ways of life of this group of Iranians.
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