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November 08, 2010

CFP conference - Official Anti-Veiling Campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia 9/23/11

Deadline: February 15, 2011


Coercion or Empowerment? Official Anti-Veiling Campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia
Friday 23 September 2011
St Antony's College, University of Oxford


The recent decision by the French National Assembly to ban the wearing of the niqab (Muslim face-veil) in public has sparked an intense controversy. Similar anti-niqab campaigns are taking place in a range of European countries. The immense symbolic significance which the niqab, sometimes mistakenly referred to as the burqa, has acquired, both for its supporters and its opponents, is a marked feature of this controversy. Both sides claim to speak for women's empowerment, but are divided by issues of secularism versus religious belief, and identity versus integration. Yet neither the anti-veiling campaigns in contemporary Europe, nor the debates which rage around them, are new. They are strikingly pre-figured by similar campaigns and debates which occurred across the Islamic world in the early decades of the twentieth century, particularly in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Although these countries were ruled by very different regimes, in Turkey a republican regime based on the army, modernizing monarchs, Reza Shah and King Amanullah, in Iran and Afghanistan, and communist parties in Central Asia, their anti-veiling campaigns bore profound similarities. Whether communist or elite nationalist, all disliked what they viewed
as the reactionary forces of Islam and tradition, forces which they
equated and conflated, and all wished to create a new and modern
woman, unveiled, educated and integrated into the workforce. These anti-veiling campaigns were everywhere presented as emancipatory. However, they were conducted by regimes which were in every sense authoritarian while the state's sponsorship of aggressive and authoritarian anti-veiling campaigns led to an intense politicization of the issue. Unveiling became a battleground on which enemies of the regimes might mobilize a more general opposition. For the secular elites, unveiling remained a signifier of modernity. For their opponents, unveiling became symptomatic of a loss of cultural integrity and a capitulation to European imperialism. Many also saw unveiling as a deliberate attempt to weaken religious feeling, the last means by which European power might be resisted.

The conference will look at these official anti-veiling campaigns in
the interwar Middle East and Central Asia from a comparative
historical perspective. It will examine as wide a range of historical
episodes as possible and draw conclusions about the nature, objectives, achievements and failures of these campaigns, which have such a striking contemporary resonance.

Please submit abstracts, of not more than 500 words, of proposed
papers to Stephanie Cronin: Stephanie.cronin@orinst.ox.ac.uk

Deadline for submissions 15th February 2011.

Posted by agripley at November 8, 2010 10:15 AM

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