The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States

19 sep 2018 08:30 09:30 ENG

Meet Sarah Tobin (CMI), Aubrey Westfall (Wheaton College, Massachusetts, US), özge Celik Russell (Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey) in conversation with Lise Rakner about this new book.

It is a pleasure to welcome all to this book salon to discuss the new book: The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States (Cornell University Press 2018). We have invited three of the authors to talk about their findings, and look forward to an exciting conversation moderated by Lise Rakner (Uib).

 

About the book

This book investigates the social and political effects of the practice of Muslim-American women wearing the headscarf (hijab) in a non-Muslim state. The authors find the act of head covering is not politically motivated in the U.S. setting, but rather it accentuates and engages Muslim identity in uniquely American ways.

Transcending contemporary political debates on the issue of Islamic head covering, The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States addresses concerns beyond the simple, particular phenomenon of wearing the headscarf itself, with the authors confronting broader issues of lasting import. These issues include the questions of safeguarding individual and collective identity in a diverse democracy, exploring the ways in which identities inform and shape political practices, and sourcing the meaning of citizenship and belonging in the United States through the voices of Muslim-American women themselves.

The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States superbly melds quantitative data with qualitative assessment, and the authors smoothly integrate the results of nearly two thousand survey responses from Muslim-American women across forty-nine states. Seventy-two in-depth interviews with Muslim women living in the United States bolster the arguments put forward by the authors to provide an incredibly well-rounded approach to this fascinating topic.

Ultimately, the authors argue, women’s experiences with identity and boundary construction through their head-covering practices carry important political consequences that may well shed light on the future of the United States as a model of democratic pluralism.

 

Sarah Tobin is an economic anthropologist with expertise in Islam and gender in the Middle East. She is the author of the monography Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan (Cornell UP 2016). She is a Senior Researcher at CMI.

Aubrey Westfall is an assistant professor of political science at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. Dr. Westfall specializes in comparative politics and international relations. Her research focuses on the political experiences of ethnic and religious minorities, and especially immigrant groups.

Özge Çelik Russell is assistant professor of political science at Gazi University in Turkey. Çelik Russell specializes in political theory and political participation with a special focus on women’s rights, political agency, and voter turnout. Her research on the controversy surrounding the practice of wearing Islamic headscarf in France was funded by the Higher Education Council in Turkey and completed at the University of Colorado at Boulder.