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Wrapped in Meaning: Modest Fashion as Feminist Strategy

by Tiina Rosenberg

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What a difference a scarf makes! Draped over your neck it is just a scarf, but wrapped around your head it is transformed to a performative sign of a Muslim woman, a hyper-visible piece of fabric that both protects and signals “Here I am.” A visible Muslim presence in the West is often interpreted as a security threat or a sign of extremism. As a result, the public affect connected with the headscarf is three-fold: first, it is “too” visible; second, it is worn exclusively by women; and third, it manifests a confluence of religion and culture that has become highly politicized in the West.

However, times are changing. This essay looks at a number of coming-out-performances of the hijab in the West, correlating these “firsts” to positive representations of Muslim women and to democratic inclusion.

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