Department

Department of History

First Advisor

Marianne Kamp

Description

Islam has become a growing piece of the American cultural landscape, and the hijab, or veil, has become its most visible identifier. American women are wearing hijab in increasing numbers, regardless of growing stereotypes and discrimination in American society, and this project seeks to understand why. Understanding this requires a look at how the meanings and functions of hijab have evolved over time in the United States. Beginning with the 1980s, the evolution of the American Muslim identity has affected and been affected by the meanings and functions of hijab. Patterns in mainstream American society have driven Muslim women to create an autonomous space for themselves by redefining hijab and creating new functions for it. Before the 1990s, hijab seemed to be way of strongly expressing religious identity and going against the grain of assimilation into American culture. During the 1990s, however, a shift began to take place, and young, second-generation American Muslim women began to carve out their own space in American culture, using hijab to identify with Islam in response to perceived “American oppression,” not only of Muslim women, but of women general. Hijab has become a symbol of Islam in a specifically American context. It has become a part of defining American Islam through the use of female autonomy to re-discover religious identity, reject American patriarchal patterns, adopt American Islamic social trends, and actively challenge American stereotypes of Islamic oppression of women.

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Evolving Meanings and Functions of Hijab for American Muslim Women

Islam has become a growing piece of the American cultural landscape, and the hijab, or veil, has become its most visible identifier. American women are wearing hijab in increasing numbers, regardless of growing stereotypes and discrimination in American society, and this project seeks to understand why. Understanding this requires a look at how the meanings and functions of hijab have evolved over time in the United States. Beginning with the 1980s, the evolution of the American Muslim identity has affected and been affected by the meanings and functions of hijab. Patterns in mainstream American society have driven Muslim women to create an autonomous space for themselves by redefining hijab and creating new functions for it. Before the 1990s, hijab seemed to be way of strongly expressing religious identity and going against the grain of assimilation into American culture. During the 1990s, however, a shift began to take place, and young, second-generation American Muslim women began to carve out their own space in American culture, using hijab to identify with Islam in response to perceived “American oppression,” not only of Muslim women, but of women general. Hijab has become a symbol of Islam in a specifically American context. It has become a part of defining American Islam through the use of female autonomy to re-discover religious identity, reject American patriarchal patterns, adopt American Islamic social trends, and actively challenge American stereotypes of Islamic oppression of women.