Under Siege: The Political Landscape of the Yemeni Central Highlands during the Late Medieval and Early Ottoman Periods
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Over the course of the medieval and early modern periods, the Dhamar Plain in the Yemeni central highlands was repeatedly conquered and subsequently governed by a sequence of foreign states. Through the use of both textual and material evidence, in this poster I will present a closer look at four ways authority was strategized and asserted in this political context where the disunited local population contended with the invading Rasulids (13th-15th centuries) and Ottomans (16th-17th centuries). First, through historiographic narrations of conquest and rebellion, I review the military and diplomatic actions that were taken to subjugate the region’s tribes and other inhabitants as well as emphasize how they in turn defiantly and proactively responded to this external aggression. Second, through analysis of the documentary bureaucratic records, geographic texts, and historical maps, I show the different ways the Rasulids and Ottomans attempted to layout their administrative systems on top of the local conceptions of territory that had been in place since at least the 10th century. Third, utilizing archaeological survey data collected during fieldwork in which I participated and historical descriptions of no longer extant structures, I present the limited extent and nature of the states’ physical presence in the Dhamar Plain in contrast to the widespread vernacular defensive architecture of the local population. Finally, based on medieval and early modern state records of the exchange and craft economy as well as ceramic sherds picked up in archaeological survey, I demonstrate the seemingly minimal degree to which the Rasulids and Ottomans influenced the autonomy of local commerce and craft production. Altogether this poster shows the reasons the Rasulids and Ottomans were not able to develop a more sustainable authority in the region, and exposes a much broader and more complex network of political relations beyond the state-tribe dynamic. Overall, with a display of these various types of data, I reveal a more holistic and multi-dimensional picture of the combative, diplomatic, administrative, ideological, infrastructural, and economic aspects of political encounters, particularly in the context of imperialistic powers entering hostile territory.