Cute veiling? The contestation of cuteness in conservative dress in contemporary Turkey
(University of Bucharest)
Paper short abstract:
This paper analyses a rejected form of 'cuteness' and demonstrates the central role it plays in the articulation of the subjectivities of young fashionably veiled Turkish women. They construct themselves as the promoters of a new aesthetics of modernity for the 'pious Turkey'.
Paper long abstract:
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Istanbul between 2012 and 2014, I foreground a rejected form of 'cuteness'. This has been elaborated in a less expected domain, namely clothing for observant Muslim women. In Turkey, since the 1980s, the public demonstration of piety has been relegitimated through the Islamic revivalism and, today, the construction of a 'pious Turkey' under the current Islam-rooted governing party. The mass production of conservative clothing has been a commercial response to this relegitimisation. In the 1980s, the clothes were uniform and in darkish colours, the standard form of veiling consisting of an all-enveloping overcoat and a large headscarf. Since the 1990s, a process of aestheticization of these clothes has begun, a wider range of forms, fabrics and colours being introduced. 'Cuteness' is an outcome of this process, and has been materialized through the embellishment of garments (e.g. frills, ribbons, belts, brooches, pinks, reds, oversized flowers). Nevertheless, 'cuteness' reflects more than an aesthetic preoccupation. Its complexity is explored in this paper through the eyes of young covered women who today reject it: they contest this 'cuteness' because its promoters are men, the clothes betraying their patriarchal stance, and because they see the garments as being of low quality and out of touch with mainstream fashion trends; they avoid it through different means, from not buying such garments to designing their clothes. The papers addresses the role 'cuteness' plays in the articulation of these women's subjectivities as promoters of a new modern aesthetics for the 'pious Turkey'.
Cuteness: forms, politics, transformations