Ethnographic Perspective: Guests of the Sheik Essay

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Although Fernea also relates to the community as a whole, her presence in the group of women means that she was more exposed to their values than to the village's community in general. The writer's experience during the Ramadan provides a more complete image of Iraqi women and their religious thinking. Most religious services Fernea attended were held in private houses with a Sayid woman being in charge of the overall rituals. Religious services are often accompanies by fasting - a period during which people have to refrain from performing a series of activities considered to be immoral and in disagreement with religious values during time of religious celebration.

Fasting lasts until the end of Ramadan and people in the community are required to put across best behaviors throughout this period. Tradition then dictates that everyone needs to celebrate the Iid el-Fitr -- a feast associated with the end of fasting. "For the three days of the Iid the sheik's mudhif would be the scene of tribal feasting." (Fernea) Fernea takes part in Ramadan celebrations from beginning till end and this helps her gain a more complex understanding of the celebration as well as of how determined people were to respect their cultural values.

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The moment when Fernea becomes accepted by her peers in the Iraqi community things change significantly. One of the high points of her stay there involves her being able to go on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala, a location generally respected by the Shi'a group. The pilgrimage represents the end of a religious process known as Muharram. "Each year during Muharram the pious Shiite community in Iraq and Iran and in India commemorate Imam Hussein's martyrdom, through daily krayas and through mourning processions and passion plays which dramatize each important occasion in the last days of the martyr." (Fernea) The moment when Fernea steps on a person's prayer rug is especially interesting when regarding people's attitudes toward anything they consider in disagreement with their traditions.

Being and ethnographer

Essay on Ethnographic Perspective: Guests of the Sheik Assignment

The fact that Fernea was somewhat required to become an active part of the community she wanted to study helped significantly with her work. She was provided with a unique perspective on these people and their community -- most ethnographers are unable to reach such a stage, as the communities they interact with are typically hesitant about allowing them in. As a consequence, her ability to adapt and to influence other women to accept her as one of them proves that one needs to do everything in his or her power in order to achieve best results in his or her work.

Among the most difficult concepts that Fernea came across was the fact that she was a Westerner at heart. As much as she began to understand the Iraqi community and as much as it began to accept her as one of them, it was actually impossible for her to refrain from considering ideas that were engraved into her mind as she lived in the West. The fact that she relates to the numerous occasions in which Iraqi women are discriminated proves that she cannot help but to consider the morality of this society. She appreciates it and wants to be a part of it, but is still unable to abandon cultural values that she was taught to respect while being a Westerner.

One of the most important qualities in a successful anthropological fieldworker is his or her ability to adapt to the environment he or she interacts with. A person can spend tens of years in a community and is likely to fail to actually understand it as long as it does not accept him or her as one of them. By experiencing things from a personal perspective rather than to observe them, the respective person can successfully develop an anthropological account.

Works cited:

Warnock Fernea, E. (2010). Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village. Knopf Doubleday Publishing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Ethnographic Perspective: Guests of the Sheik.  (2014, July 13).  Retrieved May 30, 2020, from

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