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March 17th Speaker Will Discuss Issues Surrounding France's "Politics of the Veil"

February 28, 2011
For press information, contact Jonathan Judaken, 901-488-7475

Dr. Joan Wallach Scott, renowned gender studies scholar and Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, will give a lecture based on her book The Politics of the Veil on Thursday, March 17, in the University Center Theatre on the University of Memphis campus. A reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the Marcus W. Orr Faculty Senate Lecture and a question-and-answer session.

There will be a reading discussion of The Politics of the Veil on Monday, March 14, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the University Center, Room 340 (Memphis Room A). A lasagna luncheon will be served.

Both events are free and open to the public. Parking is available in the Zach Curlin garage, adjacent to the University Center.

In 2004, the French government banned “conspicuous religious signs” in public schools. This law was the culmination of a set of “headscarf affairs” dating back to 1989. While this law applies to everyone, the impact on the Muslim community has been the most discussed. Many people in opposition to this law agree that it specifically targets the hijab, a traditional Muslim headdress worn by some Islamic women. Proponents of the law contend that the policy fits the French ideals of secularism and universalism.

Is the French government protecting the rights of women against archaic patriarchal traditions and institutionalizing the values of the secular republic as they claim?  Or is the very government that claims to offer them sanctuary violating these women’s rights? Scott’s book traces the ban on the hijab to its roots in colonialism and France’s lingering failure to accept the descendants of colonial subjects as citizens. She argues that rather than reconciling religious and ethnic differences, the law helps to exacerbate conflict, creating the very “clash of civilizations” said to be at the heart of these tensions.

More information about these events or any of the programs of the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities is available online at

For answers to specific questions, call Jonathan Judaken at 901-488-7475.

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