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Islamophobia, nomadic subjectivity and public pedagogy: A critical ethnography of veiled Muslim women in Australia

Keshwani, Jyoti (2021) Islamophobia, nomadic subjectivity and public pedagogy: A critical ethnography of veiled Muslim women in Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This critical ethnographic research investigates the experiences of veiled Muslim women (VMW) as they negotiate their identities against the backdrop of Islamophobia in Australia. It draws on the experiences of fourteen Muslim women from six countries to better understand the processes of cultural racism and its implications for subjectivity and identity formation. Drawing on their experiences of Islamophobia, the thesis aims to interrupt and demystify misunderstood and misrepresented identities related to wearing the veil/hijab.

The participants spoke about the impact of racism, stereotypes, discrimination and violence, and how social media (mis)represents their culture. Against this backdrop of ‘crisis’, the thesis seeks not only to challenge the way things are but to open up alternative public pedagogies based on the values of justice, compassion and respect.

Theoretically, the research draws on critical inquiry by employing Braidotti’s notion of ‘nomadic subjectivity’ to illuminate the lived experiences of the participants. A nomadic philosophical approach seeks to explain how identities are fragmented yet functional and evolving as they are integral and deep rooted in an individual.

Methodologically, the thesis draws on the tradition of critical ethnography to explore the experiences of VMW and their ongoing identity formation. Critical ethnography undertakes ethical responsibility of representation of the ‘other’ by addressing unfairness and injustice. This approach involved getting up close to the participants’ lives and experiences through focus groups, semi-structured interviews, participant observation and fieldnotes.

Drawing on this data, a number of emergent themes are identified, grouped under two key anchor points – crisis and hope. The notion of crisis offers a way to explain experiences of violence and intimidation, isolation and exclusion, racial profiling and stereotyping. On the other hand, experiences of hope originate from adversity, leadership actions and confidence in a better tomorrow. Hope endeavours to reclaim a sense of optimism, agency and action.

The thesis concludes by advocating a public pedagogy grounded in the principles and values of critically compassionate intellectualism. Using these ideas, the thesis advances a set of community, pedagogical and cultural practices needed to create a more inclusive society based on the values of cultural diversity, equality, democracy and social justice.

Keywords: Islamophobia, subjectivity, identity, public pedagogy, critical ethnography

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
Supervisor(s): Down, Barry and Wright, Peter
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