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Identity Between Materiality and Subjectivity: The quest for individuality, autonomy, and agency in Muslim women’s narratives of headscarf removal

The study offers an in-depth exploration into how Muslim women negotiate their identities in the context of removing their hijab, drawing on approximately 217 anonymous autobiographical blog posts. It situates itself at the intersection of culture, politics, religion, and the intertwined aspects of materiality and identity, aiming to unpack the motivations and justifications behind such a personal decision. Through a grounded theory approach involving narratives from former hijabis, (later faith leaders, and the general public), this research illuminates the themes of individuality, autonomy, and agency. It reveals how women feel compelled to wear the hijab due to external pressures (not always but often), leading to a loss of self-identity, and how aspirations for independence through education or career paths often act as catalysts for hijab removal. The study also highlights the agency women exhibit in removing their hijab, despite potential societal repercussions, demonstrating the reflexive process of identity construction amidst societal expectations and personal beliefs. By proposing grounded hypotheses related to economic factors, visibility, secularization, and political backlash, the research provides nuanced insights into the complex motivations behind the decision to remove the hijab, thereby contributing to a deeper understanding of the dynamic relationship between materiality and subjectivity in Muslim women’s quest for individuality, autonomy, and agency.

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