Alternative Historiography

Al-Baraddūnī’s Perspective on Popular Literature and Folk Art in Yemen

  • Noura Kamal Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences
Keywords: Al-Baraddūnī, folk art, historiography, popular literature, Yemen


To obtain a deeper understanding about a society, it is important to look beyond the formal production of history and literature and consider fables, songs, folk poems, and proverbs which can reflect dimensions of the society that are usually neglected or forgotten about. Focusing on popular literature and folk art as a source of epistemological knowledge contributes to the construction of counter-narratives in Yemen. One of the major proponents of popular literature whose works serve as a key to understanding the conceptual worlds of the Yemeni people is the poet ʻAbd Allāh al-Baraddūnī (1929–1999). This blind scholar explored various types of popular literature and folk art in order to highlight the knowledge that generally is not documented but is an essential part of everyday life. Each of his genres has the ability to provide us with insights about Yemeni society such as forgotten historical events, the role of women in society, cultural beliefs, customs, practices, and historical events and circumstances that the society had to face. It is argued that, by focusing on the subaltern and marginal, al-Baraddūnī was anticipating trends in Western social science scholarship that have been apparent since the 1970s.

Author Biography

Noura Kamal, Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences