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What's Happening in Yemen?

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Daniel M. Varisco

Professor of Anthropology, Hofstra University

This talk will focus on the impact of the “Arab Spring” political protests that started in Yemen, located at the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, in February. These led to unrest that brought the country to the brink of civil war and economic collapse. Yemen has been ruled by a military leader, Ali Abdullah Salih, who came to power in 1978. In 1990, North and South Yemen were united, followed by a brief civil war in 1993. Before the recent protests there was a secessionist movement in Yemen’s south and an open tribal rebellion near the border with Saudi Arabia. In the past decade the United States has given millions of dollars in aid to President Salih to theoretically combat al-Qaida in Yemen. Questions addressed include the influence of conservative Saudi-backed salafism, the nature of Yemeni tribalism, the role of youth and students in protesting for their own future in a democratic Yemen, and the exaggerated fears about Yemen as a terrorist haven. President Salih once remarked that ruling Yemen was like dancing on the heads of snakes. Now that the snakes have bitten, what is next?


Daniel Martin Varisco is Professor of Anthropology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where he has taught since 1991. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982, based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a highland Yemeni village. During the 1980s, he consulted in international development in Yemen and Egypt, as well as receiving four post-doctoral grants for research on the history of Arab agriculture and folk astronomy. He has served as President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association and is on the board of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies and The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq. His most recent books are Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (2007) and Islam Obscured: The Rhetoric of Anthropological Representation (2005). He has published more than forty-five articles in professional journals, as well as editing Yemen Update from 1990-2002. He serves as co-editor of Contemporary Islam, editor of the online journal CyberOrient and webshaykh of the academic blog Tabsir. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of Yemeni agriculture in the Islamic era titled Arabia Viridis.

Assigned Reading

Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Yemen: The Unknown Arabia (Overlook TP: 2001)


A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public