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Civil Society and the City in the History of Northern Yemen (abstract)

p. 259

Entrées d’index

Keywords : civil society (history)

Texte intégral

1Urban or civil (madanī) society appeared in Yemen neither after the Revolution of 1962, nor with Yemen’s entering modernity. The author draws together the notion of ‘civil society’ and that of ‘urban society/civitas (tamaddun)’ as depicted by al‑Hamdānī, a great Yemeni writer of the 10th century, who defines it as follows: tamaddun is co-existence of different linguistic groups in the same space.

2During the Islamic period, the urban society of the big cities in Yemen was organized as civil or urban communities (mujtama‘ ahlī) according to the rules which allowed them certain autonomy: written market regulations, institution of waqf, organization of education and justice, and the role played by the class of the ‘ulamā. Moreover, the author stresses the freedom of expression, which was characteristic of certain periods.

3For instance, in Sanaa, social diversity was favorable to the creation and maintenance of urban institutions, which organized life of different social groups: craftsmen, merchants and ‘ulamāunder the name of Qānūn San’ā, the last version of which dates by the end of the 19th century. During the periods of political instability and in the absence of a central power (as described in the manuscript Hawlīyāt Yamanīya, in the middle of the 19th century), urban solidarity organizations of autonomous character were formed spontaneously in order to repel danger from outside.

4Thus, numerous historiography sources, which are worth reconsideration, allow us to regard some elements of ancient urban life as premises of Yemeni modern civil society.

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