This introduction lays out the argument that although al-Azd identity existed from pre-Islamic times into the Abbasid period, although the significance of that identity was different across time and place. After discussing the historiography of Arab tribes, it reviews aspects of Arab genealogy (nasab), and opts for a definition of tribe based on identity. It further proposes several techniques of detecting the significance of al-Azd identity in the primary sources, most notably through prosopography and using narrative to establish what identities were significant within them. The latter is related to the concepts of segmentary sharaf and social memory.
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