FW: Elizabeth Fernea (BJ) Scholar of Middle Eastern Women
- Emerita Professor Elizabeth Warnock Fernea Dies; Noted Author Championed
Women's Issues in the Middle East
December 4, 2008
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AUSTIN, Texas - Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, professor emerita of
comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies who taught for 24
years at The University of Texas at Austin, died Dec. 2 at the age of
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea in her office at the Center for Middle Eastern
Known as "B.J." to her friends and family, Fernea was a noted writer,
filmmaker and scholar of women's issues in the Middle East. Her
bestselling memoir "Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi
Village" (1965), details her cultural immersion into the lives of the
women of Al-Nahra when she accompanied her husband Robert there for his
doctoral field study.
The couple also lived in Egypt and Morocco and Fernea wrote two other
autobiographical books about her experiences, including "A View of the
Nile" and "A Street in Marrakech."
Fernea joined the university as a senior lecturer in 1975 shortly after
Robert became director of the university's Center for Middle Eastern
Studies <http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/mes/> . She was chairwoman of
the university's Women's Studies Program from 1980 to 1983 before
retiring in 1999.
Her scholarly books include "Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak," "Women
and Family in the Middle East: New Voices of Change," "In Search of
Islamic Feminism: One Woman's Global Journey" and "Remembering Childhood
in the Middle East." She co-authored "The Arab World: Personal
Encounters" (reissued as "The Arab World: Forty Years of Change") and
"Nubian Ethnographies" with her husband.
In addition to her prolific career as a writer, Fernea also was an avid
film producer, earning two National Endowment for the Humanities grants
for her work. Her films include "Saints and Spirits," "Reformers and
Revolutionaries: Middle Eastern Women," "The Struggle for Peace:
Israelis and Palestinians," "The Road to Peace: Israelis and
Palestinians" and "Living with the Past."
"B.J. helped forge an international reputation for the university's
Middle Eastern studies program," Kamran Aghaie, director of the Center
for Middle Eastern Studies, said. "Her passion for women's issues in the
Middle East was inspiring to all who knew her, and she will be fondly
remembered as a friend and colleague."
Fernea earned a bachelor's degree from Reed College in Portland. The
State University of New York at Plattsburg awarded her an honorary
doctorate in 1994.
She is survived by her husband Robert, daughters Laura Ann and Laila,
son David and several grandchildren. A memorial service will be held
early next week at St. Austin's Catholic Church.
For more information, contact the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at
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