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FW: Elizabeth Fernea (BJ) Scholar of Middle Eastern Women

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  • Dianne Chidester
    Emerita Professor Elizabeth Warnock Fernea Dies; Noted Author Championed Women s Issues in the Middle East December 4, 2008 E-mail this article
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2008
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      Emerita Professor Elizabeth Warnock Fernea Dies; Noted Author Championed
      Women's Issues in the Middle East

      December 4, 2008

      E-mail this article

      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
      Studies, 1988.

      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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