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Le Yémen transnational

Transnational Yemen

Anahi Alviso-Marino, Juliette Honvault et Marine Poirier
Cet article est une traduction de :
Le Yémen transnational

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  • 1 Especially the works of Ulrike Freitag, Indian Ocean, Migrants and State Formation in Hadhramaut. R (...)

1The region known as “Yemen” has been for centuries a place of movement and exchange. Its strategic position on many trade routes has made it a place of passage; a region of contact and conquest, of immigration and emigration, and has enjoyed numerous ties to the Arabian Peninsula, around the Red Sea and, beyond the Indian Ocean, all the way to Indonesia. If mobility and exchanges with the outside world have been a feature of Yemeni society throughout the centuries, the question of transnational linkages, and of the reactions they brought about among very different peoples and States have resulted in some works of quality, but still too few.1

  • 2 We wish to thank Patrice Chevalier and Samy Dorlian who both presented papers during this conferenc (...)

2The importance of these links calls for a comprehensive approach. In 2009, without necessarily making such a claim, the CEFAS began to make its own contributions, first by organizing an in-house seminar, led by Juliette Honvault, then by preparing, for the Barcelona WOCMES in July 2010, a panel on “Transnational Yemen: networks, exchanges, mobility”, coordinated by Marine Poirier. This issue is designed along the same lines as the panel, with three articles combining interdisciplinary and historical perspectives, from the mid-twentieth century to the 2011 uprisings2. It argues, inter alia, that the conquests of Yemen in modern history —by the British in the South (1839–1967), the Ottomans in the north (1849–1918)— greatly contributed to shaping contemporary Yemeni political relationships with the outside world. The British occupation, just like the policy of isolation and fierce conservatism adopted by the Imami regime (1904–1962) against European and Ottoman imperialism brought reformers and pro-independence activists in Yemen closer to their Arab “brethren”, as well as the modern ideologies Arab nationalists fought for in Cairo, Beirut, Damascus or Baghdad: besides Nasserism, imposed with force during the Egyptian intervention to help the Republican forces between 1962 and 1967, Ba’thism, Socialism and Marxism in the south around Aden after 1967, influenced the political orientations of the two States until the 1990 “reunification”. But did these ideologies really permeate the minds of the Yemeni people? To what extent did the Yemeni expatriate experiences abroad, often made possible by contacts resulting from these foreign occupations, and the reactions they caused, alter representations of the self and the world, identifying with a State in particular, or with a specific culture?

3The transnational exchanges discussed in this issue, whether they relate to the role of a North Yemen reformer from 1930 to 1960 (Juliette Honvault), or South and North Yemen artists who left to study in the USSR in the years 1970-1980 (Anahi Alviso-Marino), show the difficulty to assert oneself as a member of a specific nation and culture in a world dominated by authoritarian and rigid ideologies. At the same time, influences arising from transnational experiences, even powerful ones at that, seem to have had a very limited impact. The analysis of how ideological influences inherited from exchanges with the outside world are managed inside the General People's Congress, the political party created by ‛Alī ‛Abd Allāh Ṣāliḥ in 1978 (Marine Poirier), echoes, at present and by claiming an exclusive nationalism, the discomfort felt in Yemen at the thought of any cultural borrowing or appropriation, as well as recognizing cultural differences with third countries. In sum, this issue invites us to consider how to express, depending on different registers and at different times in the history of contemporary Yemen, the idea of ​​a “World State” —in the sense of a State participating in a globalization that would, in turn, shape it back— which does not relate to itself.

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1 Especially the works of Ulrike Freitag, Indian Ocean, Migrants and State Formation in Hadhramaut. Reforming the Homeland, Leyde / Boston, Brill, 2003, Ulrike Freitag & William Clarence-Smith, Hadhrami Traders, Scholars and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s–1960s, Leyde / New-York / Cologne, Brill, 1997 ; Enseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy And Mobility Across the Indian Ocean, Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies, 2006 ; Alain Rouaud, « Pour une histoire des Arabes de Djibouti, 1896-1977 », Cahiers d'études africaines. Vol. 37 N°146, La Corne dans tous ses États, p. 319-348, url :

2 We wish to thank Patrice Chevalier and Samy Dorlian who both presented papers during this conference, as well as Michel Tuchscherer and Laurent Bonnefoy who respectively presided the panel and discussed interventions.

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Anahi Alviso-Marino, Juliette Honvault et Marine Poirier, « Transnational Yemen », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 1 | 2013, mis en ligne le 30 mars 2013, consulté le 16 mai 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Anahi Alviso-Marino

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Juliette Honvault

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Marine Poirier

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