ANTA02H3 Chapter Notes -Pastoralism, Matrilateral, Milk Kinship

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16 Dec 2010

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Feeding Desire
Sahara desert: live abut for one million Moors, the ideal female beauty has for centuries
been to be as fat as possible
It is the look admired by men and women alike, and is considered sexually desirable
In Azawagh Arab, should look as little like men as possible--round and fleshy
Significance of outer appearance is anything but superficial
Beauty universals and cultural particulars
All societies have notions of what is beautiful and all societies modify the human body in
some way
Belief in changing our appearance is liberating in a world where people are not judged by
appearance (Sander Gilman 1999:3)-cited from (Popenoe 2004:3)
Appearance matters everywhere, and humans are in some way programmed to respond to
beauty, in both its universally shared and its culturally particular manifestations (Nancy
Etcoff 1999: 23)- cited from (Popenoe 2004: 3)
Universal ideals of beauty seem to include symmetry, smooth skin, youthfulness. And, for
women, hips that are wider than their waists (Etcoff 1999; Singh 1993)
Nancy Etcoff (1999: 225) hypothesizes that the extreme thinness of catwalk fashion
models is a consequence of competition: (for fatness) if looking plump is considered
attractive, a little plumper than the woman in the next tent will be considered an
Fatness and fattening cross-culturally
Among Jamaicans, Elaine Sobo (1993: 32) found that fatness is a positive trait, connoting
happiness, vitality, and bodily health in general.
Like Azawagh Arabs, Jamaicans also make a distinction between good, moist fat and bad,
dry fat; the goal, especially for women, is a look of plump ripeness
Plump body also indicated “happiness, beauty, and sexual appeal for the working- class
women in Egypt (Ghannam 1997: 17)
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Modern Western readings of fatness as indicative of laziness, lack of self-control, ill-
health, low status, and unattractiveness
In addition to its associations with female readiness for marriage or the achievement of a
successful marriage, fatness has another set of associations around the globe that are
ungendered: associations with royalty, power, and elite status
Fatness is admired in numerous societies not for any practical function it is seen to
achieve, such as fertility, but for its connotations of more abstract aesthetic and social
For Moors the meanings of female fatness resonate with those found in other societies
that value plump female bodies, with primary emphasis on beauty, sexiness,
womanliness, and social status
Yet there is no such universal cultural logic to fattening
To the one generalization that can fairly be made in connection to bodily fattening around
the world and that is crucial to the approach of this book: that all societies socialize the
natural body in particular ways
The “natural body is never enough
To modify and adorn the body so that the person inhabiting that body conforms to his or
her particular society
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Arabs of Azawagh region considered it impossible to imagine that where Popenoe came
from women did not want to be fat
Fat is sexy and sex is not something one talks about openly in Azawagh
By fattening, girls make their bodies desireable to men, but girls and women should be
seen to relish their own sexiness, even though they are well aware of its significance
As they fatten, they also learn to subdue their own behaviour, finally beginning to veil
when their bodies become fully womanly, and fully sexually desirable, with the first signs
of puberty
The appeal of female fatness is in this way embedded in a particular Islamic vision of
sexuality and desire
Chapter 1
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The structure of the Azawagh Arab society is dysfunctional. Females are forced to be fattened,
they believe fattening is a form of beauty, and the society believes they are the most unique of
mankind because they are the decedents of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
West Africa lies the Azawagh of Niger
The Azawagh
Heavy braids make up the stiff hairstyles of Arab women
The windswept corner of Niger is today home to a patchwork of distinct ethnic groups,
comprising a metropolitan desert world of different languages customs
Dominant ethnic group in the region has been the Tuareg, silver-bejewelled women have appeared
in the movies like the Sheltering Sky and Beau Geste
Slave caste known as the Bouzou, who are a populous ethnic group in their own right
Cattle-raising, nomadic Wodaabe Fulnai
The Wodaabe, became Muslim only recently
Hausa and Zarma, sub-Saharan black groups that dominate Niger politically and numerically,
arrived in the north as civil servants, government officials, and traders
The Azawagh has known fighting the violent French colonization of the Tuareg at the start of the
twentieth century
The Azawagh Arabs of Niger are concentrated in the north of the region
Their de facto capital is the village of Tassara
Tassara and Tchin Tabaraden came into being only in the last fifty years and are the products of
outside intervention, not indigenous settlement alone
Tchin was established by the French in the middle of the century
Who are theAzawagh Arabs”?
Western parts of the Sahara desert known most commonly as for West as moors
society coalesced between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries in the north western regions of
the Sahara out of the mingling and intermarriages among local Berbers
They speak a form of Arabic they call Galgaliyya
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