The Veiling-Fashion Industry: Transnational Geographies of Islamism, Capitalism, and Identity

  • Secor, Anna (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


In a world of global Islamist networks and identities, globalization can no longer be characterized as a dialectical relationship between capitalist homogenization ("Me World") and its rejection ("Jihad"). Instead, a new geography is emerging, a "McJihad" within which global Islam and global capitalism have become fused. The rise of a transnational industry for the design, production, marketing, and sales of Islamic fashions for women ("veiling-fashion") is a prime example of the ways in which neoliberal economic practices and consumption are becoming intertwined with Muslim politics and culture. Going beyond traditional commodity chain research to incorporate questions of meaning and identity, this study asks how the networks of veilingfashion work to order geopolitical, geo-economic, and cultural spaces and identities. By examining how circuits of veiling-fashion work to produce new Islamic geographies, this project aims both to address questions of global importance and to produce empirically grounded geographic theory. The rise of the transnational veiling-fashion industry in Turkey has taken place within the context of I) the restructuring of global commodity chains in apparel that has resulted, in part, from trade liberalization and 2) the resurgence of Islamic identities worldwide. Turkey has been at the nexus of both of these trends. In the past two decades, neoliberal economic reform has reoriented the Turkish economy from the state-lcd, import-substitution industrialization towards open markets, liberalized financial institutions, and production for export. In the wake of this broad economic transformation, however, has followed a seeming paradox: the rise of Islam as an increasingly prominent force in the public sphere of this secular, democratic state. Our project investigates the intersection of Islamism and capitalism and its geopolitical and cultural implications through a multi-sited case study of the new Turkish veiling-fashion industry and its transnational connections to Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. This project has two primary objectives: To analyze the scope, history, and geography of the veiling-fashion industry headquartered in Turkey by tracing out the circuits of production, design, sales, and finance that characterize the industry To understand the implications of the production, sale, and consumption of veiling-fashion for geopolitics, geo-economics, and identity formation in a transnational context. These goals will be achieved through the execution of four research activities: a survey of the veiling-fashion (tesettiir) industry in Turkey; interview-based case studies of three transnational veiling-fashion companies with headquarters in Turkey (Tekbir, Aydan, and Diclc); focus groups with consumers of Turkish veiling-fashion in Istanbul, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam; and the production and analysis of a veiling-fashion archive. The intellectual merit of this research resides in its empirical and theoretical contributions. This will be the first study of the structure and dynamics of the veiling-fashion industry and the role of Islamic business practices, economic governance, and workplace regulations at each stage in the global commodity chain. The results of this research will contribute to postcolonial economic geographies that seek alternative vantage points on the processes of globalization and to political geographic research on the transnationalization of Islamic identities and practices. This research will have a broad impact because it will address issues that are of great human and political significance, including the regulation of veiling in Europe and Turkey and the ways in which Muslim women negotiate transnational identity politics. Through the dissemination of results in prominent scholarly outlets, findings from this research will have an impact on understandings of Islamic practices and identities in the global arena, the geography of "McJihad" today. Because this research speaks to issues of broad human interest, results will also be shared in the popular press through editorials.
Effective start/end date8/1/071/31/12


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