[P4124] Turmoil and Tolerance: Unpacking the Current Crisis in Yemen

Created by Daniel Martin Varisco
Sunday, 11/22/15 4:30pm


Yemen is currently in a state of major political transformation with multiple groups vying for power, many of them funded by external powers. Grafted on to the traditional hierarchies of an elite religious group (Sada) in the north, tribes and other traditional groups are numerous new players, including Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, the Huthi movement and the southern secessionists (Hirak). After the fall of President Ali Abdullah Salih, a National Dialogue was held to come up with a new constitution and an improved form of government for a country with acute poverty levels and economic downturns. In early 2015 this process was interrupted with the takeover of government offices by the Huthis and their allies. This panel will unpack elements of the ongoing political crisis with a focus on the role of tolerance in the longue duree of Yemen’s history. One paper examines the culture of tolerance in Yemen by scholars from the sects of Sunnism, Zaydism and Ismailism with a focus on four major figures: ‘Umarah (12th century), al-Maqbali, Ibn al-Amir and al-Shawkani. In addition to contributing to a culture of tolerance, they were also accomplished poets. A second paper examines the ways in which the historic social and occupational hierarchies in the central and northern highlands were mediated by egalitarian propensities originating in tribal organization and values. It is argued that an underlying egalitarian heritage has helped fuel the demonstrations of 2011 and developments since then. A third paper provides a linguistic lens, exploring the implications of providing constitutional recognition to the Mahri and Socotri languages used in Yemen. A fourth paper provides a discursive analysis of relevant literature circulated by the Huthi movement’s rhetorical alignment of its tribal and sectarian identities with a growing public search for national agency from implications of U.S. war on terror. 


American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS)


American Institute for Yemeni Studies


Intl Rltns/Aff




Daniel Martin Varisco

(American Institute for Yemeni Studies)
Daniel Martin Varisco is President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (2014ff), former editor of Contemporary Islam and Editor-in-Chief of CyberOrient (cyberorient.net), moderator of the academic blog Tabsir (tabsir.net), former head of the...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;

Najwa Adra

(Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Dr. Najwa Adra is a cultural anthropologist with long-term research and consulting experience in Yemen. In 1978-79, she lived in a rural tribal community in Yemen’s Central Highlands while she conducted field research on the semiotics of dancing and...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Waleed Mahdi

(University of Oklahoma)
Waleed F. Mahdi is an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma with a joint affiliation in the Department of International and Area Studies and the Department of Modern Languages, Literature, and Linguistics. He is a comparatist with research...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Marieke Brandt

(Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;