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  You are in: Home > Cultural & Social Studies > The Charm of Graves  

The Charm of Graves
Perceptions of Death and After-Death among the Negev Bedouin

Gideon M. Kressel, Sasson Bar-Zvi & ‘Aref Abu-Rabi’a

Gideon M. Kressel is professor emeritus at Ben-Gurion University’s Blaustein Institute for Desert Research.
Sasson Bar-Zvi deceased 2012) served as Military Governor of the Negev (1963– 68), and had lasting personal involvement with the social concerns of the tribes.
‘Aref Abu-Rabi’a observes the Bedouin past and present from a unique position of participant-observer, and is a professor in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University.


The authors provide a comprehensive picture of burial, mourning rituals, commemoration practices and veneration of the dead among the Negev Bedouin. A primary emphasis is the pivotal linkages between the living and the dead embodied in the intermediary role of healers, sorcerers, seers and other arbitrators between heaven and earth, who supplicate – publicly and privately – at the gravesite of chosen awliyâh (deceased saints).

The Charm of Graves brings together integrated findings of three scholars, based on decades of field work that combine close to 65 years of scrutiny. It maps out the locations and particularities of venerated tombs, the identity of the occupants and their individual abilities vis-à-vis the Almighty. Attitudes, beliefs and customs surrounding each gravesite, when combined on a longitudinal scale, reveal changes over time in beliefs and practices in grave worship and burial, mourning and condolence customs. Analysis of the data reveals that the dynamic of grave worship among the Negev Bedouin throws light on ancient traditions in a complex relationship with mainstream Islamic doctrine and the impact of modernity on Bedouin conduct and belief.

The authors’ observations and interviews with practitioners about their beliefs are compared and augmented with references that exist in the professional literature, including grave worship elsewhere in the Arab world. The Charm of Graves is essential reading for anthropologists, scholars of the sociology of religion, and students of Islam at university and popular levels. The topic has received only marginal attention in existing anthropological works and has been keenly awaited.

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Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, June 2013; Paperback, February 2016
  Illustrated:   Yes
Hardback Price:
£65.00 / $74.95
Paperback Price:
£29.95 / $39.95

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