Monday, December 08, 2008

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (1927-2008)

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea has died:
"Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, a scholar of women's studies in the Middle East who delved into the subject as a newlywed in 1956 in Iraq and whose memoir about the experience, "Guests of the Sheik," was the first of several of her works that examined the role of women in the region, has died. She was 81.

"Fernea, who was a professor emeritus of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas, died Tuesday at a daughter's home in La CaƱada Flintridge after a long illness, her family said.

"When she arrived in the remote Iraqi village then known as El Nahra, she was essentially there as the supportive spouse of Robert A. Fernea, a social anthropologist doing doctoral fieldwork. To accommodate his study, she lived as the local women did -- segregated from men and covering her head and body in public in a black robe known as an abayah...

"The experience inspired Fernea to devote much of the rest of her life to Middle Eastern studies."

Fernea's In Search of Islamic Feminism, while dated, is still one of the best introductions to its topic. In fact, my students have an essay on it due today.



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