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UAL Research Online

Bending space, managing bodies: veiling, gender and urban space in Finland

Almila, Anna-Mari (2018) Bending space, managing bodies: veiling, gender and urban space in Finland. In: Creative Locations: Art, Culture and the City, 10th Midterm Conference of the European Sociological Association Research Networks Sociology of the Arts (RN2) & Sociology of Culture (RN7), 4th - 7th September 2018, University of Malta.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Almila, Anna-Mari

Veiling has in the ‘Western’ mind been associated with the mysterious harem for centuries. Over-eroticised ideas about ‘harems’ and public baths in the ‘Orient’ appear in travellers’ narratives, art and literature alike. For centuries, Muslim women (and Muslim men) have been created through romantic, exotic, erotic, sensual, sensational stories by Europeans. Yet it is indeed the case that veiling and harem have historically been intimately connected in many locations across the Middle East and North Africa, each practice producing the other. While the nature of these interrelated spaces and dress practices has often been seriously misunderstood, the interconnectedness of dress, gender and the construction of space is undeniable in practices of veiling.

According to Lefebvre, spatial practices must to a certain extent be in balance with representations of space – architecture and urban planning. If dress is understood as a spatial practice, it follows that dress systems are meant to be in balance with the built environment. The interesting question, then, becomes this: what kind of adaptations are needed when a ‘foreign’ dress practice, following ‘foreign’ spatial logic, is brought into a different spatial environment? How do veiling women manage ‘European’ spaces and spatial practices?

In this paper, I seek to understand what happens to a dress phenomenon when it is taken from one kind of spatial context, which allows for the following of certain spatial practices in the pursuit of moral order, into a different set of spatial logics. The case I discuss is Islamic veiling in Finland – its challenges, adaptations and solutions to spatial dilemmas. I argue that there is a significant difference between different forms of veiling as regards their ‘fit’ with the Finnish urban space and its architecture, and also that veiling women are often capable of bending space to suit their needs in terms of gendered privacy.

Official Website: https://www.um.edu.mt/events/10midconf2018/_nocache
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Muslim women, veiling, dress, production of space, gender
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 6 September 2018
Event Location: University of Malta
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2018 09:15
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2018 09:15
Item ID: 13101
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/13101

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