Dena Fakhro

Situating the Arab hero within the poetry of blood vengeance

Although violence is by no means exclusive to the Arab world, nonetheless it is a recurrent literary theme.  Specifically, within the classical Arabic poetic tradition, blood vengeance is a mechanism for restoring lost honour.  I argue that wounded honour plays a role in perpetuating tribal rituals of violence.  I propose that the ritual process is three-fold and consists of a poetic speech act, followed by active blood letting and subsequently, a period where tribal identity is reinforced.  I am particularly interested in the poetic speech act, which sustains ancient myth and tribal values and, within blood vengeance poetry, serves to announce a feud and incite action.  Tribal values revolve around the ancient institution of the blood feud, which facilitates survival in challenging desert circumstances, where resources are scarce and honour is bestowed upon a dominant hero.  I look at the paradigm from anthropological, mythological and politico-economic perspectives.

I am a first year research student, enrolled on an MPhil/PhD in Near and Middle Eastern studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.  In 2012, I completed an MA in Arabic Literature at the same institution.  My research area is in Arabic literature (classical and modern Arabic poetry and folklore), comparative literature and social anthropology.  My research project examines the legacy that blood vengeance poetry has left upon the poetic tradition.  It also looks at social and cultural values concerning honour.  In particular, I am comparing verses in the Ḥamāsa of Abū Tammām, an anthology of Classical Arabic poetry which features blood vengeance poetry, with more modern poetic texts and testing for evidence of repeated signs and motifs.