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The NationScott does a good job of conveying the hysteria that surrounded the foulard debate in France...Scott's broad and exhaustive research makes for a bracing account of the debate.
— Laila Lalami
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.
"This is a very important and . . . welcome book. . . . [T]his sharp and insightful study is undoubtedly a must for any student on not only French society, but of questions regarding secular ideology, gender, and 'deterritorialized' Islam in general."—Per-Erik Nilsson, Evironment and Planning
"Scott succeeds in revealing how the inability of French government's failure to address the issue of the veil meaningfully underlines its current inability to create a country where the co-existence of differences, rather than celebration of what is common or the same, is the basis of community."—Irmak Ertuna, Darkmatter
"Scott unfolds excellent and detailed analyses of the construction of the citizen in the French nation state, of French racism and Algeria, and of the prominent news events in the French veiling controversy."—Virginia Corvid, Feminist Collections
Chapter 1: The Headscarf Controversies 21
Chapter 2: Racism 42
Chapter 3: Secularism 90
Chapter 4: Individualism 124
Chapter 5: Sexuality 151
Posted November 10, 2011
No text was provided for this review.