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Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

In this thesis, I explore how Muslim and Jewish women in a predominantly North American cultural context use online public spaces to blog about their religious dress practices. Existing comparisons between online self-representation and religious dress among Muslim and Jewish women includes work by Reina Lewis (2013) and Emma Tarlo (2013 and 2016). My research builds on and expands their contributions, while depending on slightly different primary sources and theoretical frameworks. Consequently, I use Mol’s (2002) concept of ‘enactment’ to elaborate how Mahmood’s (2005) and Avishai’s (2008) arguments for women’s religious practices within the confines of conservative religions to be understood as a form of ethical agency, might operate online.

Additionally, in light of how different forms of authority are enacted in the primary sources, I interrogate Heidi Campbell’s (2007) preliminary framework of multiple layers of religious authority online. Approaching the loose blogging networks of about 30 blogs per religion from a qualitative, humanities perspective, I consider the bloggers to have creative control over their writing: I study online writing about religious dress, not religious dress itself. Beyond using snapshots of blog posts written by individual bloggers, I consider how some of the bloggers’ perspectives have changed over time, and analyse interactions between bloggers and commenters in the ‘Comments’ sections of relevant posts. I argue that enactments of gendered religious identities online are often led by women, within frameworks that are simultaneously personal and which the bloggers themselves consider orthodox. Such personal, but not necessarily feminist, online accounts challenge mainstream narratives about religious dress as oppressive and externally mandated, and instead calls for an understanding of modest dress practices as mutable aspects of lived, and gendered, religious identities. !
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2017


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