Muslim Veiling in Xinjiang

leiboldCentre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Melbourne

Dr James Leibold, Senior Lecturer in Politics and Asian Studies, La Trobe University

5.30pm to 7.00pm, Thursday 19 March 2015
Room 321, Level 3, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne

Muslim Veiling in Xinjiang: The Struggle to Define “Traditional” Uyghur Adornment in China

The ‘veil’ is arguably the most politicised piece of fabric in the world, eliciting heated debate over its significance and complex meanings. With a Muslim population nearly as large as Saudi Arabia, it should not surprise us that China has joined the global discussion. The People’s Republic of China’s over ten million Muslim women have their own histories and cultures of veiling, and just as styles and fabrics flow across national borders, so too has the controversy over its appropriateness.

In this talk, Dr Leibold will explore the ongoing battle between the Chinese Communist Party and Xinjiang’s Uyghur minority over the right to define what is “appropriate” and “traditional” female adornment. He will contrast the state’s sartorial social engineering campaign, which seeks to eliminate most popular head and body coverings in Xinjiang, with the rich variety of reasons and meanings Uyghur women and men attach to head and body coverings. While the Party-state strive to control and standardise Uyghur adornment, most Uyghurs respond with a defiantly complex registry of veiling practices that reflect everything from ethno-national resistance, religious faith, and global, Islamic haute couture.

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