Veiled Politics: Negotiating Hijabi Identities in an Australian Muslim Youth Group

By Chloe Patton.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Controversy surrounding French legislation effectively banning hijab in public schools has sparked similar public debates over Islamic dress in a variety of national settings, including Australia. In the Australian context, some claim that hijab is “symbolic of a clash of cultures” and should be banned in schools, while for others it represents a legitimate expression of religious identity that is compatible with Australian multiculturalism. Drawing on ethnographic research carried out among participants in an Australian Muslim youth development program, I argue that hijab can only be understood in terms of the meaning ascribed to it by those who wear it and the roles it plays in their everyday social encounters. As the findings discussed in this paper demonstrate, the young women involved in the program made strategic use of hijab as a means of negotiating subjective positions, both within the program and in relation to Australian society in general. The findings also indicate that despite the lack of political support for a ban on hijab in Australian schools, negative representations of hijabi identity played a significant role in shaping the subjective identities of hijabi participants.

Keywords: Hijab, Veil, Muslim Youth, Multiculturalism, Subjective Identity

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.9-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 484.873KB).

Dr. Chloe Patton

PhD Candidate, School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Chloe Patton is an APA-funded PhD candidate in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT University, Melbourne. She holds a first class honours degree in Social Science and tutors in undergraduate courses on theories of race and ethnicity, organisational cultures and Australian sociology. Her doctoral thesis involves the use of visual ethnographic methodology to explore themes of identity and belonging among young Muslim Australians. In 2006 Chloe curated I am a Muslim Australian, an exhibition of photographic self-portraits created by the research participants.

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