Iran is a home for various cultural groups having diverse cultural beliefs and undertakings. One of the cultural groups is the Basseri culture that is a traditional pastoral nomad. The dialect of the Basseri culture is the Faris, although the majority comprehends the Basseri dialect with few speaking in Arabic or Turkish. The Basseri are a prime example of a pastoral community living in the south of Iran. This group of people usually keeps herds of animals that are beneficial for their living, as they produce products that support this community. The main herds of animals which they raise are the goats and sheep, but they also keep camels and donkeys for the use in draft work. It is, however, not surprising to see horses within the community, although they are used by the headmen (Abrams, 1983). Horses depict the sign of wealth, since they can only be used by the wealthier headmen in the community.
The subsistence activity of the Basseri’s is nomadic. Since the community continues moving from place to place in search of pasture, then it is said to practice nomadic pastoralism. Under nomadic pastoralism, animal husbandry is seen as the ideal means of living. Movement of the whole community or part of the community to various places is considered natural and normal part of life. This aspect of culture is vital, as it contributes towards the economic growth of the community. However, there are situations where these communities practice non-pastoral activities despite being centered on pastoralism. Basseri have their own identity that is classified on the basis of their activity (Abrams, Bishop, Womack, & Porter, 1994). The society is built along a pastoral economic specialization, although they have values that are beyond their job. This group is different from American ranchers with the same specific economic specialization but has a culturally identification to a larger group.
The pasture is vital and huge factor in the culture of Basseri pastoral economy. Given that the community depends on nomadic pastoralism, it cannot survive without pasture. This necessitates the migration of the community to other plains in search of good pastures to cater for their herds. During the winter season, the snow in the North covers the mountains, leaving no good pastures for their animals. During March, the pasture in the South gradually disappears. Rich pastures are present in summer, although the grass withers later. Traditionally, the biggest tribes have engaged in seasonal migration in search of pastures. Each tribe has an identified route which it follows during the seasonal migration as well as selective pasture locations during their stay in various localities.
In the modern society, nomadic pastoralists face various challenges. These include resource base erosion, economic relationship changes in the regional context, and political relationship domination by central state. The rearing of so many animals on a common pasture results in the degradation of the pasture. This is due to the fact that each owner of herds tries to maximize his benefits in terms of receiving the best for the herds. The pastures that are commonly held often become depleted, and the pastoralists have to seek alternative pastures. Since the nomadic pastoralists make use of a form of communal land, there is danger of depletion of the available pastures.
In practice, the access to common pasture may be restricted to only a few individuals with the objective of preventing overuse of the pasture. The Basseri had a system of control of the herding pasture to prevent depletion and overuse of the resources (Holt, Rinehart, Winston inc., & Coast Telecourses, 1983). Chiefly Khan among the Basseri was responsible for the periodic redistribution of the pastures. The objective of redistribution was to streamline the size of the pasture and the herd population. This ensures that the number of animals within a given pasture is capable of being supported by the same pasture for a given period of time before migration takes place. In the North of Iran, the ownership of pasture is on private entities, and the surplus is given to other pastoralists on rent. This is an effective system of ensuring control of the resources (Coast Community College District, 1994).
The leadership in the Basseri culture is bestowed on the chief or the Khan. The leader has great authority and power that he exercises for the betterment of the community that he leads. The Khan uses autocratic authority to rule the community and has the role of coordinating tribal migrations and allocating pastures. The available pastures could only be used properly if allocation was done in a fair and coordinated manner. Families within the Basseri culture used to come together in groups of around five families and have their herds taken care of by one herdsman. The chief, therefore, had the responsibility of ensuring which family uses the given pasture. The depletion of the given pasture meant that the group had to migrate to a new pasture. The chief ensured coordination in the movement from one pasture to another.
In a community living together, disputes are inevitable. Among the Basseri, there often arose disputes, and since the community had to live together, dispute resolution was inevitable. Disputes often arose in the use of certain pastures by certain groups or migration into the same pasture. The chief had the responsibility of ensuring that the communities lived harmoniously by ensuring dispute resolution. Since there existed several tribes within Iran, there would often arise dispute regarding the use of a given pasture by a given tribe (Kuznar, 2006). In such situations, the chief acted as a representative of the tribe to the outsiders and in other cases, represented the tribe in the government. The leadership in the tribe was, therefore, vital in ensuring cohesiveness in the society (Womack et al., 1994).
These pastoral nomads reside in Iran and have their migration along mountains and steppes throughout the year. Basseri live in groups that are divided typically by independent households. These groupings are often known as tents. Each of the tent or household has independent ownership in regard to the property in livestock and tent unit (Levinson et al., 1991). Each man is regarded as the head of his household. Multiple tents are combined together and herd their animals in common for easier integration. In every four days, the camps are broken and the Basseri move completely and this forms their way of life. The children and women often demolish the camps moving completely to the new area and establishing a camp back up. The men, on the other hand, have the responsibility of herding the animals.
The political system of the Basseri is well organized, since the leaders of the camp are the headmen who are fully recognized by the chief. In the absence of the headman, a white beard represents the camp. This is an informal leader who acts in the capacity of headman when there is none. The representation of the tribe in administrative and political ways is implemented through these leaders. In this regard, these leaders can easily communicate with the chief as compared to a tribe member, although they are given no authority by the chief. Orders to anyone within the tribe can be given by the Khan, and every individual is bound to obey (Ng’asike, 2010).
Gathering and hunting do not play any big role in the life and the economy of Basseri. Trading and agriculture are, however, important in their lives. There exists indirect practicing of agriculture by the wealthier individuals among the Basseri. However, the production in agriculture as well as from pastoralism is not sufficient to cater for all the needs of the individuals. In this regard, the individuals in the community have to engage in trading in order to acquire the commodities that they do not produce. The tribesmen have to obtain luxury and necessity items through trade. The staple items that the community sells include wool, butter, rope, lambskins, and livestock occasionally (Lewis et al., 1994). In reality, pastoralist communities cannot live exclusively without the agricultural communities. This is because pastoralism on its own cannot be self-sufficient in complementing all the necessities of life. Pastoralism is a kind of food production that is highly specialized and involves large animals care. The practice has survived in places that do not support agriculture but provides herding pastures that are sufficient. The field also offers an opportunity for gathering and hunting. There exists stratification in the nomad pastoral societies that tend to have social differentiation like craft specialization. The non-pastoral group has less of the stratification and differentiation. However, there exists an interrelation between the agricultural group and the pastoral group in this area. This interrelation involves trade that is a vital practice, since the pastoral economy needs trade to ensure sufficiency. Selling of the pastoral products serves in improving the economy of the society and the state. The production from the Basseri is a vital component that enhances production of other vital components in the economy (Porter & Abrams, 1995).
Even though Basseri are nomadic pastoralists, they travel on certain set schedule through migration and agriculture and are often banded through sickness and healing, kinship, and social organization. Kinship in the tribe of Basseri requires a great involvement of social order. Social order has much contribution to the way of living, since it influences the harmony and unity of the society. As a result, it contributes to the existence of kinship. Kinship in this tribe is organized in tents where wife and husband live under the same tent with up to five kids. The tents in this tribe are an indication of social organization. The kinship within this tribe encompasses extensive migration in their tents. This requires social organization, which is the basic foundation of the living situation in Basseri.
It is difficult to separate politics from the ecological and economic problems that face pastoralists in the current economy. The most severe challenge that the pastoralists have to confront is their interrelation with the centralized modern states. There exists strong prejudice by the government against nomadic pastoralists who in the traditional setting did not observe the political boundaries that were arbitrary. The pastoralists had traditionally shown opposition to the powers of the state. Due to their nature of living and migration from place to place, nomadic pastoralists do not fit any bureaucratic setting in the today’s organized states. Animal rustling is another problem that the nomads have to face in the modern world. This is due to the increased crime and rivalry among different groups. These are some of the challenges that the nomads have to confront in the modern world (Teferi, Barth, Barth, & Human Relations Area Files, 2009).
In conclusion, Basseri culture observes certain set of structures and rules that enhances their correlation amongst themselves. The respect which they have for the various administrative and political structures has contributed to their coexistence. Despite their foundation in the traditional setting, Basseri had to engage in various activities that include trade, agriculture, and herding. The aspect of trade is an indication of the need to co-exist.