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UAL Research Online

Marcel Mauss’s Veil: The Islamic Hijab Between Consumption Studies and Gift Theory

Almila, Anna-Mari and Inglis, David (2019) Marcel Mauss’s Veil: The Islamic Hijab Between Consumption Studies and Gift Theory. In: Sosiologipaivat, 28-29 March 2019, Turku, Finland.

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

One of the mechanisms whereby people come to deal with cultural objects is through making, buying and receiving them as gifts. There is today a large international literature on the social roles played by gifts, a field of study that was initiated by Marcel Mauss in the 1920s. That literature has touched upon, but has not yet fully investigated, the importance of post-Maussian gift theory, and the empirical studies which both animate and express it, for understanding the precise mechanisms whereby consumption happens and can then take on broader social significance, including through the creation of group solidarities and the production of social differences and inequalities. This paper seeks to do precisely that. It does so by considering a specific set of empirical phenomena: the forms of consumption and gift-giving involved in the exchange of Islamic veils (hijabs).

Interdisciplinary and international veiling scholarship, while encompassing consumption-oriented studies of veiling practices, has not yet sought to illuminate specific veiling phenomena in light of classic and contemporary gift theory. By bringing hijab, gift and cultural consumption issues into dialogue with each other, we highlight both the complex and subtle ways in which gifts can operate today, as well as the broader significance of gift theory for the sociology of consumption and cultural sociology. The gifting of any cultural object transforms it from being just another object of consumption into something potentially far more powerful, efficacious, influential and meaningful, and this is even more so when the object being gifted is a veil, which is already profoundly charged with religious and community significance.

We specifically focus on how women in diasporic Muslim communities in Finland, as well as Finnish converts to Islam, give hijabs to each other as gifts. We use gift theory to understand the significance of such acts, unpicking the subtle power dynamics at work. We seek to throw new light on both micro-level, individual-to-individual aspects of hijab-gifts, and on the more macro-level factors bound up with these acts of gifting. It is argued that a hijab-gift is potentially deeply ambiguous, as well as markedly potent, because of the multiple layers of significance at work within it, encompassing factors including religious precepts, family and community norms, and commoditised sartorial fashion objects. Female gift-donors are seen to be able to shape, in often subterranean manners, the thoughts and actions of recipient women in various ways, in terms of: how and why they wear the hijab; which types of hijab, and which kinds of religious observance, they adopt; and the ways in which they understand their own motivations in the hijab’s adoption.

Official Website: http://sosiologipaivat.fi/sosiologipaivat-2019/
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 28 March 2019
Event Location: Turku, Finland
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2019 13:59
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2024 16:18
Item ID: 14829
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/14829

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