Hypervisible and illegible: the paradox of hijabi subcultural style
Professor Reina Lewis, Cultural Studies, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London
The Power Institute with Sydney Ideas is pleased to present a talk by Reina Lewis, Artscom Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. Hypervisible and illegible: the paradox of hijabi subcultural style will address discourse of choice that makes up much of the discussions about, and justifications for, veiling and veiling clothing practices. With this as its focus, the talk argues that new taste communities based on modest fashion are emerging, that create generational and social distinctions for those with the cultural capital to engage in new modes of interaction with mainstream fashion cultures and religious practice. Proposing that these taste communities can be seen as a subcultural formation, the talk situates the privileging of choice as one of the distinguishing factors of hijabi and modest subcultures, focusing on how the limitations of the neoliberal choice paradigm are recognised, managed, and negotiated through embodied dress practices and their representation.
With ethnic and religious family and community norms about dress and comportment functioning as the grounds against which choice is often defined and/or contained, the talk further examines, within the British context, the changing relationship of contemporary hijabi fashion to South Asian diaspora dress cultures. Using examples from designers, retailers and consumers, the talk goes onto consider how Muslim, ethnic, and religious distinction is reframed by younger generations able to move between minority and mainstream fashion systems. Collectively, Hypervisible and illegible: the paradox of hijabi subcultural style seeks to challenge commonplace concepts of a polarised mainstream/Muslim fashion binary by arguing for a network of overlapping, mutually constituting – ‘secular’, religious, ethnic, alternative, mainstream – transnational fashion circuits.
Reina Lewis is Artscom Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. Her new book Re-Fashioning Orientalism: New Trends in Muslim Style will be published by Duke University Press in 2014. She is also author of Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem (2004), and Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (1996). She is editor of Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith (2013), and with Nancy Micklewright, of Gender, Modernity and Liberty: Middle Eastern and Western Women’s Writings: A Critical Reader (2006), with Sara Mills, of Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader (2003), and, with Peter Horne, of Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Visual Cultures (1996). Reina Lewis is also editor with Elizabeth Wilson of the book series Dress Cultures, and with Teresa Heffernan of the book series Cultures in Dialogue.