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Lila 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 relationship between ideology and human experience.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
A NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTIONS
One: Guest and Daughter
PART ONE: THE IDEOLOGY OF BEDOUIN SOCIAL LIFE
Two: Identity in Relationship
Three: Honor and the Virtues of Autonomy
Four: Modesty, Gender, and Sexuality
PART TWO: DISCOURSES ON SENTIMENT
Five: The Poetry of Personal Life
Six: Honor and Poetic Vulnerability
Seven: Modesty and the Poetry of Love
Eight: Ideology and the Politics of Sentiment
APPENDIX: FORMULAS AND THEMES OF THE GHINNAWA
Posted February 27, 2014
As part of our IB anthropology course, Veiled Sentiments is one of the ethnographies we study. The book is well structured and addresses many controversial issues, which are commonly stereotyped about the Bedouin society. It provides a clear discernment into the community of the Awlad ‘Ali of the Libyan Desert, which contrary to common belief have a highly developed social economic systems.
The book introduces the reader to the Bedouins code of honor and how such a code of behavior and values can shape a society. The book covers chapters on the lineage system of the Bedouins, the change in economy as well as focusing on the significance of poetry and veiling within the society. The author studies the poetry of the Awlad ‘Ali in great depth, there is a whole chapter which focuses on the “science” behind the poetry, in which the author focuses on formulas used to construct the poems and the main themes expressed in poetry. She also provides the reader with extra notes, which help explain difficult and more complicated concepts and theories.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Bedouin culture and those who perceive the Bedouins as a vestigial society. The book not only provides the reader with a clear and precise overview of the Bedouin culture but also compares the author’s findings with published anthropological papers and theories.
Posted February 27, 2014
I studied this book as part of my IB Social and Cultural Anthropology course and I found that it was extremely insightful and very well written. It clearly explored the concept of hidden feelings (veiled sentiments) within the Awlad ‘Ali and gave me a better understanding of their culture. I particularly enjoyed the encounters of the author with locals from the Awlad ‘Ali community and I loved reading about their personal experiences. What was even better was that the recounting of these experiences helped give me a better understanding of the rules and norms within the Awlad ‘Ali society.
I found that Veiled Sentiments was a great book to study as the starter of the Social and Cultural Anthropology course, as I had never studied anthropology before. It helped me understand my own culture better as I drew comparisons from the Awlad ‘Ali to my own. I found that being a Muslim, I could relate to a few of their concepts in their culture as the same were present in my own.
Posted February 11, 2014
Veiled Sentiments truly does bring new light to preconceived concepts of Bedouin societies and cultures. It provides an extensive insight into an unexpectedly intricate social system, covering the means of which Bedouins (both men and women), conduct themselves in public and social life, and also provides an in-depth study on poetry (ghinnawa) and the expression of sentiment through it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who perceives Bedouin, or even Arab lifestyles as rudimentary and lacking, for I feel that it really does provide a progressive view on their culture. The book covers such topics as veiling, modesty, and honour, as well as a detailed analysis of their poetry and how it provides an opportunity for expression that is not available in normal social interactions. The book comes complete with a section that describes the formulas and themes of the poetry, as well as extensive notes over the whole eight chapters that provide further insight into her book.