Mirrored Loss

A Yemeni Woman's Life Story

January 2019 9781849049030 288pp


Mirrored Loss tells the story of Amat al-Latif al-Wazir, only daughter of ‘Abdullah al-Wazir, the leader of Yemen’s constitutional movement of the mid-twentieth century for democratisation of the autocratic imamate. Her relationship with her adored father, who was accused of treason, takes centre stage in this biographical narrative.

Amat al-Latif enjoyed a privileged childhood in a high-ranking family at the heart of Yemeni politics; yet the failed revolt of 1948 was the family’s downfall, leaving her and other close relatives exposed to social indignities and privation. She then spent many years in exile, where she suffered a personal calamity that compounded the earlier catastrophe.

Through one family’s story, Gabriele vom Bruck explores how violence translates into tragedy in the personal realm, and how individual lives and larger cultural and political worlds intersect in Yemen. Her narrative makes these tragic events compellingly tangible, especially at the level of gendered subjectivity—female Yemenis have been either unknown to or deemed insignificant by most male historians of this period. Mirrored Loss is a significant step in righting that omission.


‘Vom Bruck cherishes the richness of al-Latif’s experiences, approaching her subject with affection and understanding … [her] juxtaposition of oral history and academic analysis makes Amat al-Latif al-Wazir’s compelling life story an essential part of Yemeni history.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘Vom Bruck sheds a new and fascinating light on a history that had, till now, almost exclusively been narrated through the eyes of male characters, either by western or Yemeni scholars, or in the form of memoirs published by decision makers. [This] book never fails to enrich our understanding of a historical context that is little known beyond Yemenis and a few academics.’ — Arabian Humanities

‘An outstanding contribution to the interrelated fields of history, biographic narrative and anthropology.’ — British-Yemeni Society Journal

‘Gabriele Vom Bruck excels in narrating a critical moment of Yemeni history from the point of view of those involved. Mirrored Loss allows for the expression of long-suppressed indigenous narratives while, at the same time, elucidating the frames and structures which inform them and render them intelligible. This rare juxtaposition of oral history and academic analysis makes for a fascinating, indispensable read.’ — Marieke Brandt, author of Tribes and Politics in Yemen: A History of the Houthi Conflict

‘A masterful combination of biographic narrative, historical context and ethnographic detail that vividly evokes the trials and tribulations of the cultural and political elite of North Yemen from a woman’s perspective. Highly recommended for students and scholars of the Middle East, gender studies, the anthropology of women and the study of memory.’ — Deniz Kandiyoti, Emeritus Professor in Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies

‘Anchored in the tumultuous events of 1948 and subsequent decline of the Yemeni political elite, vom Bruck traces Amat al-Latif al-Wazir’s trajectory into the twenty-first-century, through a “biographical narrative” attuned to what she calls “cultural frames.” In so doing, Mirrored Loss makes a valuable contribution to recent auto/biographical scholarship devoted to unsettling the mostly male-centred fixation of the autonomous subject. Vom Bruck’s attentiveness to her own role as an “ethnographic listener” provides an added layer to her compelling discussions.’ — Norman Saadi Nikro, Research Fellow, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient; author of The Fragmenting Force of Memory: Self, Literary Style, and Civil War in Lebanon


Gabriele vom Bruck is Senior Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London. She is the author of Islam, Memory and Morality in Yemen.

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