Textual Categories and Gender Images in a Women's Wailing Performance

in Social Analysis
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The wailing of Yemenite Jewish women, as preserved in the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel, is presented as a case study for analysis of and comparison with other existing wailing cultures. The article uses a model of identities to examine anthropological conventions that interpret death rituals as rites of transition and crisis. A well-known function of wailing—as a bridge between life and death—is decoded in view of the model. The gender dimension of wailing is examined by counterposing and juxtaposing feminine wailing to masculine wailing at death events. The article describes the relative contributions of men and women to the stability of their community and analyzes the unique characteristics of the psycho-social power of women's wailing.