The Role of the Stranger Woman in a Plural Society

Prof Airi Tamura (Visiting Fellow, Social Anthropology, Clare Hall)

Saturday, 27 November, 1999; 7:30-9:30pm

Seminar room, Darwin College

While on the one hand the importance of links and ties which go beyond the nation state, such as regional integration and NGO's, are stressed, the world in which we live today is in the midst of a paradoxical intensification of conflict between ethnic groups which possess different cultures and religious beliefs. In reporting on the festival called "el-Ghriba (stranger woman)" of the Jewish community of Tunisia's Jerba Island, I would like to think about the role of the stranger women who have connected the different communities.
Strategically located, Jerba has been a trade-centre linking African desert caravan routes and Mediterranean sea trade routes. As a result, various ethnic and religious group co-existed separately in this small island. It may be regarded as a model of pluralistic co-existing society containing a variety of ecosystems and ways of life. In this sense we can see Jerba as a micro-cosmos of the world.
The study of the stranger woman in this multi-cultural island gives us a good opportunity to re-examine the meaning of social trust and reunion on the contemporary plural society.