Accepted Paper:

"The brother is a trap": rethinking brother-sister relationships in a Lebanese town  


Michelle Obeid (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the brother-sister relationship in aLebanese town. It addresses tensions between prescribed moralities in kinship and the idealised bond between brother and sister and the realities of a conflict of interest at a time of social and economic change.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates the brother-sister relationship, neglected in mainstream literature on the Arab World, in the context of a transforming border Lebanese town. The paper discusses the factors which have made room for contesting the once taken for granted power of the brother: shifting livelihoods and economic transformations, changes in sociality and especially in household models and ideologies surrounding 'the family' and exposure to new values through a variety of means, including rising levels of education and satellite television.

The paper specifically addresses a fear that haunts unmarried women in making decisions about marriage, which is the predicament of falling under the power and control of a brother and his wife. The paper, hence, brings out tensions in sibling relationships in the context of a fixed ideology of kinship which postulates a specific morality and obligations and the reality of a conflict of interest and a perceived gender bias.

Panel W067
Brother- and sisterhood in anthropological perspective