hegemony revised - Wood 1 Lindsay Wood Prof Varghese...

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Wood 1 Lindsay Wood Prof. Varghese Cultural Anthropology 14 November 2007 Men with Power and Women with Veils: Gender Ideology and Hegemony Cultural ideas, especially the most successful and pervasive, seem necessary and central to life in such a way their very existence is unquestionable. All cultural ideas, however, are created and spread, sometimes intentionally and deliberately, bur more often subtly and reflexively. The interaction of these ideas and cultural norms and their respective practices come to constitute the core structure of a given society, its ideology. An ideology is a formal system that cannot be articulated (Brow 25), a complex arrangement of morals that is fundamental and basic to a culture to the degree that its principles cannot be separated from the realities of everyday life. A cohesive cultural group defines itself and its membership through its ideology, which dictates the duties its members must uphold in order to be viable, respectable parts of society. In the Bedouin society of the Alwad ‘Ali, a culturally homogenous group settled in the Western Egyptian Desert on the Libyan border (Abu-Lughod 2), a complex ideology governs every aspect of life, especially regarding the roles of men and women. Even in relatively egalitarian societies, such as the Alwad ‘Ali, people do not benefit equally from the assertion of the dominant ideology. Generally, the individuals with the most power also benefit the most from adherence to the central ideology and thus play the most direct role in enforcing, defending, and perpetuating the set of ideas that gives them the generalized ability to manipulate those inferior to them on the social hierarchy. As a patriarchal society whose lineages are traced exclusively through agnates, older men wield the most power and influence and therefore depend
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Wood 2 on the penetration of this ideology to legitimize their authoritarian role. Hegemony, a concept widely explored by Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci, explores the power relations involved in the preservation of the dominant ideology. The exploration of the gender ideology and culture of the Alwad ‘Ali presented by anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod in her ethnography Veiled Sentiments expresses the effectiveness of hegemony, its assimilation into the Bedouin culture, and its role in shaping the thoughts and actions of the Alwad ‘Ali people. Hegemony is an intrinsic element in power relations, embedded in the dominance of one group, its subtle coercion of another group, and its ability to control the thoughts, ideas and cultural practices of the subverted group. Physical domination alone can push a dominant group into power but it cannot maintain authority for a long-term period through the continued use of force (Lavenda and Shultz 128). In order to continue to effectively control the attitudes and achieve the obedience of subverted groups, the group in power must convince its subjects it has a legitimate claim to power.
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course ANTHROPOLO Anth-140 taught by Professor Varghese during the Fall '08 term at Vassar.

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hegemony revised - Wood 1 Lindsay Wood Prof Varghese...

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