I enjoyed reading this article over some of the other readings we’ve been asked to read. I think that this is mostly because I’m also interested in Archaeology but on top of that, I like that it takes a different view point of Israel’s history. Most of the historical background of Israel is based on the knowledge that we have from biblical references or even just a historical aspect. This reading takes the knowledge a little deeper; to be able to associate a spear with a human and imagine a scenario of these two things being, at one time, together.
I also was interested by the process of how to dig and what they’re digging with. When I took a class on archaeology, it was taught when you find the region you’re going to dig, to do so with care. I think of this as I’m reading about them using bulldozers to get into the ground and, honestly, finding it a little amusing. It’s once they find themselves in the level of earth that they begin to use smaller, more expected, tools.
Overall, this read was interesting; I found enjoyment in the different stories and ways to look at this historical region of the world.
As a child, I was brought up in a very religious family and community. We were always involved in church and for a long time my mother was interested in archaeological finds that supported the bible. I grew up believing that all historians checked the bible for facts, something my mother still believes yet I cannot recall where this idea came from because it’s not true. However as I got older I realized that my mom, and other people in our church often only searched out information that supported what they already believed. Which is essentially what Nadia Abu El-Haj is talking about in translating truths.
The Israel nationals are searching for historical and archaeological evidence that supports their legitimacy for claiming Jerusalem, and supporting the religious beliefs that surround their culture. The benefits for this surpass simply wanting to justify their religious myths but bring political benefits and economical benefits. and they are willing to administer bad science to do so.
Nadia talked about the use of bulldozers, which caused me to lament for all the lost information which was destroyed because they wanted to get to the iron-age faster. To top it off the interpretation of findings were often biased, such as that of the burned house. the finding of a forearm and spear where used to justify something they already thought. so they added things to the findings that simply cannot be proven by archaeological findings. They even suggested they had the day, month, and year the house had burned based on ash from the house, when ash cannot even date an exact year let alone month or day! And so now I am left to question all of the archaeological “proof” for biblical text because I don’t know just how biased the excavators were while doing the dig.
This article spoke to me more than most of the other articles, mostly because archaeology is one of my many interests. So I wanted to make sure that I wrote this week’s blog post on this article. Nadia Abu El-Haj makes many arguments, specifically about the use of archaeology in politics. She talks about how the government, possibly, killed an archaeologist because of a find that could have changed the entire historiography of Israel as we know it. This rang somewhat true because I have read many stories and watched many movies that play with this type of plot. Once I started reading the article, one movie in particular jumped out at me. The movie is titled “The Body” and stars Antonio Banderas as a priest who is tasked with watching over an archaeologist that has made a major find. She has found skeletal remains that show evidence of crucifixion and comes from the time of Christ. The movie continues with confrontations with religious community members (I can’t remember their group’s name right now) and her life is constantly threatened because this find could alter the entire history of Israel because of the body’s potential to be that of Christ.
This type of story is continuously used throughout time because of the politics involved with archaeology. In Italy, Mussolini used archaeology to tie directly with the Emperor Augustus and used as his authority to rule. The term fascist, which is what Mussolini’s reign is considered, comes from the term fasces, which showed individual’s power in Ancient Rome. Hitler used archaeology as a way of connecting with the past and to “hold power” over history. But as the article notes, Israel and Palestine has had a very long history with finding their connections with the Jewish past in archaeological materials.
Another thing that I noted extremely interesting was the idea that archaeologists overlooked many other periods to get back to a specific time. This is evident even in today’s history. Some archaeologists use bulldozers to go through a larger set of time because of their projects specific interest. They aren’t wanting to look at all of the history of a place, but just to look at a specific time in a specific place. This was the same thing that Mussolini did when he was looking at Ancient Roman materials. He would encourage the use of bulldozers and the eventual destruction of all material culture between the fall of the Roman Empire and modern day. All of the artifacts would eventually be tossed into the Tiber, where some of it still lays today.
This practice of searching for what you want in a specific time era doesn’t help the overall field of archaeology. We should be wanting to look at all aspects of a location, no matter what period in time it is. Some later periods might tell a lot about how the civilization changes from the earlier times, which could tell you a lot about the earlier time and how they stayed that way for so long. So Nadia’s argument about the use of archaeology to preserve the politics and cultural understandings of the country is quite correct. It will probably never change because of the differing cultures around the world and their interests in their historic past.
Something I’d like to note:
I highly suggest watching the movie “The Body” because it not only talks about this type of phenomenon, but it also speaks directly with the relation of archaeology and preserving a cultural identity. Plus, this movie also ties in with a lot of academic work that is currently being done today. An April 2015 article from LiveScience speaks directly about the bones of Jesus and his family’s tomb and the controversies that it might cause if the tomb really does have Jesus’ remains in it. So archaeology and politics is obviously still alive today.
The author brings up some great points about the history of Judaism and Israel as seen through the anthropological and archaeological record. The history seen within many parts of Israel is closely intertwined with big archaeological finds associated with certain eras as discussed in the reading. I did not realize just how closely related more current areas of Israel is with the history associated with those areas.
One thing that did bug me about this reading was the digs made against Palestinian people, and how they aren’t as interested in their own past as the Jewish/Israelites. I guess to me not being crazy national about your past and country isn’t really the same thing as not being concerned about your past. One can be interested about history and the past without shouting it to the world all of the time.
How proud Israelite anthropologists and archaeologists are of their interwoven everything is was kind of odd to me. It seemed like all of their pride in their country came from the telling of their past and how they overcame instead of how their country was functioning in the present.
Mainly, the author made lots of great points about how religion is so closely related to the way they view different artifacts from the past, and how different eras of history are studied. In the now liberal and democratic state of Israel, monuments and such from minority religions are protected, but that makes it seem like those artifacts could have been destroyed before. Did they? I’m not sure if anyone really knows, but it seems to me that the nationalist pride of Judaism could have gotten in the way of science a few times. Also the practice of labeling items with religious group names instead of the eras they were associated with struck me as odd. Why mark things as Arab or Christian instead of marking them as from Early Islamic Empire or Roman Era? Seems like it is a way to remind people that there are distinct populations of people in Israel, and they will always be minorities in a Jewish state.
This ethnography has been extremely interesting thus far. It tells the story of the lives of the Bedouin women in Egypt during and after WW2. It talks about their troubles with the men in the communities and of the adventures with outsiders that come into the group. From an anthropological perspective, it is identifying the social construct of this specific Bedouin group and how they interacted with each other.
The first chapter focuses strictly on the life of Migdim and how she got to where she is. Earlier in her life, her father had attempted to marry her off to numerous guys, one of which was specifically identified as her first cousin that she refused to marry. He had gone as far as to threaten her with death and to scream at her for ruining the tent dyes by pouring it on herself. She had gone so far as to run away and seek help from her mother’s uncle. This had been fruitful and she got out of that marriage. The other marriage arrangements she had refused to eat, she threw plates, she screamed, and she cried until she got out of the arrangement. The final marriage arrangement was with Jawwad, whom she had 7 living children with. This man was the patriarch of the family and coming from a patrilineal community, held all of the power, though as the matriarch Migdim held the ear of her husband and of his children.
After Jawwad’s death, her sons had moved up to being the leader of the family and initially would come to her and seek her advise. But they would eventually begin to start going behind her back and disregarding her advise. They would arrange marriages for their sister to men that Migdim did not agree with. They would sell property to neighbors, which Migdim did not agree with. They inevitably treated Migdim more like a chore than a responsibility as her children. As she was growing old, it was wise for the community to look up to Migdim and seek her guidance. The women of the community held her in higher regard, but the men treated her with contempt. This was, after all, their patrilineal community and they held the power.
Another part of the first chapter that intrigued me was when Migdim and her son, Sagr’s, stories about his interaction with the mine during the scavenging differed. Migdim focused her story on her role in Sagr’s recovery. Whereas Sagr’s story centered on his father and the Englishman that saved his life. He only mentions his mother in passing and makes it clear that Jawwad and the Englishman were the important part of the story. This shows the patrilineal way of thinking because the woman wasn’t the first thing in his mind, even though she was the one that had taken care of him while he was recovering.
Both chapters 1 and 3 focused on reproduction. The first chapter discusses the fact that Migdim refused to have her children around anyone else. She would go into labor outside while everyone else was inside. She would only seek help once the delivery was finished and the umbilical cord needed to be cut. She did not like the way that the other women of the community acted during the delivery and wanted to do it all on her own. I think this independence helped to garner the respect needed from the other women, as well as some of the men, from the community. It is evident from this chapter that the woman’s role in the Bedouin community mostly centered on reproduction, cleaning, sewing, cooking, and household chores. Migdim was in charge of running the household, while Jawwad, and later her sons, were in charge of the outside life.
Chapter 3 discusses the different aspects of reproduction itself. Lila Abu-Lughod mentions that the women from the Bedouin community mostly wanted girls. One is quoted as saying, “…it is only the ignorant who prefer boys. Some daughters are worth a hundred sons” (Page 129). This shows the views of the woman’s role in the Bedouin community. One could make the conclusion that the Bedouin woman’s role is more important because of all that they need to do, so having girls is more important than having boys. But this could be contested, especially for the men of the community since the boys would be taking over for them upon their death.
This chapter also shows the importance of childbirth because of the role that women should play in the delivery. One individual is noted as saying that the older women should help by being midwives because of their experience during labor. She stated that she would even removed all of her clothes to assist in the childbirth because it was her “duty” to help the new mother. Another community member is noted as telling Lila how she can go about having children by going to a “woman healer” who can help with the conception part of reproduction. This again goes back to the idea that the woman’s main role in the community is reproduction, especially because the author decided to take an entire chapter to discuss the role of reproduction to the Bedouin community.
These two sections were interesting because of the visions that it brings to the reader’s mind of the Bedouin community. We have all heard of the Bedouin people being like gypsies and moving around, at least that is how I always pictured them. They were completely nomadic and rarely stayed in one place for long. But this text contradicts this sentiment and brings to mind the complexities of the community. There’s still a matriarch in this society, though she has little say in how the community is ran. It is intriguing that while this is a patrilineal society, they still place the girls and women in high regard, but only because of her marrying well and her growing up well. Sagr is quoted as saying that “daughters are dearer to him than sons” (page 160). This goes against what one would normally think because of his role in the community and the need to pass on his inheritance to his sons, but it is interesting to see that while the patrilineal line is still strong in this community, the opposite sex is still revered for their contributions to the society.
I really enjoy this author, Lila Abu-Lughod. Her style of writing really captures the interest of the reader and makes you want to continue reading without stopping. For an educational book I find myself getting lost in the story and genuinely wanting to know what happens next and more of these first hand memories.
Are the girls allowed to say no to their possible suitors like Migdim did or was she just lucky that she was able to throw a big enough fit to get out of them until she felt she was offered the right match? When it comes to marrying it is thought that close relative marriages within the camp are best because it keeps the children close to home and their mothers. They do not have to travel to visit.
I do not know how they lived around the war sites of WWII. From the sounds of it they had to fear for their lives everyday and to hear those planes and bombs going off constantly would be to much to handle. Even after the war ended the people of the camp had to be careful of hidden bombs and traps. I would not have allowed my children to participate in salvaging metal and such things from the army camps. Getting items to sell is not worth their lives.
It is so strange that the woman refer to giving birth as seeing death and being closest to god. Is it perhaps they feel as if they are dying? After the child is born it seems as if boys are wanted more among the community. Is it because the boys will stay within the camp after they marry but at times the girls have to leave? Then again the way the mothers talk they adore their girls and say they are nice, caring, loving, and do not know what they would do without them. This part is just really confusing because it makes it hard for me to understand what is wanted more. In my opinion it really doesn’t matter. A baby is a baby and they should be loved regardless. Lastly, Why do the women have to wait seven days before bathing after giving birth?
I agree with the other posts that this book was rather enjoyable. Her choice of storytelling instead of a more analytic and critical ethnography book makes the material very approachable. One of the other things I noticed regarding her methods was how she mentions herself quite frequently whether to let the reader know the stories were in answer to her questions, when she uncomfortable, how she integrated into the Bedouin’s lives and also just talking about how she got people to talk about these issues. This was very interesting to me, seeing her life as an Anthropologist. The visit she describes of the more “modern” woman and her husband’s visit and the subsequent dinner at their mansion made me think of the dramatic difference in lives. The Anthropologist’s life in America and her life in the Bedouin’s camp. I wonder how long it took for her to feel more comfortable in their tents than in a fine home.
One of the interesting parts of this ethnography no one else has mentioned yet is the impact of WW2 on the Bedouin communities. I knew of course that the British and Germans fought in N. Africa but I had never thought to think about how this affected the citizens outside the urban areas. WW1 is more often spoken about regarding these matters, I think. The stories of the constant migration of camps and the difference in materials available was very interesting. Even more educational however was the realization that the county was left littered with bombs and scrap metal. I wonder how desperate and hopeful someone would have to be to dig bombs out of the ground and burn them for money.The story of Mignim’s son was enlightening on this matter, English Bedouin relations and also the difference in perspective of individuals, mother and son. The way the English officer was seen by Migdim and her son was very interesting. I would assume that if my boy had just been injured by a bomb in our country left by other, I probably wouldn’t like their soldiers. Of course, I understand the gratitude of saving his life by Migdim’s and her family’s response was different. I can’t quite put my finger on what though. The stories depth however lied in the two very different tellings. Her son being concerned with his father and the Englishman and his father. His mother barely mentioned whereas to Migdim the only thing of importance was her son, his story was about the virtue of the British. I still do not completely understand why.
I really enjoyed the stories throughout these 2 chapters. This seems like a book I would have picked up to read for enjoyment rather than a class assignment! however I wish that the author, Lila Abu-Lughad, would have expanded on some of the stories and cultural references. Sometimes she would mention something offhand without explaining what it was and I felt like I was missing out on something that everyone in the stories where understanding. But this was only a small annoyance and did not keep me from understanding the entire story.
I found the stories about Shock the most interesting. Especially because this emotional feeling will have very serious physical effects on people in the culture. This is not something we have or even find acceptable in our culture. When parents lose a child I have never heard of them not being able to conceive again. or emotional shock keeping a woman from giving birth. Especially the story of the women who claimed that shock had stopped the fetus at 4 months, and later was brought back 13 years later as a cause to shock. I wonder if there has been any studies on how emotions can effect someone physically?
Another aspect of the same story I found very peculiar was the mixture of superstition and religion. All of the different practices women used to conceive. I don’t believe that any of these are a part of Islam but these women have been passing this information down to each other for years and no one thinks it’s sinful.
I was pleasantly surprised by the story method used in Abu-Lughod’s book. I’ll freely admit that I’m usually a skimmer if a reading is over 40 pages, but I instantly fell into this book. The way it was written makes it easy to understand, and the stories make one feel like they were right there in the room also.
Chapter 1 was quite an interesting chapter to me. It honestly seemed like every other story was one where Migdim was cursing about her sons and how moronic they were. The story about the parallel-cousin marriage and how Migdim really did not want to marry those certain guys was really revealing to me. The way she used manipulation to ensure she was at least somewhat happy throughout her life really helped me understand some of the dynamics of their culture. In the end, her manipulation worked, but to me, it’s sad it even had to resort to that in the first place. In the end, chapter 1 made me think about how it seemed like her sons were just living for the money and the women, and her daughters and daughters-in-law really cared about Migdim herself.
The stories of reproduction from chapter 3 were both exciting and heartbreaking. They really revealed the thoughts on reproduction, their superstitions and cures for ailments, and how valued children are in their society. The stories of the ones who had trouble getting pregnant or had miscarriages were slightly heartbreaking to me. Wanting to take away your daughter because the couple is having problems having children just seems so selfish and odd to me. The list of different ways to “unblock” a woman did have me cracking up some just purely due to the long list and serious thoughts behind it.
I throughly enjoyed this reading, and am looking forward to reading the rest.