One of my ongoing research projects concerns the provenance, history, structure, and (present-day) saliency or just mere survival (if any) of clans and other traditional kinship groups among Chechens, Albanians and other often stereotyped ‘archaic’ peoples and communities; soon this research project will produce its first distinct publications (book reviews, research notes and essays, etc.).
For these publications, I will use and refer to the following extensive table that shows half a dozen major characteristics of 74 discrete and 3 composite Albanian tribes in Robert Elsie’s Tribes of Albania (I.B. Tauris, 2015): see robertelsietribesalbaniafeatureslist2018.
This extensive table – and a simplified table to be shown in one or more publications – is constructed by me, not by Robert Elsie, though it closely follows Elsie’s (yet expands beyond) sections and headings on Location of Tribal Territory; Population; Tribal Legendry, Ancestry and History; Travel Impressions (by foreign visitors); and (domestic, native) Figures of Note. The characteristics of the better-known and/or documented tribes are described under all or most of these sections and headings in Elsie’s book, the lesser-known and/or documented ones only under some of them. Yet the table includes some more separate categories I have distinguished myself, on e.g. saliency of blood-feuds and miscellaneous facts, and some more intricate or nuanced information within the cells of the columns.
Reviewed and discussed source: Robert Elsie, The Tribes of Albania: History, Society and Culture London/New York: I.B. Tauris, 2015
Preliminary explanation of the table’s categories and columns (see again robertelsietribesalbaniafeatureslist2018)
A = Tribe: as identified by its most common a/o etymologically, linguistically correct name according to Elsie, and so used in particularly the relatively well-recorded and salient 1850-1950 period. If the tribe is (deemed) a fis i.e. patrilineal kin group in the strict sense in Tribes of Albania, it is indicated as such after the tribe’s name in the same column ‘A’. If not, it is (deemed) of “polyphyletic origin and was thus not a fis in the sense of a tribe claiming descent on the male side from one common ancestor” (e.g. p. 38). Apparently, at least according to Elsie, there were and are no (ethnic-)Albanian matrilineal tribes to speak of.
B = Tribal region: the most durable, stable and well-known, well-recorded area of concentration of at least a significant majority of the tribe, generally sometime in or across the 1850-1950 period.
C = Bajraks: number and names if specified; often the (overarching) tribe is a single bajrak as well; usually the number ‘1’ in any cell for a certain tribe in this column signifies this too if that tribe has (known) no other bajraks within its ranks. One must keep in mind that many bajraks within larger tribes are or were “considered tribes in their own right” (p. 121, on e.g. Gimaj and Theth as two purported bajraks within the Shala tribe).
D = First Mentioning: date (generally AD) of first reliable, ascertainable reference of the tribe or tribe’s name in a historical record/source – at least as indicated or suggested by Elsie in his book (normally under the ‘Population’ section) – that has survived to this day or is at least cited in another record/source that has survived; the name may be differently spelled or rendered in that source. Between brackets: other dates of recorded references (sometimes less certain and more contestable), a/o mythical, purported or likely date or period of origin of the tribe – at least regarding its arrival in “their present territory” (e.g. p.106) as circumscribed in section/column B (typically indicating that the tribe is actually much older as a kin group yet once lived in one or more other regions). These ‘mythical’ dates – generally/mostly mentioned in Elsie’s section ‘Tribal Legendry’ for the tribe in question, but also in Elsie’s overview of Baron Nopsca’s overall chronology of (mythical, purported) tribal origins (pp. 6-7) – are put between single parentheses. More often than not, such a date or period predates its first recorded mentioning that can be traced, typically for many decades or even centuries prior. Again, any ‘ancestral birth date’ is also shown between brackets if specified in Tribes of Albania. Sometimes however, this ancestral date according to tribal legendry postdates the first known and/or preserved mentioning of the tribe’s name (referring to a kin group) in a written-down historical record (see e.g. on the Kastrati: pp.68 (“land register in 1416”), 70 (“figure called Dedli … who lived at the end of the sixteenth century”).
E: Population Size of the tribe according to Seiner’s 1918 census. If the latter is not used i.e. does not contain such information on the said tribe, then according to another source around the same or nearby period if available and cited in Tribes of Albania: then the estimated number is shown between square brackets.
F: Number of Households in the tribe according to Seiner’s 1918 census. If according to another source around the same or nearby period, then the estimated number is shown between square brackets.
G: Religious Affiliation of the tribe or at least a predominant majority of it within particularly the 1850-1950 period, if known and mentioned in Elsie’s Tribes of Albania. One must keep in mind that (m)any of these tribes – if still extant and functioning after 1950 (very rare according to Elsie) – nowadays have become more Muslim than in earlier periods. If the predominant affiliation is uncertain, it is shown with a question mark, e.g. ‘Muslim?’; if the numerical spread of affiliations is practically, approximately or nearly equal between two or more affiliations, at least for a considerable period of time (many decades), it is shown by one or more slashes, e.g. ‘Muslim/Catholic’ or ‘Muslim/Catholic/Orthodox’ – in the latter case roughly one-third of the tribe follows one of these three denominations; if a significant minority follows another denomination then that denomination is shown between brackets, e.g. ‘Muslim (Catholic)’. If there was a major(ity) conversion trend prior to or during the 1850-1950 period, this is indicated in a short arrow, e.g. ‘Catholic → Muslim’. Generally, the historic conversion trend among the Albanians over the last centuries and millennia has been Animist → Orthodox → Catholic → Muslim (orthodox Sunni or heterodox Sufi), with a significant if hardly durable side-trend from all denominations toward ‘Atheism’ during Communist rule. During and after Ottoman rule, most (people within) Albanian tribes have gradually converted to Islam, though at least a dozen major tribes have remained staunchly Catholic for as long as they remained tribes in practice and not just in name. If any, a tribe may also be indicated as ‘Secular’ or even ‘Atheist’, or e.g. ‘Animist’ or any other belief-system other than one of the three main Abrahamic world religions.
H: known for frequent, endemic blood-feuds within the tribe a/o with other tribes, especially based on kanun honour-codes and particularly occurring within the 1850-1950 period. We are here focusing on blood-feuds in the narrow indigenous sense, not in the broader sense that may involve revenge and defence against e.g. foreign invaders, nor in the even wider sense of martialism, fierceness, warlike-ness a/o rebelliousness. Still, all these norms and practices – including (through) marauding and plundering – often coincided with or were expressed through blood-feud norms and practices. The ‘ordinal’ grading scale is as follows: Y: strong ‘yes’ i.e. fully/strongly so; (Y): somewhat/partially so; (N): a partial ‘no’, so hardly/weakly so; and N: strong ‘no’, not at all so. NB: if no grading i.e. ‘empty’: unknown, or at least unspecified by Elsie. If the tribe was known for marauding, plundering and fierce resistance to outsiders as mentioned by Elsie) yet not explicitly for blood-feuding (ibid), it is generally graded ‘(Y)’ as the former characteristics often coincided with or were expressed through blood-feuding (norms and practices). NB: if no grading i.e. ‘empty’: unknown, or at least unspecified by Elsie; if I am/the author is still uncertain about a definite grading, then both possible, most likely valid grades are shown separated by a slash, e.g. ‘(Y)/Y’. If for instance the latter possible grade clearly is the less likely or more questionable one of the two, then it is indicated e.g. as ‘(Y)/Y?’.
I: ‘Extant Saliency’: the degree of survival and/or vibrancy of the tribe to this day or last known date or period, for so far specified by Elsie, which is rarely the case (this lack or shortcoming is discussed elsewhere). The last known extant date is shown between brackets if mentioned in Tribes of Albania. The ‘ordinal’ grading scale is as follows: Y: strong ‘yes’ i.e. fully/strongly extant and salient; (Y): somewhat/reasonably extant and salient; (N): a partial ‘no’, so hardly/weakly extant and salient; and N: strong ‘no’, not at all extant and salient. NB: if no grading i.e. ‘empty’: unknown, or at least unspecified by Elsie; if I am/the author is still uncertain about a definite grading, then both possible, most likely valid grades are shown separated by a slash, e.g. ‘(Y)/Y’. If for instance the first possible grade clearly is the less likely or more questionable one of the two, then it is indicated e.g. as ‘(Y)?/Y’.
J: Miscellaneous: any other significant facts and characteristics about the tribe in question that can be usefully and succinctly mentioned in the table.
Editings, translations, illustrations
Many of my editorial and translational, and illustrational and other artistic projects I did, or still do, for Tasso Publishing (www.tassouitgeverij.nl), Joho Company Leiden (www.joho.nl), and some other companies and organisations (see further page ‘Curriculum Vitae’).
Apart from designing logos such as for the International Committee for Humanitarian Intervention (www.ichuminterv.org) – see the picture on the left – I have been doing few illustrational projects in recent years. Still, I would like to carry out such projects again. The list below shows in more detail some of the major projects in these fields.
2011 – present Proofreader, editor and translator of manuscripts, for individuals and organisations like Tasso Publishing (www.tasso.nl; www.tassouitgeverij.nl) and the Association for the Study of EthnoGeoPolitics (www.ethnogeopolitics.org).
Recent, current and/or ongoing translation projects from Dutch to English for Tasso Publishing:
– Hans ten Dam, Catharsis, Integratie en Transformatie (Catharsis, Integration and Transformation), 2012, Paperback ISBN: 978-90-755-68240 & Hardcover ISBN: 978-90-755-6823-3.
– Hans ten Dam, Een secretaresse in de etalage (A Secretary in the Display Window), , ISBN: 978-90-755-6825.
– Hans ten Dam, De schaduw van de groene berg (The Shadow of the Green Mountain), ISBN: 978-90-75568-21-9.
– Map illustrations in the current and original editions of Hans ten Dam, De schaduw van de groene berg (The Shadow of the Green Mountain), 2012.
– Cartoon illustrations in Hans ten Dam, De Draagbare politie-adviseur (The Portable police-advisor), 1996.
ISBN10-9075568037 / ISBN13-9789075568035 (out of print).