An Oil Boom, Women, and Changing Traditions

Fikry, Mona. 1978. “An Oil Boom, Women, and Changing Traditions: A study of Libyan women in Benghazi.” In Folklore in the Modern World, ed. R. Dorson. Mouton: The Hague, pp. 65–76. [PDF]

This is an article about the modernization of Libya after the discovery of oil and its effects on the lives and roles of women in Benghazi. The article discusses in particular the suppression of the social and cultural lives of women in connection with modernizing forces, such as mass media, and draws attention to the declining visibility of, and place for, folklore and oral literature–which except for traditional poetry was mostly transmitted and performed by women. Fikry notes, for example, that:

“Tale-telling, called khurrafat in Libya, used to be an essential part of family entertainment in towns, villages, and tents, but in the city it has now all but disappeared to be replaced by television. The time that young children spent listening to tales is now spent studying, reading magazines, or watching television. Rare are the occasions when tales are told and few are the young urban women who know any tales to tell. Even the special night devoted to tale-telling during the wedding celebration is now firmly linked with the past.”