The Bedouin, or 'desert dwellers', have a rich cultural heritage often expressed through music and poetry. Here Moneera Al-Ghadeer provides us with the first comparative reading of women's oral poetry from Saudi Arabia. She examines women's lyrics of love, desire, mourning and grievance. We come to understand Bedouin mores and - most significantly - the unique description of a desert that is consistently held to be infinite, evocative, stimulating and an eternal freedom. 'Desert Voices' asks a number of questions: How should we read oral poetry? Should our approach differ from the analytical models of canonical Arabic poetry? What theoretical insights may be gained from comparative reflection on an excluded feminine oral genre? Can Bedouin women's oral poems be read with contemporary literary theory/al-nazariya adabiya/pense?Moneera Al-Ghadeer addresses these questions by translating, analyzing and critically reflecting on the oral poetry material originally collected by Ibn Raddas. She explores different elegies and the rhetoric of mourning and melancholy with particular emphasis on the insights of Sigmund Freud and Judith Butler. The changing face of the Arabian peninsula is documented in Bedouin women's poetry, through poems composed after the discovery of oil, in which women speak of technology in the form of automobiles, railways, aeroplanes and binoculars. These poems illuminate an important and neglected historical moment that is relevant to certain postcolonial and globalization theories about current crises in the Middle East. Al-Ghadeer faces the problems of translation of oral poetry. What happens to the marginal subject and the minor language - dialect/s - in translation? How can one translate oral poems composed in a nomadic dialect? She uses translation theory as presented by Walter Benjamin, de Man, Derrida and G. C. Spivak and tackles the most obvious translation problem in these poems: the exceedingly rich vocabulary of Bedouin ethos and the multifaceted signification of weather and animal imagery. As the first English translation and analysis of this poetry, 'Desert Voices' is both a gesture to preserving the oral poetic tradition of women and a radical critique addressing the exclusion of their poetry from current academic literary studies. The book provides invaluable material for reflection in the debates around oral culture and women's poetic composition while it translates, presents and critically examins a genre, which opens Arabic poetry and literature to contemporary theory and criticism.
Bedouin Women's Poetry in Saudi Arabia