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Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society (updated with a new preface)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,158 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Updated Edition With a New Preface

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 an
Paperback, 356 pages
Published March 31st 2000 by University of California Press (first published 1986)
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Feb 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
First off I loved this book. I read through it almost (not quite but almost) as one does through fiction. Lila Abu-Lughod's concentrated account of Bedouin life, from her semi-internal perspective, is beautiful.

My eyebrows did raise in irritiation during the first chapter. I anticipated a dry, highly academic analysis of a people group. I was not looking forward to this. And in the first chapter of method-explanation, Abu Lughod does use that certain--often obnoxious--bank of anthropological voc
A popular work among undergraduate anthropology students, and for good reason. Like Karen McCarthy Brown's "Mama Lola", it contains reflexive anthropology, as the ethnographer is both friend and observer of her interlocutors. Feminists who view Islam as a religion oppressive of women should read this for an alternative perspective that comes from the heart of Muslim women themselves. The most fascinating segment of this ethnography is the discussion of Bedouin men and women's use of spoken poetr ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent analysis of discourse and ideology. Probably need to read Arabic to fully appreciate her arguments, as their strength lies in her analysis of poems. Was a bit rushed when I read this so will have to go back, particularly the parts about gender and honor.
May 25, 2015 added it
This year I've read a lot about "honour" in ancient Rome, and at various other junctures in human history. Nothing has been as thought-provoking as I remember Lila Abu-Lughod's book being when I read it some 5 years ago. Maybe I should read it again. There is not as much on poetry here as a literary critic might like to see -- indeed, I felt like I needed to read something else on Arabic poetic traditions to understand not the points the author makes, but why she emphasizes them as she does. On ...more
Mary Rose
I can't deny that this book is well written, and I would call it a must-read for anyone who wants a female perspective on the Bedouin people, but I really couldn't get into it. I don't want to be one of those White Western Feminists who looks down on other societies, but page after page on female subservience to men does get a little exhausting after a while. It wasn't my cup of tea, and I read it for a class, but if you're interested in the subject matter definitely pick up a copy. ...more
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthro
Abu-Lughod succeeds in crafting a wonderfully empathic, sincere and yet well documented and fundamented etnography of an Egyptian Bedouin tribe with its internal mechanics of an honor based ideology of social order with it's parallel discourses of 'structured resistance'.

The ways in which this etnography succeeds in going past merely analytically describing those observed and they dynamics through a dry, overtly academic lense, are closely tied to Abu-Lughod being Arabic herself and being a woma
Suzanne Ondrus
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found it fascinating how in Bedouin society (in Egypt) it was taboo to talk of love or of sexual desire in direct discourse; however, saying the exact same thing but via poetry was very socially acceptable. I look forward to reading more from this author on this subject. I was surprised that the poems in this society are only two lines. I wondered why. The repression of women's sexuality is appalling. Women are shamed if they want to have sex with their husband and are in old age or have finis ...more
Fiachra MacFadden
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lila Abu-Lughod’s ethnography, Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society, details honor, gender relations and poetry among the Awlad ‘Ali, a Bedouin community living in western Egypt. Based on two years of fieldwork conducted from 1978 to 1980, Abu-Lughod goes to great lengths to understand the Awlad ‘Ali on their own terms. She does this by portraying them as best she can through careful and patient observation, rather than going into her fieldwork with a set of questions and spe ...more
Rachel Terry
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The author lived with the Awlad 'Ali Bedouin tribe for two years, 1978-1980 while she was working on anthropology graduate work. Even though I'm sure the differences between modern Bedouins and ancient Middle Easterners is vast, I felt like I was reading an ethnography of Old Testament people, which was very helpful and interesting. The first half of the book gives a cultural context and the last half places everyday ghinnawa poetry in that context. Expanded my understanding. ...more
Diane Omari
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, descriptive, and insightful ethnography. It really opens your eyes up to cultural relativism, and provokes thought on the purpose behind beliefs and practices of the Bedouin society in the context of the deserts in Western Egypt. I really enjoyed reading this for my first anthropology course. It not only made me more interested in the field of study, but I feel more open-minded and understanding in my own life.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
An academic and somewhat dry book about Bedouin society that I accidentally stole from my womens studies professor. It's been quite awhile since I read it, but I do remember that the topic is the book's saving grace. Bedouin culture and their way of expressing themselves was engrossing, and I enjoyed learning more. ...more
Jamie is
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anthropologists, and not really those who have a general interest in arab cultures
Shelves: favebooks
loved abu lughod's musings on bedouin culture and her interaction with it, as well as the poetry which she recorded. however, the use of the veil as a metaphor or main theme for middle eastern cultures is hackneyed and misguided and is the reason why i removed a star from my rating. ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthropology
Very tight analysis linking kinship, ideology and oral narrative. An excellent introduction to ethnographic writing for undergrads and forms part of the conversations on the ethnography of speaking, or text, texture and context of oral narrative.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beat some of the points to death, but overall it wasn't a bad read. It was enlightening and thought-provoking. If I had more time, I'd like to read more about the Bedouin society as they seem to be a fascinating people. ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read for anthropology class at uni. Great book that offers amazing insights into the Bedouin world - one I didn't know existed before I read Veiled Sentiments. Can't wait to read the rest of Lila's works. ...more
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: culturalstudies
This was one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. If you have ever wanted a deeper understanding of the Bedouins or the Muslim practice of veiling, you should read this.
May 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthropology
This is a beautiful book and will totally change your understanding of the veiling practices of certain cultures. Read with an open mind.
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Very good ethnography and one of the few that is pleasant to read.
Vashti Puls
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I shouls have been poor there. Alot of the same type restrictions for women in my strict Catholic family.
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked it but the one thing that kept me hesitant throughout the book is that she wrote it without the Awlad Ali's permission. ...more
I couldn't finish this book ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars.

An interesting and well-written insight into another culture.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommended to John by: Teacher
Had to read for anthropology class. Did not enjoy that class much.
Irina Elena
A truly fascinating topic and very engaging writing, but lots of repetition of the exact same concept in different chapters and at times even within the same chapter, resulting in a book that is at least 30% longer than it needed to be.
I'd like to point out however that this was one of those extremely rare cases of a required university reading also being something that I would snuggle up by the fireplace with and read for pleasure; for all its faults, an extremely enjoyable learning experience,
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Veiled sentiments of modern understanding

I have read this book for my own education. It’s part of a masters in anthropology, and as a white university student for Norway the idea of life in a Bedouin society is far from my understanding. Still the book is well written and the last part of this book makes it a very powerful experience.
Sep 22, 2020 added it
this book made me want to diiiiiie i rlly don't want to read the rest of the books for school ...more
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
read this in my anthro class and it was so interesting i really enjoyed it. i still think about it and i thinknit was really good for my studies :)
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bestseller by the most popular postwar writer for children of all ages.
Chapter 1 contains the realities of fieldwork (author's father had to initially accompany her). ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Had to read this for one of my courses, and it was surprising good.
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Lila Abu-Lughod was born to Palestinian academic Ibrahim Abu-Lughod and American sociologist Janet Abu-Lughod in 1952. She obtained her PhD from Harvard University in 1984. She is is an American with Palestinian and Jewish ancestry who is professor of Anthropology and Women's and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York City. A specialist of the Arab world, her seven books, most based on ...more

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
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