Forms of production and demographic regimes : an anthropological demographic study of bedouin agro-pastoral tribes in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Joseph, Suzanne Ezzat
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In order to explain the timing and patterning of demographic transitions, studies are needed in societies either currently undergoing transition or where fertility remains high and unrestricted. This dissertation provides an anthropological demographic and ethnographic study of Bedouin agro-pastoral tribes in the Bekaa, which exemplify both these features. That is, fertility is high and unrestricted by widespread contraceptive use (completed family size is 8.9; n= 65); although there is evidence of recent fertility decline (total period fertility rate is 5.5; n=224). It is among the first anthropological demographic studies in the Middle East. To provide a historical portrait of Bedouin fertility, indirect estimates of completed family size were derived from interviews with 160 older informants about their post-reproductive mothers’ fertility histories. Very high fertility-over eight live births- is seen among women born between 1934-1960-a period that coincides with the commodification, peasantization, and proletarianization of the Bedouin economy. Focus on the proximate determinants shows high fertility is due to early weaning and marriage, low rates of marital instability, and low incidence of primary sterility. Low infant mortality rates (53/1000) and child mortality rates (16/1000) are due to access to high quality weaning foods and safe birthing and maternal care practices. Previous political economic research from historical Europe as well as Iran and Nepal suggests the centrality of class formation and caste stratification in understanding demographic variation and change. While class divisions and fertility differences are present between land-poor Bedouin tribes and Lebanese landowning peasants in the Bekaa, class stratification is not seen in social relations of production within Bedouin society. Furthermore, major household forms of production-sharecropping, pastoralism, and wage labor-do not differ in their associated fertility or mortality patterns. The internal demographic structure of Bedouin society parallels the internal egalitarian social structure and cultural ideology. Intrasocietal differences in fertility are largely due to physiological mechanisms, particularly differences in age-specific sterility among married women. High total population fertility levels and rising historical fertility levels are associated with greater participation in agriculture among the Bekaa Bedouin. Taken together, these findings reinforce the importance of scale in explaining demographic change.