Hijab as Dress: Muslim Women’s Clothing Strategies in Contemporary Finland
AbstractThis thesis concerns female Islamic dress, the hijab, in contemporary urban Finland. The hijab is not merely a symbol or an inevitable embodiment of either female oppression or agency, but rather is a form of dress that is simultaneously social, mental, material, and spatial. The approach developed here captures the multiple dimensions of the hijab as it is lived and experienced. The thesis draws upon ideas from a range of social theorists, including Bourdieu, Lefebvre, Goffman, and Gramsci. These ideas are deployed to understand the conscious and semi-conscious dress strategies and practices that veiling Muslim women use to manage various everyday issues and challenges. I investigate questions concerning how social, material and spatial relations both impact upon, and are negotiated by, the wearing of the hijab. The research was conducted in Helsinki using ethnographic methods, such as semi-structured interviews and participant observation. The main groups of informants were Finnish converts to Islam, Somalis, and Shi’a Muslims from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the sample covered women of various ages, educational backgrounds, and professional positions. The empirical chapters are organised according to four major themes: Politics, Materiality, Performance, and Visibility in Public Space. According to the findings, Muslim women in Finland negotiate their dress strategies with reference to Finnish ‘mainstream’ society, religious doctrine and the demands of their particular ethnic communities. Dress strategies and practices are found to be bound up in complex but identifiable ways with factors such as fashion markets and dress availability, diverse modes of embodiment and habituation, and the socio-spatial relations which produce and are produced by the Finnish built environment. In sum, by focussing on the lived experience of wearing the hijab, many of the more simplistic politicised understandings of Muslim women and their characteristic forms of dress can be challenged and superseded.
Almila, Anna-Mari <http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/view/creators/Almila=3AAnna-Mari=3A=3A.html> (2014) Hijab as Dress: Muslim Women’s Clothing Strategies in Contemporary Finland. PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen.