Elizabeth Fernea’s account of the women in the Iraqi village of El Nahra is one which presents a very detailed account of the complications and intricacies of societal customs, child rearing, and marriage ceremonies. “Friendships among women were much more important and much more intense in this segregated society than in our own. Where the men spend the major part of their time away from women, the women have to depend on each other for company, for support, and for advice.” We are soon shown that though multiple wives are commonplace among Iraqi’s there are still power struggles and jealousies among the wives. Fertility and virginity play a huge part within this system and can even be grounds for divorce or death, respectively. Cooking is also an essential aspect of the women’s culture and has an entire subset of customs within it.
I enjoyed this ethnography but felt it was lacking in some aspects. For one I thought it could have definitely had more visual content (mainly photographs). I also thought there could have been more insights into the reasons behind why things were as they were. While she does do an excellent job with describing the current conditions she does little to expand out and make any projections upon the future. I think it would be very interesting to compare this with a more contemporary view of some of the “liberated” areas and how the western invasion has influenced the gender roles (if at all).