Dancing Under the House: Woman & Absence in Israel

 

Abstract This feminist participatory ethnography reflexively examines constraints on women in Palestinian culture in Northern Israel, as typified by differences in space, volume, musical rhythm, costume, convenience and honour.

Observations were conducted at a haflah, or wedding party, held over several days, and subsequently through follow-up. The article does not essentialise Palestinian culture or undermine Arab women: the ethnographer’s inclusion into the family paradoxically permitted her an “inside” perspective where both Palestinians and Israelis could (or would) not go. In Israel’s margins within margins, the lives of Arab Muslim women lie farthest from the nucleus of power.

Literally dancing under the house also symbolically elided the bodies of women with the house, its foundations, subterrain, and hidden spaces, locating the domestic beneath or beyond the view of men. A small plastic doll performed as a simulacrum of traditional Palestinian femaleness and domesticity in which women are best kept unseen. The article incorporates traditional storytelling, Prophetic hadith, and contemporary Palestinian poetry.

 

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