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The Stuart Hall Library Saturday Reading Group

Saturday Reading Group: Muslim Identities: Fashion and Dress Zineb Sedira and Emma Tarlo

21 Jul 2018

This month’s Saturday Reading Group will explore the themes of personal identity, veiling and the visibility of Muslim dress through the writings of French Algerian artist and curator Zineb Sedira and Goldsmiths Professor Emma Tarlo.

  • Venue

    Stuart Hall Library

  • 15:00 - 17:00

    Free, booking essential.

Join us for a reading group exploring female Muslim identities expressed through contemporary dress, fashion and photography in London.

All writings are read together in the group, you don’t need to read them in advance.

This month’s reading group will focus on the complex and performative impact clothing can have on our personal and cultural identities.

We will discuss curator and artist Zineb Sedira’s text ‘Mapping the Illusive’ from Iniva’s 2003 exhibition catalogue Veil. Sedira discusses the veil as a powerful symbol in contemporary culture, emphasising its many complexities and the impossibility of allocating it any single or fixed cultural interpretation.

For me, the veil has never been a simple sign, but one which always elicited a multitude of readings, both visible and invisible. As an artist I have spent years exploring the physical and the mental veil, negotiating the social and cultural boundaries and contexts that inform such an investigation, and asking whether it is feasible to write and communicate productively about the subject.

We will also read Emma Tarlo’s text ‘Landscapes of Attraction and Rejection: South Asian Aesethics in Islamic Fashion in London’ from the anthology Islamic fashion and anti-fashion (2013). Tarlo perceives a trend in the contemporary fashion choices of British Muslims from a South Asian background. She traces their movement away from South Asian aesthetics and towards fashions which they consider to be more modern, cosmopolitan and ‘visibly Muslim’:

This intimate relationship between our bodies and their clothes is not, however, without potential conflict. Bodies animate clothes, but they sometimes let them down, defying their intentions through inappropriate combinations and usage. Similarly, clothes animate bodies, but they also constrain and frame them, modifying the actions of their wearers and inviting particular perceptions and responses from viewers.

Zineb Sedira was born in Paris to Algerian parents. She graduated from the Slade School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. In 2001, she was included in the African Pavilion of the Venice Biennale and was awarded the Prix AFAA, IV Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine de Bamako. She participated in the Biennale in Valencia, the exhibition Colori del Mediterraneo in Rome and in 2004 showed her work at the Cornerhouse, Manchester. Sedira lives and works in London and has collaborated with Iniva on several occasions.

Emma Tarlo is Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include urban anthropology and the anthropology of dress, textiles, material culture, memory and the body. She is author of Clothing Matters: Dress and identity in India (1996); Unsettling Memories; Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi (2003) and Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics and Faith (2010).

The reading group is free and open to all.