lunedì 4 luglio 2016

Following the footsteps of “Sitt Halima”

"I needed to live among the people, hear them talk about themselves in Artas, make records while they spoke of their life, customs and ways of looking at things. For that reason I decided to remain in Palestine---"
Hilma Granqvist 1931, introduction to Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village

Hilma Granqvist (nicknamed 'Sitt Halima' in Palestine) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish anthropologist who conducted long field studies of Palestinians. In the 1920s Granqvist arrived at the village of Artas, just outside Bethlehem in the then British Mandate of Palestine as part of her research on the women of the Old Testament. She had gone to Palestine "in order to find the Jewish ancestors of Scripture. What she found instead was a Palestinian people with a distinct culture and way of life. She therefore changed the focus of her research to a full investigation of the customs,
habits and ways of thinking of the people of that village. Granqvist ended up staying until 1931 documenting all aspects of village life. In so doing she took hundreds of photographs."

Hilma Granqvist's international reputation is based on five extensive ethnographic works that focus on a Palestinian village in the 1920's. Granqvist was also an innovative photographer. During her research she took about 1000 photographs that greatly contribute to visual anthropology. Granqvist broke the prevailing research tradition of perceiving of foreign peoples as mere proof of the versatility of the human race and the subjects of research as anonymous objects. Granqvist documented people in their activities - in their every chores or going through the rituals related to different phases of life.

The research which Hilma Granqvist undertook between 1925 and 1931 provided her with most of the material, that later became the content of her published work. In 1931 she published
Marriage conditions in a Palestinian village vol. 1 and in 1935 the second volume appeared. These two volumes offer a detailed description of marriage stages and some aspects of family life.
Based on the materials collected during the years from 1925 to 1931, the two volumes dedicated to childhood, Birth and childhood among the Arabs  (1947) and Child Problems among the Arabs
(1950), offer a complete overview of children's way of life of the Palestinian village Artas, starting from the phase of pregnancy. In the first book the author describes the customs and traditions regarding conception, pregnancy, birth and post-natal practices, such as social and religious education, training and circumcision. The second book deals with the health and care of the child, examining issues such as infant mortality and devoting a large part of the description to rituals that ward off evil forces. It also provides a detailed list of names that were actually chosen for children, with several tables divided by  gender and derivation. The two books can be considered a continuation of the previous publications of the author,

Marriage conditions in a Palestinian village volumes I (1931) and II (1935), which concern the same
group of people and give a complete picture of the family in the community of Artas.
In 1965 she published the results of her last period of research: Muslim death and burial. Arab customs and traditions studied in a village in Jordan. Here she describes customs and beliefs about illness and death.

More reading:


Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village I. 1932

Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village II. 1935

Birth and Childhood in an Arab Village. 1947

Child Problems Among the Arabs. 1950

Muslim Death and Burial. 1965

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