Dr Gabriele vom Bruck
MSc PhD (London)
Senior Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of the Middle East
- Dr Gabriele vom Bruck
- Email address:
- 020 7898 4408
- SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
- Russell Square: College Buildings
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- Mondays 3-5pm
- Comparative Study of Islam: Anthropological Perspectives B (Masters)
- Ethnography of a Selected Region - Near and Middle East
- Theory in Anthropology
PhD Students supervised
Overview of major themes covered in my research: My recently published “Islam, memory and morality” (2005) explores the ambivalent ways in which the ruling elite of the Yemeni Imamate was incorporated into the republic in the aftermath of the 1962 revolution. For over a millennium, they had enjoyed exclusive rights to the leadership of the Imamate, the religiously sanctioned state. Following the violent removal from power of King Faysal of Iraq in 1958, the overthrow of the Yemeni Imamate - the longest lasting Hashimite rule in the Middle East – confirmed the decline of Hashimite power (held by ruling generations claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad). However, rather than concentrating on recent political history, the book highlights the personal predicament of those targeted by the revolution, in which they served as the foil for the new regime's moral and political ascendancy. What is their sense of `past' and `self' in a transformed political setting where in some respects the mark of distinction has become a mark of disrepute? Focusing on the cultural politics of memory, the book explores how members of the elite remember in the process of making sense of their current lives and formulating responses to adversity. My co-edited volume on “The anthropology of names & naming” (2006) aims at renewing anthropological attention to names and naming, and to show how this intersects with current interests in political processes, the relation between bodies and personal identities, gendered subjectivity and personhood
Consumption: My article “The imagined `consumer democracy’ and elite (re)production in Yemen” (2005) compares consumption practices among urban sayyids and those living in rural enclaves. In the past the religious nobility supposed to live modest life-styles. However since the revolution the new ruling elite which forms the core of the nouveaux riches buttresses its claim to high status by wealth display and does not attempt to reiterate the class habitus of those formerly privileged. In the capital, sayyids have sought to make themselves inconspicuous by abandoning reservations about lavish consumption. In this way demonstrate compliance with the regime and also maintain their elevated social location. Find a degree of homogeneity among the affluent old and the new elite of San’a. However the old elite has become more fragmented because those residing in remote enclaves tend to ignore the imperatives of the nascent ‘consumer society’, thus expressing their repudiation of the new regime as well as protest against corruption. In light of Bourdieu’s Distinction, I argue that consumer choice must be explored in relation both to moral schemes and to the pursuit of social pre-eminence, and the examination of taste as cultural critique deserves greater attention.
Gender: One article, “Elusive bodies: The politics of aesthetics among Yemeni elite women” (1997) argues that a woman’s adorned body marks out boundaries between her and unrelated men as well as other women’s unadorned bodies. Adornment is a means of sexualising and feminising the body, but the achievement of conjugal status is a prerequisite of adornment. Like married women, the unmarried must be remote from the sensory experience of unrelated men, but they are not permitted to modify the body as a means of enhancing its sexual attributes. On marriage gender becomes more central to a woman’s identity, and is fully substantiated when she starts engaging in reproductive sexuality. Based on discussion of Yemeni low status men, my article "Being Worthy of Protection: The Dialectics of Gender Attributes in Yemen" (1996) takes up the argument that that there’s no single way of categorising male and female, and that binary biological sex not always basis for cultural categories “male” and “female”. Men working as butchers, barbers, tanners have traditionally lived in dependent service relationships. They are represented as incomplete and weak by birth, anatomically male but attributed female dispositions, i.e. like women they are incapable of autonomous action. Unlike writers such as Unni Wikan who challenge conventional gender models by stressing performance (men take on female gender roles), I argue that gender is located within bodies.
Space: My article “A house turned inside out” explores whether Bourdieu’s model of the Kabyle house is applicable outside Algeria. While agreeing with his contention that special meanings are invoked through the practice of men and women, I argue that in Yemen the embodiment of socio-spatial divisions is contingent upon both gender and nongender-based principles such as age. I also suggest that the space of the house is never unambiguously private or public.
Research project: starting May 2007 “Biography as historical writing” My forthcoming research projects that has emerged from previous research focuses on the biography of the daughter of an Imam (supreme leader, king) who in the 1940s was the first ruler on the Arabian Peninsula to establish a constitutional government. I am interested in how this woman, who lived through one of Yemen’s most turbulent periods in modern history, has become what she is and what she represents. The project explores the modality of women’s production of historical knowledge and whether and how their accounts complement or offer an alternative reading to those written by men. Less interested in how tragic events are present in the woman’s consciousness as past events, but how they have come to be incorporated into the temporal structure of relationships.
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- Near and Middle East
Vom Bruck, Gabriele (2005) Islam, Memory, and Morality in Yemen. Ruling Families in Transition. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Vom Bruck, Gabriele (2006) 'Names as Bodily Signs.' In: Vom Bruck, G. and Bodenhorn, B., (eds.), The Anthropology of Names and Naming. Cambridge University Press, pp. 226-250.
Vom Bruck, Gabriele (2004) 'Evacuating Memory in Postrevolutionary Yemen.' In: Al-Rasheed, M. and Vitalis, R., (eds.), Counter-Narratives. History, Contemporary Society, and Politics in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. London: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 229-245.
Vom Bruck, Gabriele (2008) 'Naturalising, Neutralising Women's Bodies: The "Headscarf Affair" and the Politics of Representation.' Identities, 15 (1). pp. 51-79.
Vom Bruck, Gabriele (2005) 'The Imagined 'Consumer Democracy' and Elite (Re)production in Yemen.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 11 (2). pp. 255-75.
Vom Bruck, Gabriele (2011) 'When will Yemen’s night really end?' Le Monde Diplomatique.