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Contesting Realities

The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen

Susanne Dahlgren

Publication Year: 2010

As a resident of Aden for more than three years spanning the late years of Marxist South Yemen, Dahlgren presents the reader with an intimate portrait of Yemeni men and women in the home, in the factory, in the office, and in the street, demonstrating that Islamic societies must be understood through a multiplicity of social spheres and morality orders. Within each space, she examines the range of legal, political, religious, and social regulations that frame gender relations and social dynamics. Highlighting the diversity of women’s and men’s positions as a continuum rather than as distinct areas, Dahlgren presents a vivid picture of this dynamic society, providing an in-depth background to today’s political upheavals in Yemen.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

During the course of writing this book, I have received assistance from a number of people and institutions. To start with, I am indebted and grateful to all Adeni people, who allowed me to enter their lives to make my inquiries. In my initial stay in Aden in 1988–89, the General Union of Yemeni Women and in particular the legendary Radhia...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-31

This book is based on my ethnographic interest in Aden, Yemen, during the period spanning the years from 1988 to 2001.1 This era in Adeni history witnessed the final years of what was the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), the only Marxist regime in the Middle East ever to be followed by unification, in this case of the two Yemens in...

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2. From Colonialism to a Neocolonial State

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pp. 32-86

The arguments presented in this book need a contextualization of the society as a morphology of all kinds of interests, be they political, ethnic, economic, or ideational in nature, so in this chapter I give a short historical introduction to Aden as a concentration of movement of things, ideas, and people. By “social morphology,” I mean the structure of a...

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3. Law and Court

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pp. 87-130

This chapter focuses on the practice of law as a specific field of gender regulation. As I suggested in the introduction, it is vital to understand structural factors and which of them provide the limitations and resources for people to constitute practice. We are dealing with a field where moral frameworks are acted out and where they get their meaning. In looking...

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4. The Making of the New Yemeni Woman

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pp. 131-169

In this chapter, I discuss the emerging familial ideology that patterned the PDRY era (1967–90) and what happened to it after Yemeni unification. In an attempt to show how this new ideology did not simply emerge from nothing and that it did not represent a radical break with the previous period, I describe its roots within the background of the local...

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5. “This Is Our Customs and Traditions”

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pp. 170-220

In this chapter, I explore notions of normativity, propriety, and morality the way they appear in talk among people about the opposite sex. I focus on different spheres of life where the sexes meet and make meaning of gendered divisions, such as in marriage, family life, child raising, work, and the world of imagination. I am in particular interested...

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6. Five Social Maps and a Mystery

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pp. 221-266

In this chapter, I focus on moments that I myself experienced while spending time with people in cars, offices, homes, and places of worship and ritual. In trying to give words to these experiences, I tried to keep in mind that one should not presume any direct, unmediated link between normativity and practice. Not only have gaps between norms and acts...

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7. Morality, Causality, and Social Praxis

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pp. 267-309

In this chapter, I draw together the material I have presented so far and attempt to outline a theoretical argument. My starting point here is that my ethnographic material speaks of heterogeneity in norms, ideal models, and moral representations. As I concluded in chapter 5, three distinct and separate discourses on propriety emerge in people’s...

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8. Conclusions

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pp. 310-316

For analytical purposes, I have treated them as “moral frameworks,” discussing them as repertoires of particular knowledge. As we saw in some of the ethnographic cases, at issue, first, are three different corpuses of knowledge; second, these sets of knowledge have to do with morality and normative action; and third, they are “repertoires” in that they...


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pp. 319-328


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pp. 329-335


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pp. 337-357


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pp. 359-371

E-ISBN-13: 9780815650935
E-ISBN-10: 0815650930
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632467
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632460

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 22 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2010