Arab Culture and Civilization: A collaborative web project created by NITLE and sponsored by MEPC
Musharaka [ Cooperation ]  Calligraphy by Khaled Al-Saai

Family and Society

Main Menu   Introduction   Readings   Audio/Video   Links   Bibliography  

-Ethnicity and Identity
-Arab Americans
-Literature and Philosophy
-Popular Culture and the Performing Arts
-Family and Society
-Art and Architecture
-The Arabic Language
-Geography, Demographics, and Resources
-New Media
A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


Arab society is a society that has always placed a great deal of importance on family connections, and that continues to be the case today. For example, children leave the home at a much later age than do most children in the West and in most countries family networks are the most important social safety network, particularly in the poorer, less-developed Arab Lands. Across religious and even across ethnic lines, families in the Arab World tend to be extended and patriarchal. This has a great deal of implications on a social and even political level. Nonetheless, the situation is changing in response to new political and social realities.

All of this is discussed in detail in this unit. In his article "The Arab Family and the Challenge of Change," Halim Barakat discusses the role of the family in society, a point he also elaborates in his interview for this project. Gerald Butt demonstrates how clan structures are often the hidden force behind many of the events that make headlines form the Arab world for seemingly different reasons, and Bruce Dune sketches the power structures behind sexual norms in the Middle East.

In the Audio/Video section of this unit you will find some very rich materials, indeed. Interviews with Marnia Lazreg, a professor of Sociology at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and Judith Tucker, a professor of History at Georgetwon University, discuss the status of women in the modern era. Jon Anderson of the Catholic University of America, Nicholas Hopkins of the American University in Cairo and Amal Rassam from Queens College of the City University of New York all discuss family relationship issues from an anthropological perspective. In addition to this academic discussion, you will also find documentary footage from throughout the Middle East, in which Arab’s themselves, discuss their family relationships. (For an Arab American perspective on family relationships, see the unit on Arab Americans.)

On a much lighter side, this unit also focuses on cuisine and household rituals, all of which can be explored in the links and the gallery.

The issues of gender, parent-child relationships, and family that are discussed in this unit are also explored in the artistic production of the region. For more on this, see the unit on Popular Culture and the Performing Arts and the unit on Family and Society.

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