The Islamic scarf in France
Carpenter-Latiri, Dora (2007) The Islamic scarf in France Peter Lang Publishing Group, Ireland.
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Official URL: http://artsresearch.brighton.ac.uk/research/academ...
This peer-reviewed essay originated in the Royal Irish Academy Symposium, 'Intercultural Spaces: Language, Culture, Identity' (2003). Its contribution lay in its re-siting the dualism of the complex arguments for and against acceptance of the Islamic headscarf in France, and, using tools of linguistic analysis to reveal underlying attitudes and ways of thinking, in its critical scrutiny of comments and arguments made on all sides in the debate. Drawing on her knowledge of Arabic and experience as a lexicographer to examine the terms used to refer to the headscarf in various forms of discourse, including standard reference dictionaries, Carpenter-Latiri assembled a unique terminological paradigm. A wide corpus was interrogated, including radio programmes, press articles and blogs, in which French people, from famous intellectuals to anonymous students, express their views, revealing the premises on which their arguments are based. Exposing conflicting issues of identity, they illustrated a spectrum that ranged from secular republican fundamentalism to Islamic fundamentalism, with groups appealing to republican and/or Muslim ideals to justify opposing stances. A particular case examined by Carpenter-Latiri revolved around the way feminisms are invoked to justify both positions, one seeing the headscarf as a symbol of male oppression, the other as a pragmatic means of empowerment. New representations of French and Muslim identities emerge, as well as different ways of asserting identity among the French Muslim community, especially young women in that community. Such methodological concerns relate in differing ways to the approaches of other Brighton researchers working on identity, gender and dress. The lengthy period covered allowed evolving social trends and attitudes to be evaluated. It traces how contemporary controversy follows a long history of colonial and postcolonial representations of Islam and demonstrates that, regardless of the merits of the arguments advanced in the debate, there is still a failure in intercultural communication.
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