Hijab and the Republic: Uncovering the French Headscarf Debate

Bronwyn Winter, Author, Susan Hawthorne, Author . Syracuse Univ. $24.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8156-3199-6

The hijab, the head scarf worn by many Muslim women, has been the subject of considerable Western attention, curiosity—and even condemnation. Winter (co-editor of After Shock: September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives ) focuses on the vociferous debates raging in France, where an official policy of secularism has made wearing conspicuous religious attire the cause for legal battle and the topic of public discussions drenched in covert racism, classism and paternalism toward women. In France’s nearly 20 years of argument over hijab, “women and girls were at the center of a debate waged largely by men,” while “the participation of women themselves in the debate was... more as symbols than as social actors.” Winter’s feminist analysis suggests convincingly that the concept “women believe what they wish and wear what they wish... is one thing. The ways in which these beliefs and appearances are coded and put to the service of other agendas is another”—and that all cultures and societies must address male domination and religious interference in their own “backyards” rather than treating such issues as the exclusive province of an exotic Other. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/15/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-8156-3174-3
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