“Writing women’s worlds: Bedouin stories” Lila Abu-Lughod

“Every book tells tales, some intended, some not. This is a book of stories by and about some women in a small Bedouin community in Egypt. It is made up of conversations, narratives, arguments, songs, reminiscences, even an essay, that these women shared with each other or with me. I recall them here in a certain order with a very different audience in mind. In the way I have retold these tales and the very fact that I have chosen to keep them as “just stories” lies a tale meant for my professional colleagues – the anthropologist, feminist scholars, and students of the Muslim Middle East to whom this introductions is largely addressed.
In one sense, of course, the unusual form of this ethnography owes much to the remarkable women in the Awlad Ali Bedouin community with whom I lived. During my first stay in this small hamlet on the northwest coast of Egypt, a stay of nearly two years in the late 1970s, I rarely felt comfortable tape-recording. After I returned to the United States, I wrote a book based on eighteen tattered notebooks in which I had scribbled notes. In it I tried to present a general analysis of social life, morality, and poetry in this community, with a special focus on gender relations (Abu-Lughod 1986)”.


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