Picture of author.

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (1927–2008)

Autor(a) de Guests of the Sheik - An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village

12+ Works 1,109 Membros 20 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: Elizabeth Warnock Fernea in her office at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin, late 1980s

Obras de Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

Associated Works

Wild Thorns (1976) — Tradutor, algumas edições235 cópias
The Intersections Collection: Pearson Custom Sociology (2008) — Contribuinte — 1 exemplar(es)


Conhecimento Comum

Nome de batismo
Fernea, Elizabeth Janet Warnock
Outros nomes
Warnock, Betty Jane
Warnock, B. J.
Data de nascimento
Data de falecimento
Local de nascimento
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Local de falecimento
Austin, Texas, USA
Locais de residência
La Canada Flintridge, California, USA (death)
El Nahra, Iraq
Cairo, Egypt
Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada
Portland, Oregon, USA
Reed College
Mount Holyoke College
University of Chicago
documentary filmmaker
Fernea, Robert A. (husband)
Middle East Studies Association of North America
University of Texas at Austin
Pequena biografia
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea was a writer, anthropologist, and filmmaker who spent much of her life in the field documenting the struggles and turmoil of the lives of women in Middle Eastern and African cultures. Her husband, Robert A. Fernea, also an anthropologist, was a large influence in her life, and they collaborated on many projects. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in a mining town in Manitoba, Canada. At age 14, after the outbreak of World War II, the family moved to Portland, Oregon. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Reed College, where she started calling herself "B.J." and the nickname stuck. She did graduate work at Mount Holyoke College and at the University of Chicago. In 1956, as a newlywed, she went with her new husband to stay in the remote Iraqi village of El Nahra, where he was doing fieldwork for his doctorate. To accommodate his studies, she lived as the local women did -- separated from the men, wearing the veil, and covering herself in public in a black abayah. The couple stayed in the home of a sheik, and Elizabeth spent her days with the women of the sheik's harem. By the time she left two years later, she had won the affection of the women with her efforts to learn their language and culture. The experience provided the material for Elizabeth's first and most famous work, her memoir Guests of the Sheik, An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village (1969). The Ferneas then moved to Cairo, where their three children were born, and Robert taught at the American University. In 1965, they returned to the USA and settled in Austin, Texas, where he taught at the University of Texas and she began writing books. In 1975, after serving in a number of staff jobs at UT, she was appointed senior lecturer of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies, and eventually became full professor. She chaired the university's Women's Studies Program from 1980 to 1983 before retiring in 1999.Her other books included In Search of Feminism: One Woman's Global Journey (1998), for which she traveled to nine countries over two years; The Arab World: Personal Encounters (1985), written with her husband; and Children in the Muslim Middle East (1995), a collection of essays that she edited. Elizabeth Fernea produced several documentaries about the Middle East, including Living With the Past: Historic Cairo (2001).



4.5 stars

The outdated cover doesn't do this book justice. It was one of the more interesting memoirs I've read as of late.

Fernea details her time living with a rural tribe in Iraq in the late 1950s. Her husband is studying for a doctorate as an anthropologist, and she helps him by relating the stories of the tribe's women and their customs.

I enjoyed learning of the cultural differences between this tribe and my own society. It was also nice to see some similarities. I do wonder how much has changed in Iraqi culture in the 60 years since the events in the book took place.

Worth a read!
… (mais)
RachelRachelRachel | outras 12 resenhas | Nov 21, 2023 |
First of all this book was written in 1958. I was fooled by the cover which made it look more contemporary. But this is my fault since I never checked the publication date until the author mentioned that Faisel was the head of Iraq, and Faisel preceded Sadam Hussein. This not an ethnographic study; it is a memoir of a woman's life in a Shiite tribal settlement in Southern Iraq. This is not to diminish it. The book is quite moving particularly in the parts in which the author must navigate the female culture in this conservative outpost where the veil is always worn and a woman would never even be seen by a man unless covered or found in the company of an unmarried man. In the end there is a poignant moment in which the author makes a mistake and with a local friend goes for a ride in the vehicle driven by a man and returning realizes that the woman could be killed for this. There is no choice but to lie. There was a very moving moment also when she is first introduced and understands very little Arabic but enough to know she is being disparaged, only to be rescued by the Sheik's favorite wife. Of course, I had presumed that this book would deal with the conflict between cultures through the prism of the recent disastrous war and occupation, but it doesn't. Still the book cuts to the core of how common humanity given time, patience and a lot of compassion can create bonds between people with very very different backgrounds. It is not an ethnographic study because the kind of distant analysis of the cultural differences is rarely touched upon. What we get instead is a memoir of the interactions. Lastly the book does a terrific job giving us the play by play of the core Shiite holy ceremonies surrounding the martyrdom of Hussein, the 7th Iman, and the seismic emotion these rituals hold of the Shiite people. You get a bird's eye view of how swept up people are by the story.… (mais)
Hebephrene | outras 12 resenhas | Oct 3, 2017 |
I read this as a freshman in college and it has never been more relevant. It is an ethnography of the women of an Iraqi village named El Nahra. At the time it was written, the author was not an anthropologist but the wife of one of the men in the village. In fact, she was a newlywed!

I wish I knew where my copy of this book was. I'd like to read it again.
bookofmoons | outras 12 resenhas | Sep 1, 2016 |
An American scholar who has long studied Muslim women returned to the Islamic world in the 1990s to interview women about their activities as and for women and their understanding of “Islamic Feminism.”

Elizabeth Fernea first came to the Middle East in the 1950s as the young bride of an anthropologist doing research in a small village in southern Iraq. As a result of living there for two years, she wrote a very insightful account of her experiences with the village women, women who were strictly segregated from the men. After returning she and her husband both taught at the University of Texas and continued to spend time in various Arab countries. She continued to write and create films about Muslim women. In the 1990s she decided to explore the issue of feminism for Muslims. Returning to Muslim regions, she interviewed a variety of women and a few men about the conditions for women in their countries. Often these were women with whom she was already friends. She visited Uzbekistan, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine. She founded the women of the Iraq village in which she had lived still valued her friendship and that gender segregation had weakened over the years. Returning to the United States, she also interviewed American Muslim women.

What is most clear in the book is that conditions for women in Muslim communities vary enormously. For those of us who tend to lump Muslims and/or feminists together, we need to absorb this critical fact. In some places women have rights and benefits that we are still struggling for in the United States. For example, while most of us assume that feminism is linked to democracy, Iraqi women in the 1990s were grateful to Sadam Hessian for the benefits he established for them by acting as a dictator.

Here and there Fernea found women who strongly identified themselves as feminists. More generally, however, she found women deeply engaged in efforts to improve women’s lives in ways we might consider feminist in the United States. But these women often refused to identify as feminists. Women find themselves fighting against the misogyny of both traditional and colonial leaders. Globally, an easy way for opponents to attack women is to label them as feminists and therefore as American or foreign. Feminism is said to be a luxury for outsiders.

Yet Muslim women are working with Christian and Jewish women to resolve these specific problems rather than attacking particular men. They struggle with poverty, lack of education or economic independence, oppressive family and marriage laws, and other issues that affect them as wives and mothers. Fernea’s book is full of descriptions of the variety of ways that Muslim women working to improve their own lives and those of other women within their families and religion.

More basically, women in other parts of the world remain grounded in family and religion, in ways that many western feminists do not. They view western feminists as too secular and too individualistic. They often lump all western feminists together and fail to understand the variety within western feminism. Muslim women, like other post-colonel ones, do make an important point. For better or worse, the “Western Civilization” differs from other cultures in its emphasis on progress through secular, individualistic efforts for both men and women. Muslim women want better lives, but they do not define them as most of us do. They particularly resent western assumptions of what they need.

Fernea does not provide us with a neat picture of Islamic feminism. In fact she remains ambivalent over whether such a thing exists. Instead she ends her book with useful comments about feminism in general and how her project showed her the need to reconsider how we define it. In her travels, she observed the limitations of mainstream western feminism and our need to listen respectfully to others. The novels I have been reading have convinced me of the same point.

I gladly recommend Searching for Islamic Feminism to readers interested in the lives and projects of Muslim women. Its information was collected twenty years ago and may be somewhat dated, but much of what Fernea observed continues to be valuable.
… (mais)
mdbrady | outras 3 resenhas | May 18, 2016 |



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