The Soqotra Archipelago is Yemen's ultimate frontier, straddling the African Continent and the Arabian Peninsula. Its approximately 50,000 inhabitants occupy a hyphenated geographical place as well as an interstitial cultural space. Soqotra, the main island of the Archipelago, is a community of once predominantly non-nomadic transhumant pastoralists, who are now engaged in increasingly non-pastoralist livelihoods, with a unique language and a mixed ethnic composition undergoing an accelerated change process driven by a dual incorporation process: on the one hand, the Yemeni government's modernization of its infrastructure and consolidation of its political incorporation into the national community; and, on the other, a United Nations led internationalization of its economy through the implementation of an environmental protection and ecotourism development program. This paper situates these recent initiatives, as the latest phase, within a historical process of change by retracing the genealogy of Soqotra's engagement with a modernization process. It suggests that this process was primarily driven by a series of acts of political incorporation by mainland actors. These acts are seen as the crucible of the island's history, as they set in motion the mechanism of change through the reconfiguration of its local institutions resulting in the transformation of its internal social structure as well as of the associated cultural practices. Accordingly, the paper, first, offers a historical periodization of the island's transformation process through a description of the four administrative regimes introduced under the different phases of political incorporation. Second, it describes the internal adjustments engendered by each of these administrative regimes in terms of polity formation, economic strategy, and their sociocultural ramifications. Third, it concludes with the emerging dysfunctional aspects of this change process and recommends the prioritization of cultural diversity as a potential solution.

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