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A Romantic Reading of the French ‘Burqa Ban’: Liberty as Self-Expression and the Symbolism of Uncovered Faces in the French Debate on Full Veils
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
2015 (English)In: Confluence: online journal of world philosophies, ISSN 2199-0360, Vol. 2, 88-106 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper suggests that in order to understand the recent ban in France against covering one’s face in public, we need to move beyondthe theoretical frameworks typically applied to the more researched 'headscarf ban' of 2004. Previous research tends to interpret the 'burqa ban' as yet another attempt to impose republican unity and order over what was taken to be the excessive and divisive self-expression manifested by the Muslim veil. It has recently been suggested, however,that it might be more fruitful to approach the debate through a rather different theoretical lens: the Romantic ideal of liberty as self-expression, the original target of Isaiah Berlin’s warnings that positive liberty invites tyranny under the very banner of liberation. The paper follows up on this suggestion by revisiting the report that recommended the 2010 ban on full veils to the National Assembly. More specifically, it analyzes the section of the report in which it is argued that there is something special about faces, which requires usto keep them uncovered. This reasoning, it is argued, does indeed seem to be rooted in a Romantic understanding of liberty and human dignity, and in the fear that full veils suppress rather than express each individual’s unique self. The ban on full veils must thus also be understood as an attempt, whether misguided or not, to promote the self-expression of veiled women – not curb it, as previous research has nevertheless often assumed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Freiburg: Verlag Karl Alber, 2015. Vol. 2, 88-106 p.
Keyword [en]
veil, Romanticism, Isaiah Berlin, republicanism, liberty, self-expression
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-240251OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-240251DiVA: diva2:776080
The Impact of Religion

ISBN: 978-3-451-10350-6

Available from: 2015-01-06 Created: 2015-01-06 Last updated: 2015-08-12Bibliographically approved

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Gustavsson, Gina
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