Generosity, gift giving, and gift avoiding in southern Oman
Gibali (Jibbali/Shahri) is a Modern South Arabian language spoken in the coastal plain and mountains of the Dhofar region of southern Oman. Although there are researchers actively documenting Gibali, there has been little anthropological work on the speakers of this non-written language. Building on nine years of research about, and interactions with, Gibali speakers the author describes the concept of the gift in the Arab, Muslim, tribal culture of Gibali speakers. This article tries to form an appreciation of Gibalis by explaining their understanding of the definition of gifts as well as gift giving, receiving, reciprocating, and avoiding. From the field of gift theory, the author draws on Mauss, Godelier, Bourdieu, Appadurai, and Godbout and Caillé, to create a framework for the ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ of gifts. From the fields of travel writing and history, examples from Wilfred Thesiger and the memoirs of soldiers from the Dhofar War (1965–1975) are used to provide a historical perspective. The result is an insight into a culture in which gifts are, for the most part, not necessary as there are many limits placed on who can give/receive, the time to give/receive, and the kind of object that is considered a gift.