Re: Who or what are the Khamseh?

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Posted by John Downie on November 16, 1998 at 17:39:28:

In Reply to: Who or what are the Khamseh? posted by Steve Price on November 15, 1998 at 14:43:39:

A key question to be addressed in grouping revolves around the issue of optimality. Specifically, what is the most useful level of aggregation of a type? If I ask you about your dog and you tell me that its a mammal, that may be less useful than telling me that its a hound. Better still, you may tell me that its a beagle. If there were 5,000 dog breeds, however, one might stop at a higher level of grouping. A second question is the ability to delineate groups. If one cannot reliably distinguish between the weavings of a set of tribal subgroups, then one is better off staying at the more aggregated tribal level. A third point to consider is the commonality of the members of a grouping. If the weavings of a group are so disparate that the description doen't add information, then a more specific attribution would be more useful.

: The usual identification of the Khamseh in books like Opie's TRIBAL RUGS is that it was a confederation of five tribes in the general area of Shiraz, in southern Iran. The word "Khamseh" is derived from the Farsi word, "Kham", meaning "five.

: At ICOC in Hamburg a few years back, Cyrus Parham was critical of the rug world's grouping these five tribes into one weaving category. He argued that there was little common ground among them in terms of weaving tradition, and the political confederation didn't change that significantly.

: I don't have enough of a feel for Khamseh group textiles to know whether I think Parham's views on this should be adopted, and I think it would be interesting to hear some informed opinions about it.

: On the other hand, it does raise the more general issue of when it makes sense to consolidate several tribes or geographic locations into a group. For example, the Belouch group includes a number of tribes, ethnically distinct, including three different languages. Yet, there is an easily recognizable "Belouch aesthetic" that they share. Similarly, we routinely group several Turkmen populations under the heading "Yomud", a number of others as "Ersari", and so forth, and all of this seems reasonable.

: What makes groupings reasonable? I think the practice of creating categories, not only of rugs, but of anything, is a kind of convenient shorthand. If I tell you that a dog is a member of the group we call mammals, I have transmitted a grreat deal of information about dogs in very few words. It probably makes sense to use the same sort of criterion for weaving groups. Does grouping the weavers provide a convenient shorthand for talking about their products? If so, the grouping is reasonable; if not, it isn't.

: Steve Price

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