"It's about freedom": contesting dominant representations of devout Muslim women in the space of the nation
Johns, Amelia and Lobo, Michele 2013, "It's about freedom": contesting dominant representations of devout Muslim women in the space of the nation, in TASA 2013 : Reflections, Intersections and Aspirations, 50 years of Australian Sociology : Proceedings of TASA conference 2013, TASA, Melbourne, Vic., pp. 1-17.
Since September 11 there has been a rise of Islamophobia in Australian public discourse, matched by a growth of racialised attacks on visibly identifiable Muslims in public space. These cultural racisms have arisen in a context where Islamic religious signifiers and practices have come to be read as signs of fundamentalism, terrorism and threat to national political traditions and cultural values. In particular, the hijab has become a symbol of these tensions, with the veiled woman being read as the embodiment of a ‘repressive and fundamentalist religion’. However, as some Muslim and feminist scholars have proposed, these readings rob Muslim women of their ability to articulate the reasons why wear the veil or engage in gendered religious practices. This paper argues that this enacts a form of disembodiment, whereby Muslim womens’ ability to comfortably inhabit their bodies and assert themselves in the public sphere is limited. In particular the paper draws upon two case studies which express this disembodiment, whilst highlighting the counter-strategies that devout Muslim women are adopting to reinsert their bodies and narratives in the national frame. The first refers to the recent media backlash which followed a public lecture held at Melbourne University by Islamic organization Hikmah Way, where the audience was segregated along gender lines. The second draws upon interviews conducted with veiled Muslim women in Sydney, following the Cronulla riot. These interviews show how Muslim women are contesting dominant representations of the hijab in western popular discourse by recoding it as a signifier of religious and national identity, and as an expression of democratic freedom.
Field of Research
160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified 200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality
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