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Doctoral Project

"A female anthropologist in the Arab world: Biblical Orient and Palestinian Folklore in the Legacy of Hilma Granqvist (1890-1972)"
Rosanna Sirignano (M.A.)

Between 1925 and 1931, the Swedish speaking Finnish anthropologist Hilma Granqvist (1890-1972) carried out a field research in the West Bank village of Arṭās, producing five monographs, which have a unique place in social anthropology of Middle Eastern Muslim societies. My research looks at her biography and work from different perspectives aiming at enlarging our knowledge about the history of Middle Eastern Studies in Europe and to analyse the dynamics that the reception of academic knowledge produced within this framework created in different cultural and historical settings. In particular, I will analyse the factors which shaped Granqvist’s vision of Palestine and the extent to which she distanced herself from the European Orientalist discourse, which in most cases represented Palestine as the Biblical Orient.  From here, I will focus on the multi-layer processes of linguistic and cultural translation that shaped her ethnographic works. In particular, I will present a selection of Granqvist material in Arabic culled from her published works and her unpublished field notes archived at the Palestine Exploration Fund. The texts, interpreted as a corpus of oral female literature before 1948, have the potential of being reconfigured and reinterpreted. Two case studies will be presented in order to highlight the importance of Granqvist’s work for the preservation of Palestinian folklore which functions as tool for strengthening Palestinian identity.

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