Silence and consent: Continuum of (non)-veiling, Malay femininity, and the new Islamisation in Malaysia – a seminar by Dr Alicia Izharuddin (Wed, 23 March 2016)

Speaker: Dr Alicia Izharuddin (Senior Lecturer, University of Malaya)
Date: Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

This paper examines the modern history of veiling in Malaysia using the continuum of (non)-veiling as a heuristic device to examine the vicissitudes of Islamisation and Malay femininity. The dichotomy between the unveiled and veiled woman as oppositional and mutually exclusive is a reductive one, masking the shifting subjectivities of women who wish to unveil but cannot, women who remove the veil but choose to eventually re-veil, women who veil part-time, and women who down-veil (transition from niqab/extended hijab to simple hijab). I would like to suggest that the sartorial practices of Muslim-identified women in Malaysia exist on a continuum of subjectivities rather than a simple binary of non-veiled and veiled.

The significance of establishing this continuum would be to illuminate the ethical agency of Muslim-identified women and their negotiation and struggles with faith, culture and politics of the everyday – all of which constitute the micro-politics of (non)-veiling identities. Such a continuum of identities will also be able to reveal the contradictions, respectively, within the community of women who veil and women who do not. Using data collected from a wide range of Malay female respondents who represent this continuum, the theory of intersectionality and social capital, this paper is able to construct veiling as an unsettling metaphor for ethical agency and dispositif in a nation undergoing a new articulation of institutionalised Islamisation.

About the speaker
Alicia Izharuddin is Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. After receiving her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London in 2014, she returned to Malaysia to take up a teaching post in University of Malaya. She is also a newspaper columnist in the Malay Mail where she writes about gender in Malaysian culture and higher education. She has published in Indonesia and the Malay World, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific and has an upcoming book entitled ‘Gender and Islam in Indonesian Cinema’ (Palgrave Macmillan).