Writing Women’s World by Lila Abu-Lughod

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Writing Women’s World, by Lila Abu-Lughod, is an ethnography which shows a description about the lives of women in a small Bedouin community in Egypt. The women would tell their stories to Abu Lughod, she is an American anthropologist who study the social construct of Bedouin community and the relationship between women and men. Abu- Lughod learn about these women experiences by conducting her own field and learning how the women interacted with men in the communities and the adventurers with outsiders that came into the community. Lila conducted her fieldwork by getting information through conversations, narratives, arguments, songs, reminiscence even an essay that was written by Sagr’s daughter, and women would share their experiences with her. (Abu-Lugod 2008, 1) Abu-Lughod wrote the book in the voice of Bedouin women who were telling their stories.

The issue that the anthropologists address was how women were being treated as an object and as them not having any feelings nor any power towards any of their decision as a woman. The men had the power and they were dominant, they were the ones who made the decisions for the women. Abu-Lughod argument for writing this book is the cultural differences. (Abu-Lugod 2008, 20) Throughout the book we would see how Abu-Lughod conducted her ethnographic fieldwork in order to conclude her study and even use emic vs etic perspectives in order to see what the women were experiencing.

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After living in the community for two years, Abu Lughod started gathering information by interviewing Migdim on how she got to where she is. Throughout the stories that Migdim had told Abu Lughod, one that really stood out was how her father had try to marry her off to several men, some of those men even being her first cousin which she refused to marry. (Abu-Lugod 2008, 38) Aconcept that relates to the story that Migdim was telling is kinship, which is when the principle of organizing individuals into social groups, roles and categories based on parentage and marriage. Her father was trying to arrange a marriage for her to benefit himself. Migdim had refuse to get married but her father got so mad that he even had threaten her with death.

Migdim later explained, “I put on my old shoes and my shawl on my head and started running. I ran on foot until I got to my uncle’s… I was in bad shape a mess.” (Abu-Lugod 2008, 62) Migdim refused to marry any of her first cousin so she even decided to run away and seek for help. Migdim would cry, protested, would throw tantrums, even went without eating in order to not get married or get out of the arrangement. She later goes on to explain that her father arranges a wedding with Jawwad who she married and had seven children with. Her father arranges her wedding with Jawwad so that he can receive 50 Egyptian pounds. The men whom she married was the male head of a family which he came from a patrilineal community, he had all the power and Migdim consider herself as the matriarch.

Later on her husband died, which meant her sons had to take over. They would go to her for advice in the beginning but later on they started to go behind her back and wouldn’t care about her opinion. For example, she explained, “My son should respect my whishes… He’s my son. He came out of me. Who cloud be closer to me? Yet he goes and signs it over to that family when I said not to. By the prophet isn’t that wrong?” (Abu-Lugod 2008, 58) This shows how her sons didn’t care what Migdim said anymore since they have the power and start to do what they want. This represents the seven characteristics of kinship which involves the care and survival of children by Migdim trying to lead her sons in the right direction but they go against her. Even though Migdim tried to take care of her sons and tried to protect them, when it came for them to take care of her, they consider it an obligation not as responsibility.

As Abu Lughod continue her field work, it progressed and Sagra, Migdim’s second son, got married to Gaefa his first wife. Abu Lughod interview Gaefa, throughout her interview she learns that Sagra had a polygamy which meant he had several spouses at once. His second wife named Azza had kids with him and got along with Gaefa. She had some differences with her but they both were civil with one other. As for his third wife, he married a young woman out of his religion and community, she was very rude and would be disrespectful to the other wives. Gaefa had felt Sgra had no feeling for example, “she had accused him of insensitivity to the pain he caused other (herself?) and shown sympathy for women mistreated by men (Abu-Lugod 2008, 93).” The story Gatefa told shows how Sagra judges his wives by their looks and the lifestyle they represented. Sagra used women as an object and didn’t care about their emotions.

In chapter three, it shows how the woman’s role was to have children. This chapter shows how the importance of childbirth was for their community and the role that they would take in order to deliver a baby. As the fieldwork went on sabra told Abu-Lughod how weddings were, how there were marriage rules, and how there were marriage payments. Abu-Lughod learned that women were mainly being used and they didn’t have any power; men were the ones in power but towards the end of the fieldwork things start to change. Sabra was getting an education, she was marrying the guy she wanted, little by little women were being consider. Over all, the book had many strengthens, for example, by getting interviews and see what was actually happening to the women created credibility for Abu-Lughod and her study. The audience intended were women how they can see that times have change, how women are now more powerful than ever, and have the right for them self.

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Writing Women’s World by Lila Abu-Lughod. (2022, May 16). Retrieved from


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