التصور الشعبي للجوع والشبع في بعض البلاد العربية / The Images of Hunger and Plenty in Some Arab Countries



Find in your Library


All Authors

أبو زهرة, نادية محمد; Abu-Zahra, Nadia

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Publication Date





[Drawing on anthropological field research in Tunisia as well as participant observation in other Arab countries and on folk narratives, the article presents popular images of hunger and plenty among Arabs. Islamic teachings and Quranic verses intertwine with the popular imagination to create an opposition between kufr and baraka, associating the first with hunger and blasphemy, and the second with plenty and blessing. Between those binary oppositions, the concept of rizq, a livelihood destined by God, mediates. Tunisians refer to food (couscous) or sources of food (rain) colloquially in metaphoric terms implying linkages with the sacred. Starvation, droughts and misery are associated with kufr, lack of faith and denial of divine benefits. Saints are viewed as mediators between God and man, and intercessors for divine mercy. In other Arab countries, similar patterns can be detected in the naming of bread and the epithets of hunger. Contemporary Iraqi poetry (Muẓaffar al-Nawwab) and Kuwaiti work songs (fishing chants) demonstrate the penetration of such notions into the poetic ethos. Children's lore, proverbs and publicity captions reinforce the dichotomy and the associations of hunger/plenty. The recent political upheavals and popular insurgency in the Arab world (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco) attest to the primordial and symbolic importance attached to certain staples. The increase in their price triggers reactions that cannot be explained solely in economic terms. A structural analysis of a paradigmatic narrative centering around a Tunisian Saint (Sidi 'Umar of Sfax) shows the oppositions and mediations of hunger/plenty on three levels: geographic, psychological and existential.]

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.