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Changing QatarCulture, Citizenship, and Rapid Modernization$
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Geoff Harkness

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479889075

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479889075.001.0001

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The National Uniform

The National Uniform

Strategic Uses of Clothing

(p.124) 4 The National Uniform
Changing Qatar

Geoff Harkness

NYU Press

Virtually all Qataris wear the national uniform in their day-to-day lives: white robes and head scarves for men, and black cloaks and head scarves for women. These signifiers of nationality are “passports” in a nation where citizens are positioned atop the social hierarchy. Exploring these issues vis-à-vis the hijab, this chapter traces the garments’ history in the Gulf, including their transformation from functional to fashionable attire. These and other changes generate persistent grumbles—and social control measures—from other Qataris. Thus, the hijab serves as a site of resistance, conformity, and negotiation of social issues, including responses to modernity. To assuage concerns about cultural erosion and maintain a sense of personal style, Qatari women modify, adjust, reimagine, and remove their hijabs to suit changing circumstances. These hijab micropractices are at times so infinitesimal that they are easy to overlook. Yet they are significant because they enable women to align the elements of modern traditionalism into a socially acceptable identity that maximizes autonomy. Though the hijab is typically viewed through a lens of constraint, this chapter demonstrates the hijab’s flexibility and the agency with which Muslim women engage in adornment practices. Hijab micropractices, however, may inadvertently uphold a dynastic power structure that does little to advance women.

Keywords:   Qatar, Arabian Gulf, culture, hijab, micropractices, Muslim

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