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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Food, family and negotiating the future : the effects of sedentarization and urbanization on the foodways of Bedouin women in northern Israel Davies, Tammy Rae


The political framework in Israel discriminates against its Arab citizenry, affecting education, employment, and economy for this minority group. Included in the Arab minority are the Bedouin and a minority within this minority are the Bedouin women. On a state level and community level, Bedouin women struggle against a political and patriarchal system that does not normally support their advancement. Traditionally semi-nomadic pastoralists, the Mawasi Bedouin have become, in most cases, village dwellers and wage labourers. In this thesis I discuss my research on the foodways of Mawasi Bedouin women in Northern Israel and the role food plays in their lives. Operating in a patriarchal system, embedded in a foreign colonial culture, Mawasi Bedouin women have used, and continue to use, food as a source of identity, power and agency, as a means of communication, for reciprocal exchanges and informal economy, and as social control. Food is at the heart of women’s relationships and acts as a medium for building social ties, resistance in political and social arenas, and communication when spoken language is inappropriate or politically precarious. Women’s interactions with and uses of food have shifted throughout the process of sedentarization, and continue to be renegotiated in tandem with changes in their social roles within the family, the community and the greater world. This thesis is based on data collected using participant observation, food-centred in-depth life history interviews, informal interviews, and photo journaling during two periods of fieldwork (July to August 2007; July to September 2009) in Haifa, Shefar’am, Tamra and I’blin.

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