Dissertation Abstracts

Coloniality, erasure, and the Muslim hijabi’s lived experiences: Lebanon as a case study

Author: Ali Kassem, Ak689@sussex.ac.uk
Department: Sociology
University: University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Aneira Edmunds, Kim Brayson, Nuno Ferreira
Year of completion: 2020
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Decolonial , Islam , Lebanon
Areas of Research: Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Religion , Theory


This dissertation analytically engages with the lived experiences of Muslim hijabi women in Lebanon, a small Mediterranean post-colonial land, building on data collected through in-depth interviews and focus groups with photo-elicitation across the country’s urban and rural geography with 88 participants during 2018. Visibilising their subalternised racialised experiences of anti-Muslim racism in the Arabic-speaking world, it pursues a theoretical contribution presenting a series of conceptualisations and specific processes of erasure for the analysis of the coloniality of being and the erasure of modernity’s Others. The second chapter, after the introduction, begins with an exploration of the westernised academy’s scholarship around the hijab and the lived experiences of hijabis in both the Global North and the Global South to argue that the hijab is an object of Empire, colonialism, and coloniality and a powerful site from where modernity can be theorised. From there, the third chapter sets the dissertation’s theoretical framework where the Latin American modernity/(de)coloniality collective’s work and that of relevant post- and anti-colonial scholars are explored. The fourth chapter moves to methodology, presenting, and arguing for the research techniques adopted while discussing a series of ethical issues faced. The fifth chapter develops a backdrop for the analysis chapters through a reconstruction of Lebanon’s history and a sketching of its current socio-political scene. The sixth chapter, the first analysis chapter, then conceptualises the experiences of the hijabi as those of an ‘Arabo-belated difference in excess’; a specific racialised ‘social form’ experienced, enforced, and set for dehumanising subjugation. The seventh chapter subsequently builds on this to present how this form is lived in material daily interaction across the four spheres of the domestic, the public, work, and the state. A series of micro-processes of coloniality’s erasure are here conceptualised. Chapter eight then turns to the ‘hijabi kaleidoscopic spectrum’ to explore the power effects of the various forms of hijab commonly present in Lebanon. In this respect, it analyses these power effects as a process of the hijab’s dilution and explicates this dilution as a ‘hollowing mummification’ for erasure. Doing this, it re-interprets the emergence and spread of what are termed fashion and modern hijabs under racialised and racialising modernity. The ninth chapter then explores discourses of difa‘ (defence) deployed by hijabi women and the coloniality of this resistance, to close with a brief discussion around delinking and its (im)possibility. Here, participants’ conceptualisation of the dress’ agentive role towards an Islamic telos are engaged with, highlighting the loss ensuing from coloniality’s erasing movement. The last chapter concludes by summarising the key findings and contributions across academic fields and disciplines, and beyond academic fields and disciplines, in the pursuit of an anti-coloniality liberation.