Balbir K. Singh, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Newberry

Balbir K. Singh, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Friday, February 24, 2017

3 to 5pm

Center for American History and Culture Programs
Gender and Sexuality Seminar

Head Dress: Aligning the Hijab and Turban Under Imperial Visuality

In this essay, Singh theorizes and reckons with an aligned politics of recognition for both the hijabi Muslim body and the turbaned Sikh body. In the wake of renewed attacks on Muslim and Muslim-adjacent communities, the hijab and turban continue to be enveloped as important material objects in the racialization of Muslim and Sikh bodies. Analyzing contemporary visual culture as both testament and counter-archive to a geopolitical project of Islamophobia, “Head Dress” moves to both assemble and update how we apprehend these unsettling figures. Comparative in scope, this paper looks at the racial, gendered, and queer configurations that the religious symbols and objects of hijab and turban provide. Specifically, this essay examines the twinned contradictions in arguments around religious freedom, as well as the imperialist discourses of security in the ongoing Global Wars on Terror. Through readings of recent events, ephemera, and visual culture, Singh argues that the aligned politics of recognition of these two bodies has important effects for the racial, gendered, and sexual politics of American empire.

Respondent: Roderick Ferguson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.