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The Right to Fashion in the Age of Terrorism

by Minh-Ha T. Pham

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“The Muslim woman in the veil and her imagined opposite in the fashionably modern—and implicitly Western—woman become convenient metaphors for articulating geopolitical contests of power as a human rights concern, as a rescue mission, as a beautifying mandate. This article examines newer iterations of this opposition, in the wake of September 11, 2001, in order to demonstrate the critical resonance of a biopolitics on fashion and beauty. In “The Right to Fashion in the Age of Terrorism,” the author examines the relationship between the U.S. war on terror, targeting persons whose sartorial choices are described as terrorist‐looking and oppressive, and the right‐to‐fashion discourse, which promotes fashion’s mass‐market diffusion as a civil liberty. Looking at these multiple invocations of the democratization of fashion, this article argues that the right‐to‐fashion discourse colludes with the war on terror by fabricating a neoliberal consumer‐citizen who is also a couture‐citizen and whose right to fashion reasserts U.S.exceptionalism, which is secured by private property, social mobility, and individualism.”

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