Bint al-Wadi’i

Bint al-Wadi’i, Al-Ahjur, Yemen (circa 1944-2016), الله يرحمها ويعوض اهلها Written in memory of a friend whose support was crucial to my understanding of life and etiquette during my ethnographic research in Yemen. In 1978-79, my husband, Daniel Varisco, and I spent 18 months conducting dissertation fieldwork in the beautiful basin of al-Ahjur, located in […]

Theology and Anthropology

Years ago the anthropologist Akbar Ahmad argued for a specific “Islamic anthropology,” one that merged the principles of anthropology with those of his religious faith. An orthodox believer who accepts the Quran as the literal word of God, like the Evangelical Christian who insists the original Biblical texts were verbally inspired by God, is not free […]

The Road to Kawkaban

In the spring of 1978 my wife, Najwa Adra, and myself traveled to various locations in Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic at the time) looking for the appropriate place to conduct our ethnographic research.  On our way to the valley where we eventually settled in, we stopped at a breathtaking mountain-top town called Kawkaban, a historic […]

Heritage be Damned

Now approaching 11 months, the ongoing war in Yemen is first and foremost a war against people, with upwards of 10,000 killed and many more wounded.  This is one of the most dire humanitarian crises on the planet, but it is barely covered in the news media.  A coalition of super rich states, able to […]