ELIZABETH W. FERNEA, 81
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, a scholar of women's studies in the Middle East who delved into the subject as a newlywed in 1956 in Iraq and whose memoir about the experience, Guests of the Sheik, was the first of several of her works that examined the role of women in the region, died Dec. 2 at a daughter's home in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., after a long illness, her family said.
Ms. Fernea, was a professor emeritus of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies at theUniversity of Texas
When she arrived in the remote Iraqi village then known as El Nahra, she was the wife of Robert A. Fernea, a social anthropologist doing doctoral fieldwork.
"No Western woman had ever lived in El Nahra before, and very few had ever been seen there," she wrote inGuests of the Sheik
, "which meant I would be something of a curiosity."
Since the couple stayed in the home of a sheik, she spent much of her daily life with the women of their host's harem, who struggled to accept her American ways. But when she left two years later, she had won over the women and the village with her efforts to learn their language and culture.