Susan Edwards, “Defacing Muslim women: dialectical meanings of dress in the body politic” in R. Banaker (ed.), Rights in Context (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010), 127-147
This collection offers a snapshot of how rights are debated and employed in public discourse to reshape legal and political relations at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Professor Susan Edwards’ article opens Part II of the book, “The Challenges of Rights”. She examines the denial of the fundamental right of women to wear what they choose, focusing on (for example) headscarves, long dresses and face veils, which as innocuous items of dress become transformed in and by the identity of the wearer and the meaning fixed upon such items of clothing by the observer. She argues that although it is a protected right under the European Convention, most notably Article 9 which claims to protect the right to religious belief, women have been betrayed. She contests the overly crude observer’s narratives that binarise women’s motives for choice, and explores the multifaceted meanings such dress has for women themselves, through space and time. Professor Edwards’ analysis is informed by post-colonial critique, but is also located in the context of the recent upsurge of counter-terrorism legislation which has given rise to this particular twist in the recent xenophobia and vilification of particular targeted communities of women.
Read more about the book on the Ashgate website (external link).
Susan Edwards is a researcher and campaigner with degrees in both law and social sciences, and a barrister (Door Tenant, Clarendon Chambers, Temple, London). She is Dean of Law and Professor of Law at Buckingham, and editor of the Denning Law Journal.