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College of Human Ecology

Hawley writes in headline-grabbing anthology "The Veil"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jana Hawley is one of 21 writers and scholars who contributed to The Veil: Women Writers on its History, Lore and Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press), an anthology getting attention around the world for its exploration of a globally-polarizing issue.

Writers, representing a wide range of societies, religions, ages, locations, race and accomplishments, examine the cultures, politics, and histories of veiling. Hawley is professor and head of the Department of Apparel, Textiles and Interior Design.

Although veiling today focuses on the struggle between Islam and the West and between contemporary and traditional interpretations of Islam, veiling of women, of men, and of sacred places and objects has existed in countless cultures and religions for centuries, writes editor Jennifer Health who edited the anthology.

Hawley's chapter refers to extensive research she has conducted in an Old Order Amish community in Missouri. In "The Amish Veil: Symbol of Separation and Community," she writes, "Amish dress serves as both separator and identifier. As a primary tenet, the Amish strive to be separate from the world and believe that appearance serves as a constant reminder of their beliefs."

For the Amish, she notes, dress is an index of commitment to their beliefs in separatism, humility and avoidance of fashion. Both men and women wear head coverings, hats for men, prayer caps and bonnets for women. Styles depend on the orthodoxy of the community, Hawley writes.

One book reviewer, Fatemeh Fakhraie, summed the anthology this way: "I would hope that, among other things, this book might help women make clearer and broader choices, with some understanding of global history - the force of history - behind those decisions. Obviously, we are better off with more information when making choices. And in the end, to veil or not must always be a choice."

The book, Fakhraie wrote, is "a refreshing anti-viewpoint that lets each reader peel away the various layers of meaning until she arrives at her own conclusions."

"In all the veils within these essays, there is one common thread without understanding context, it is impossible to make sweeping generalizations about veils and the women who wear them," wrote a reviewer in London's Daily Telegraph.

This article was posted on Wednesday, October 22, 2008, and is filed under Apparel, Textiles, & Interior Design, College News.