Volume 13, 2008 : Between Tradition and Modernity : The Plurality of Jewish Customs and Rituals

Women's Roles in Death Rituals :
Perspectives of Yemenite-Jewish Men on the Wailing Tradition

Tova Gamliel
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Bar-Ilan University, Israel

This article sheds light on the gender division of roles in the traditional death rituals of Yemenite Jews. This division of roles, i.e. men’s eulogizing and women’s wailing, as well as the affective, religious, and class meanings of both practices, is analysed drawing on the research participants' evaluations. The second goal is to describe the relationship between the attitudes of members of one gender (men) toward a practice typical of the other gender (women) in the light of gender theory that relates to collective crisis events. The main argument is that the methodology is intrinsically related to the nature of theoretical thinking about women’s and men’s roles. The discussion focuses on the relationship between this methodology and the socio-existential meaning of the structuring of gender differences in death-ritual roles.

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