The Politics of the Veil

Princeton University Press
1
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In 2004, the French government instituted a ban on the wearing of "conspicuous signs" of religious affiliation in public schools. Though the ban applies to everyone, it is aimed at Muslim girls wearing headscarves. Proponents of the law insist it upholds France's values of secular liberalism and regard the headscarf as symbolic of Islam's resistance to modernity. The Politics of the Veil is an explosive refutation of this view, one that bears important implications for us all.

Joan Wallach Scott, the renowned pioneer of gender studies, argues that the law is symptomatic of France's failure to integrate its former colonial subjects as full citizens. She examines the long history of racism behind the law as well as the ideological barriers thrown up against Muslim assimilation. She emphasizes the conflicting approaches to sexuality that lie at the heart of the debate--how French supporters of the ban view sexual openness as the standard for normalcy, emancipation, and individuality, and the sexual modesty implicit in the headscarf as proof that Muslims can never become fully French. Scott maintains that the law, far from reconciling religious and ethnic differences, only exacerbates them. She shows how the insistence on homogeneity is no longer feasible for France--or the West in general--and how it creates the very "clash of civilizations" said to be at the root of these tensions.

The Politics of the Veil calls for a new vision of community where common ground is found amid our differences, and where the embracing of diversity--not its suppression--is recognized as the best path to social harmony.

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About the author

Joan Wallach Scott is the Harold F. Linder Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. Her books include Parite!: Sexual Equality and the Crisis of French Universalism and Gender and the Politics of History.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 11, 2009
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781400827893
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
History / Europe / General
Political Science / Civil Rights
Political Science / Political Freedom
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Nationalism & Patriotism
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
Social Science / Emigration & Immigration
Social Science / Minority Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Joan Wallach Scott
At many universities, women’s studies programs have achieved department status, establishing tenure-track appointments, graduate programs, and consistent course enrollments. Yet, as Joan Wallach Scott notes in her introduction to this collection, in the wake of its institutional successes, women’s studies has begun to lose its critical purchase. Feminism, the driving political force behind women’s studies, is often regarded as an outmoded political position by many of today’s students, and activism is no longer central to women’s studies programs on many campuses. In Women’s Studies on the Edge, leading feminist scholars tackle the critical, political, and institutional challenges that women’s studies has faced since its widespread integration into university curricula.

The contributors to Women’s Studies on the Edge embrace feminism not as a set of prescriptions but as a critical stance, one that seeks to interrogate and disrupt prevailing systems of gender. Refusing to perpetuate and protect orthodoxies, they ask tough questions about the impact of institutionalization on the once radical field of women’s studies; about the ongoing difficulties of articulating women’s studies with ethnic, queer, and race studies; and about the limits of liberal concepts of emancipation for understanding non-Western women. They also question the viability of continuing to ground women’s studies in identity politics authorized by personal experience. The multiple interpretations in Women’s Studies on the Edge sometimes overlap and sometimes stand in opposition to one another. The result is a collection that embodies the best aspects of critique: the intellectual and political stance that the contributors take to be feminism’s ethos and its aim.

Contributors
Wendy Brown
Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Evelynn M. Hammonds
Saba Mahmood
Biddy Martin
Afsaneh Najmabadi
Ellen Rooney
Gayle Salamon
Joan Wallach Scott
Robyn Wiegman

Joan Wallach Scott
How secularism has been used to justify the subordination of women

Joan Wallach Scott’s acclaimed and controversial writings have been foundational for the field of gender history. With Sex and Secularism, Scott challenges one of the central claims of the “clash of civilizations” polemic—the false notion that secularism is a guarantee of gender equality.

Drawing on a wealth of scholarship by second-wave feminists and historians of religion, race, and colonialism, Scott shows that the gender equality invoked today as a fundamental and enduring principle was not originally associated with the term “secularism” when it first entered the lexicon in the nineteenth century. In fact, the inequality of the sexes was fundamental to the articulation of the separation of church and state that inaugurated Western modernity. Scott points out that Western nation-states imposed a new order of women’s subordination, assigning them to a feminized familial sphere meant to complement the rational masculine realms of politics and economics. It was not until the question of Islam arose in the late twentieth century that gender equality became a primary feature of the discourse of secularism.

Challenging the assertion that secularism has always been synonymous with equality between the sexes, Sex and Secularism reveals how this idea has been used to justify claims of white, Western, and Christian racial and religious superiority and has served to distract our attention from a persistent set of difficulties related to gender difference—ones shared by Western and non-Western cultures alike.

Margot Canaday
The Straight State is the most expansive study of the federal regulation of homosexuality yet written. Unearthing startling new evidence from the National Archives, Margot Canaday shows how the state systematically came to penalize homosexuality, giving rise to a regime of second-class citizenship that sexual minorities still live under today.

Canaday looks at three key arenas of government control--immigration, the military, and welfare--and demonstrates how federal enforcement of sexual norms emerged with the rise of the modern bureaucratic state. She begins at the turn of the twentieth century when the state first stumbled upon evidence of sex and gender nonconformity, revealing how homosexuality was policed indirectly through the exclusion of sexually "degenerate" immigrants and other regulatory measures aimed at combating poverty, violence, and vice. Canaday argues that the state's gradual awareness of homosexuality intensified during the later New Deal and through the postwar period as policies were enacted that explicitly used homosexuality to define who could enter the country, serve in the military, and collect state benefits. Midcentury repression was not a sudden response to newly visible gay subcultures, Canaday demonstrates, but the culmination of a much longer and slower process of state-building during which the state came to know and to care about homosexuality across many decades.

Social, political, and legal history at their most compelling, The Straight State explores how regulation transformed the regulated: in drawing boundaries around national citizenship, the state helped to define the very meaning of homosexuality in America.

Joan Wallach Scott
How secularism has been used to justify the subordination of women

Joan Wallach Scott’s acclaimed and controversial writings have been foundational for the field of gender history. With Sex and Secularism, Scott challenges one of the central claims of the “clash of civilizations” polemic—the false notion that secularism is a guarantee of gender equality.

Drawing on a wealth of scholarship by second-wave feminists and historians of religion, race, and colonialism, Scott shows that the gender equality invoked today as a fundamental and enduring principle was not originally associated with the term “secularism” when it first entered the lexicon in the nineteenth century. In fact, the inequality of the sexes was fundamental to the articulation of the separation of church and state that inaugurated Western modernity. Scott points out that Western nation-states imposed a new order of women’s subordination, assigning them to a feminized familial sphere meant to complement the rational masculine realms of politics and economics. It was not until the question of Islam arose in the late twentieth century that gender equality became a primary feature of the discourse of secularism.

Challenging the assertion that secularism has always been synonymous with equality between the sexes, Sex and Secularism reveals how this idea has been used to justify claims of white, Western, and Christian racial and religious superiority and has served to distract our attention from a persistent set of difficulties related to gender difference—ones shared by Western and non-Western cultures alike.

Joan Wallach Scott
At many universities, women’s studies programs have achieved department status, establishing tenure-track appointments, graduate programs, and consistent course enrollments. Yet, as Joan Wallach Scott notes in her introduction to this collection, in the wake of its institutional successes, women’s studies has begun to lose its critical purchase. Feminism, the driving political force behind women’s studies, is often regarded as an outmoded political position by many of today’s students, and activism is no longer central to women’s studies programs on many campuses. In Women’s Studies on the Edge, leading feminist scholars tackle the critical, political, and institutional challenges that women’s studies has faced since its widespread integration into university curricula.

The contributors to Women’s Studies on the Edge embrace feminism not as a set of prescriptions but as a critical stance, one that seeks to interrogate and disrupt prevailing systems of gender. Refusing to perpetuate and protect orthodoxies, they ask tough questions about the impact of institutionalization on the once radical field of women’s studies; about the ongoing difficulties of articulating women’s studies with ethnic, queer, and race studies; and about the limits of liberal concepts of emancipation for understanding non-Western women. They also question the viability of continuing to ground women’s studies in identity politics authorized by personal experience. The multiple interpretations in Women’s Studies on the Edge sometimes overlap and sometimes stand in opposition to one another. The result is a collection that embodies the best aspects of critique: the intellectual and political stance that the contributors take to be feminism’s ethos and its aim.

Contributors
Wendy Brown
Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Evelynn M. Hammonds
Saba Mahmood
Biddy Martin
Afsaneh Najmabadi
Ellen Rooney
Gayle Salamon
Joan Wallach Scott
Robyn Wiegman

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