Both of these works, by women scholars of the Arab world, focus on the fascinating poetic forms of modern Egyptian Bedouin. Lila Abu-Lughod's "Veiled Sentiments," a case study of the Awlad 'Ali tribes of the desert that borders the Mediterranean and Libya, concentrates on the relationship between the rigid Bedouin code of honor and Bedouin poetry, in which sentiments in conflict with that code are released. Bridget Connelly's "Arab Folk Epic and Identity" is primarily an interpretive study of one Arab epic poem, the Sirat Bani Hilal: the saga of the adventures of the Hilali tribe from the early centuries of Islam to their migrations through North Africa in the 13th Century. Her work centers on this singular, important oral epic as still recited today, 800 years later, by the Bedouin of Upper (southern) Egypt.
My work, strongly ethnographic and mostly based in Egypt, has focused on three broad issues: the relationship between cultural forms and power; the politics of knowledge and representation; and the dynamics of gender and the question of women’s rights in the Middle East . My first book, Veiled Sentiments, was about the politics of sentiment and cultural expression in a Bedouin community in Egypt that made an argument about the complexity of culture. My second book, Writing Women’s Worlds, framed as a feminist ethnography, used individual stories to make a larger argument about “writing against culture” (writing against typifications of social structure and cultural form by attending to internal argument, individual lives, and complex social dynamics) as a means of intervening in vexed discourses about a maligned region as well as challenging transnational feminist representations of women in Arab societies. My third ethnography, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt, a contribution to the anthropology of nations and to media ethnography, explored the tensions between the social inequalities that bedevil nations and the cultural forms that aspire to address them. In a number of edited books, as well as my teaching, I have pursued these themes further to examine questions of gender and modernity in postcolonial theory, of anthropology and global media, and of violence national/cultural memory. Currently, as part of an effort to use anthropology to contribute to larger political debates, I am focusing on critiques of the universalist claims of liberalism and on the ethical and political dilemmas entailed in the international circulation of discourses of human rights in general, and Muslim women’s rights in particular.
Lila Abu-Lughod is Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at , where she teaches anthropology and women’s studies. She is the author of Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt and Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Her newest book is
The book, Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society, by author and anthropologist, Lila Abu-Lughod, who is best known for her work on women's issues in the middle east, presents two years of fieldwork in Egypt among the Awlad' Ali Bedouin community who have gone from living a nomadic lifestyle , a farming system where animals are transported from one area to another in search for fresh grazing land, to living in villages where smuggling, raising animals, and doing odd jobs are ways of supporting themselves. In the book, Abu-Lughod brings together the concepts of structure, hierarchy, ideology, and discourse to illustrate the Bedouin culture, and how the Awlad' Ali deal with sentiments. Veiled Sentiments is divided into two significant parts, The Ideology of Bedouin Social Life and Discourses on Sentiment, that come together to better express the culture of the Awlad' Ali, and how they view sentiments.