An Ethnic Language and Culture without a Safe Enclave: A Sociocultural Perspective


The Sabean Mandaeans are the only minority group in Iraq ‘without a safe enclave’. They are a religious ethnic group deeply rooted in the history of Mesopotamia whose existence dates back to around 2000 years. This study investigates the status of Mandaic among the Sabean Mandaeans of Baghdad and explores the cultural aspects they preserve. The researchers hypothesise that (1) Mandaic has been abandoned a long time ago, but (2) they have managed to keep alive some elements of their cultural and religious identity. A sample of 115 participants responded to a questionnaire which was preceded by a focus group interviews. Interviews were also undertaken with four participants to verify and enrich the data obtained from the questionnaire. Results show that the Sabean Mandaeans of Baghdad lack proficiency in their heritage language and that Mandaic retains ritual use while Arabic is their first language. However, Mandaeans have preserved many cultural elements, such as religious rituals, social, ethnic and religious festivals and celebrations, and family relations.


Bader Dweik, Mohammed Nofal, Ma’alim Al-Obaidi


cultural preservation, Iraq, Language loss, Mandaic, Sabean Mandaeans

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