Analysis of the Visibility of Bedouin Women in the Negev, As Reflected in the Private Photographic Archive of Dr. Ben-Assa, an Israeli Physician.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:10
Oral Presentation
Edna BARROMI PERLMAN, Kibbutz College of Education, Technology and Arts, Israel
Ruth KARK, Jerusalem University, Mount Scopus, Israel
This paper presents a private archive of photographs of Bedouins living in the Negev Desert in Southern Israel in the 1950sā€“1960s. The archive is the personal collection of Dr. Benjamin Yehudah Ben Assa (1917ā€“1976), a medical doctor known to the Bedouins as Abu Assa. The study explores the forms of presentation of women in his photographs, mostly while being treated in his clinic during his medical practice. The analysis of the photographs relates to lifestyle and traditions of Bedouin women, the way in which these affected his construction of images. The exploration relates to the forms of visibility of Bedouin women in the public sphere, expanding on traditional practices of photographing Bedouin women in the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Among the tens of thousands of photographs taken from the mid-19th century to the end of the second third of the 20th century in the Middle East and Palestine, there are relatively few photographs of Bedouin women. The paucity of photographs of Bedouin women in the 19th and early 20th centuries affected visual constructions of Bedouin women by Western photographers, allowing room for stereotypes, which circulated and influenced image production in the Western world, as well as cultural practices of viewing Bedouin women by Western audiences.In general, Bedouin women, living in a "traditional male dominated society" were absent from the visual public sphere (Abu Rabia and Oplatka, 2008, 398). Behrend explains that there exists an "ideal (gendered) modesty, purity and seclusion that does not allow women to expose themselves in public" (Behrend 2013, 148).

The study explores his photographs and aims to understand whether, under his circumstances as healthcare provider, he succeeded in creating an alternative visual representation of Bedouin women, taking into account the social status of women in Bedouin society and gender discrimination against them.