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The Silent Hat: Islam, Female Labour, and the Political Economy of the "Headscarf Debate"

Ha, Guangtian (2017) 'The Silent Hat: Islam, Female Labour, and the Political Economy of the "Headscarf Debate".' Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 42 (3). pp. 743-769.

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Abstract

What is the point of revisiting Muslim women’s head wears when such a topic has already been extensively discussed in recent years? What can we do with the spectres of class and labour that often appear, however fleetingly, in these discussions that nonetheless take secularism and the public sphere as the organizing concepts? Based upon fourteen months of fieldwork in northwest China, this article examines the intricate connection between rural Hui Muslim women’s “hats (maozi)” and the history of female labour in its multiple shifts from the socialist to the neoliberal periods. In making this connection, it attempts to return the “headscarf debate” back into its transnational politico-economic conditioning, and explore the hidden link between the transnational articulation of difference and the global organization of ethical practices on the one hand, and the transnational distribution of materialities and politico-economic values on the other. This link, as I show in the article, impacts the specific terms and discourses that frame the narration of maozi among the rural Muslim women I work with: rather than expressing “attitude” or “opinion” on veiling, their narrative focuses heavily on the concrete stylistic shifts of maozi, which closely trace women’s transformed relationship to labour. By drawing attention to how the global differential distribution of ethical practices needs to be seen in tandem with the global (unequal) distribution of materialities, this article hopes to re-orient our contemporary discussion about the Muslim “veil” in light of an analysis of transnational political economy.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Islam, Women, Veil, Headscarf, Political Economy, Feminism, China
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Music
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): 10.1086/689641
Depositing User: Ha Guangtian
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2016 13:11
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/22231

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