Shaikha Saida: A Woman of Honor in Yemen

By Maggy Grabundzija

This article presents an analysis of acts of conciliation carried out by a Yemenite woman, Shaikha Saida. Her example provides a sketch of the practice of conflict resolution which has received no attention in the anthropological literature concerning Yemenite tribal society. Because they are exclusively interested in « judgment », anthropologists have overlooked these « conciliations ». Nevertheless, the latter occupy a central place in the regulation of numerous daily disputes. In addition, given that judgment is a function given to a specific category of honorific men, the example of Shaikha Saida urges us to rethink the concept of honor and to reconsider the exclusion of women from the legal sphere. We shall show that a woman can appropriate qualities of honor and that she can judge, even if Shaikha Saida arbitrated in the name of her “respectability” — a value which is perhaps even more fundamental than honor. Finally, the example of a conciliator enjoying a great deal of visibility for legitimate acts in public places will allow us to redefine the sexual division of private and public spaces as well as their limits.


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