‘Strategies of Recognition’ and Palestinian Immigrant Women’s Dress: Forging Communities and Negotiating Power Relations

Enaya Othman

Abstract: This paper examines the narratives of twenty-two Palestinian immigrant women who settled in the Milwaukee area in order to demonstrate the particular ways in which they used their dress as a means to claim places of importance and exert influence in their communities. While women’s clothing conventions are the product of social and cultural powers that operate to ‘discipline the body,’ nevertheless, women subject to these forces deliberately choose to maneuver within their society’s standard code of dress for mobility. Because of this, the standards for dress do not simply discipline; they are a means by which women can reassign their roles within their communities. That is, the deliberate use of clothing within a defined temporal and spatial context allows women to position themselves in places of authority and power. This paper illuminates how Palestinian women identified themselves with their families, communities, regions, religion, and ethnicity during two distinctive periods between the 1960s and the 2000s. In each period, women attached different meanings to their dress, meanings that are directed towards recognition, social mobility, and expanding their roles both inside and outside of their homes.

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