Aesthetics of Sorrow
The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Quote, Dedication
The event that evolved into a cultural enigma took place one village afternoon. We were at a house of mourners. The house, so-titled for seven days, was packed with adults and surrounded by children who scampered across its verdant lawn. I was one of them, and as we played...
1. Wailing: A Topic That Defies Research
The tension between covert values of continuity and life, represented by scientific investigation, and melancholy and dread of death, associated with wailing, transformed my research into a story of squandered opportunities. As a researcher, I was eager to attend places where a wailer...
2. Johara: Mother of the Wailers
They called this eminent woman Johara. Anyone who pronounced her name followed it with a metaphor of exaltation, as in “Johara was a jewel” or “Johara was a gem.” Her name was uncommon in Yemen but walked before its owner like a loyal caddy and was the best-known name...
3. Giving Words
Wailing is an outpouring of a speaker’s heart, akin to a collection of evocative metaphors, and represents the possibility of transforming experience into words. Wailing crafts the experiencing of trauma, the sensing of loss, and the heartache of anxiety into a verbal art (Finnegan 2001)...
4. The Performance Stage
Women’s wailing is a creative act embodied in performance. For it to be brought to fruition, it needs not only the giving of words but also the voice of someone mired in looking sad and the dramatic movements and gestures that she makes. Th e lament, expressed in melodic form, finds...
5. Melancholic Power
Wailing strums the strings of melancholia in tones and metaphors of black. It is a gloomy dirge that grips its listeners and generates an inseparable mixture of melancholy and power. This chapter focuses on the audience’s response to the performance as though the performance were a...
Women’s wailing is a maker of reputation. The wailer is sought after due to the sheer respect that she commands, and it is on behalf of this respect that she captures people’s hearts. Authorized by the force of a mitzvah (a religious imperative), her performance is privileged with rapt...
Epilogue: The Lament of the Printed Words
By using the expression “the wailing culture of Yemenite Jewish women,” one reveals one’s attitude toward something that is foreign, inscrutable, different, archaic, and so on—adjectives that erect permanent barriers between cultural realities. A women’s culture that was lifted out of exile...