Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish by Tova Gamliel

By Tova Gamliel

The time period "wailing culture" contains an array of women’s behaviors and ideology following the loss of life of a member in their ethnic staff and is normal of Jewish lifestyles in Yemeni tradition. relevant to the perform is wailing itself—a distinct creative style that mixes speech with sobbing into relocating lyrical poetry that explores the which means of demise and loss. In Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing tradition of Yemenite Jewish ladies, Tova Gamliel decodes the cultural and mental meanings of this tradition in an ethnography according to her anthropological study between Yemenite Jewish groups in Israel in 2001–2003.

Based on participant-observervation in houses of the bereaved and on twenty-four in-depth interviews with wailing men and women, Gamliel illuminates wailing tradition point through point: by means of the circles during which the job occurs; the specific parts of exercise that belong to ladies; and the vast social, historic, and non secular context that surrounds those internal circles. She discusses the most topics that outline the wailing tradition (including the old origins of women’s wailing often and of Yemenite Jewish wailing in particular), the characteristics of wailing as an inventive style, and the wailer as a symbolic style. She additionally explores the position of wailing in dying rituals, as a healing services endowed with designated affective mechanisms, as an erotic functionality, as a livelihood, and as a trademark of the Jewish exile. finally, she considers wailing on the intersection of culture and modernity and examines the examine of wailing as a real methodological challenge.

Gamliel brings a delicate eye to the vanishing perform of wailing, which has been principally unexamined by means of students and should be unexpected to many outdoors of the center East. Her interdisciplinary standpoint and her specialise in a uniquely woman immigrant cultural perform will make this research interesting interpreting for students of anthropology, gender, folklore, psychology, functionality, philosophy, and sociology.

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Extra info for Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women

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Generally speaking, the ethnography copes with this difficulty by inventing dialogic strategies vis-à-vis the respondents and applying the knowledge accumulated thus far i n t r od uc t ion / 36 about women’s wailing cultures. This method is didactic in that it exposes the reader to the steps taken on the road to discovery. The dialogic point of view is also valuable in that it dissipates the otherness and the exoticness that envelop the wailing culture of Yemenite Jewish women in Israel. Dialogue has the ability to present the object being researched, to turn it into a subject, and to remove it from its display case in the museum of cultures, where it is transparent to visitors’ prying eyes.

Wailing ethnographies usually present this role in its metaphysical senses, that is, mediation between life and death or among people. The invasion of the cultural domain by researchers may explain the epistemological difference: it is an impressive invasion i n t r od uc t ion / 22 because it represents the transition from one world, that of the researcher, to another. This invasion preserves the exotic halo of the phenomenon or at least leaves the halo free of visible injury. Today, such invasions are rare in anthropological research, the sort that, as it were, closes an imaginary door of time behind the researcher’s back and absolves him or her of concern about issues of intercultural diffusion or cultural authenticity.

This vagueness in the characterization of wailing explains why wailing is perceived as a cultural enigma that presents an interpretive challenge and also explains the diversity of ways in which ethnography copes with wailing. Ethnographers have portrayed wailing as “wept thoughts” (Feld 1995; Kaeppler 1993), “thoughtful crying” (Feld 1995), or a shift from tears to ideas (Holst-Warhaft 1995). ” This mélange in wailing, if we may call it one, is amply represented in many ethnographers’ interpretative efforts.

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