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Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society (30th Anniversary Edition)

by Lila Abu-Lughod University of California Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 384 pages
AU$64.00 NZ$66.96
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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& Academics:
30th Anniversary Ediiton with a New Afterword.


First published in 1986, Lila Abu-Lughod’s Veiled Sentiments has proven a classic ethnography in the field of anthropology. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Abu-Lughod lived with a community of Bedouins in the Western Desert of Egypt for nearly two years, studying gender relations and the oral lyric poetry through which women and young men express personal feelings. The poems are haunting, the evocation of emotional life vivid. But her analysis also reveals how deeply implicated poetry and sentiment are in the play of power and the maintenance of a system of social hierarchy. What begins as a puzzle about a single poetic genre becomes a reflection on the politics of sentiment and the complexity of moral cultures. This thirtieth anniversary edition includes a new afterword that reflects on developments both in anthropology and in the lives of this community of Awlad 'Ali Bedouins who find themselves increasingly enmeshed in national political and social formations. The afterword ends with a personal meditation on the meaning—for all involved—of that radical experience we call anthropological fieldwork and how to meet the ethical responsibilities it presents to the ethnographer in an unequal world where knowledge travels.   

A Note on Transcriptions

One: Guest and Daughter
The Community
Poetry and Sentiment

The Ideology of Bedouin Social Life

Two: Identity in Relationship
Asl: The Blood of Ancestry
Garaba: The Blood of Relationship
Maternal Ties and a Common Life
Identification and Sharing
Identity in a Changing World

Three: Honor and the Virtues of Autonomy
Autonomy and Hierarchy
The Family Model of Hierarchy
Honor: The Moral Basis of Hierarchy
Limits on Power
Hasham: Honor of the Weak

Four: Modesty, Gender, and Sexuality
Gender Ideology and Hierarchy
The Social Value of Male and Female
The "Natural" Bases of Female Moral
Red Belts and Black Veils: The Symbolism of Gender and Sexuality
Sexuality and the Social Order
Hasham Reconsidered: Deference and the Denial of Sexuality
The Meaning of Veiling

Discourses on Sentiment

Five: The Poetry of Personal Life
On Poetry in Context
The Poetry of Self and Sentiment

Six: Honor and Poetic Vulnerability
Discourses on Loss
Matters of Pride
Responding to Death
The Discourse of Honor

Seven: Modesty and the Poetry of Love
Discourses on Love
Star–Crossed Lovers
An Arranged Marriage
Marriage, Divorce, and Polygyny

Eight: Ideology and the Politics of Sentiment
The Social Contexts of Discourse
Protective Veils of Form
The Meaning of Poetry
The Politics of Sentiment
Ideology and Experience
Ethnography''s Values: An Afterword

Appendix: Formulas and Themes of the Ghinnawa

Lila Abu-Lughod is Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University, where she teaches anthropology and gender studies. She is the author of Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt, and Do Muslim Women Need Saving?