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Guests of the Sheik Essay

There are very many countries out there, each with their own culture.A woman by the name of Elizabeth Fernea travels to one of these foreign countries. Her husband, Bob has taken B.J (Elizabeth Fernea) to accompany him on the journey of anthropology fieldwork. Although there are many cultures out there, there is no “right” culture. Elizabeth Fernea has immersed herself in the Iraqi culture and never once has had an ethnocentric view. In this ethnography, we see many trials and errors and we slowly see the author of Guests of the Sheik slowly acculturates herself into this new culture. The author really captures how it is to live in a foreign country. I will be touching many aspects in this paper, such as the position and power that women have in Iraq. Also, I will be expressing my opinions on the element of gender and its impact on the women in Iraq.

Each culture has different expectations on a woman and views a woman’s role differently. Upon B.J’s arrival to Iraq, she faces her first struggle.Being naive to how the culture may work and accustomed to her western ways. She has a hard time grasping the idea of wearing an “Abaya”. She refused to cloak herself with an “abaya”. Many women in this culture wear a piece of cloth called “Abaya”. This is usually worn traditionally by muslims and holds traditional value. B.J had a difficult time understanding the “Abaya”. She states “Why should I have to wear that ugly thing–it’s not my custom” and she doesn’t care what the “illiterate tribal women” think of her (page 5).

This could be seen as B.J taking an ethnocentric viewpoint. Finally we see the author give in to wearing the “Abaya”. feelining the rejection of the other women in the village and also being warned to avoid insults and her own self-conscious about how she was being view as a woman. “They say an uncovered woman is an immoral woman” as her husband, Bob has said (page 6) She finally agrees to wear the abayah, and also agrees to live like an Iraqi woman, living behind walls and not mixing with any other men other then her husband. Elizabeth was slowly starting to acculturate herself into the Iraqi culture.

Though Elizabeth Fernea always acted as a respectful guest within the community of the Iraqi village and accepted the customs of their culture, it was clear that many of thesepractices suggested a slight level of female subjugation.

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