Arab identity is an intriguing conundrum. It is commonly presumed that Arabs originated as a distinct and essentially homogenous community of ancient Arabian Bedouin who were separate from other populations of the Middle East, yet modern Arab identity is multifarious and resists all scholarly attempts to generalise about Arabness. It thus seems that pre-modern Arabs are too simplistically conceptualised around monolithic stereotypes of Arabian nomadism, and the idea of ancient Arab identity is accordingly in need of new, theoretically grounded and critical scrutiny. The task inspires this book, and the Introduction sets the scene by discussing the problems of interpreting Arab history, and describes the theoretical models that can help resolve these problems. Ancient Arabs have not hitherto been studied as an ethnic group, and the Introduction discusses how anthropological theories of ethnogenesis enable fresh interpretation of textual and archaeological evidence to reorient our understanding of both Arab origins and the rise of Islam.
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