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Translocal Hijab

The Producing, Distributing and Consuming of Religious Clothing in-between Tajikistan and the Arab Emirates

by Abdullah Mirzoev


The project starts from the increased significance and everyday presence of veiling (hijab) in the public and private life of Muslims in Tajikistan. Taking into account the various meanings and expectations connected with local practices of veiling, the project traces the translocal networks of hijab production, distribution and consumption between the Arab Emirates and Tajikistan.

With its regional focus on Dubai the project reflects this setting's emerging presence as a nodal point for translocal trading activities between Tajikistan, the Arab Emirates and beyond, as well as a center for the production and global distribution of Islamic goods. Beyond the commercial effects of demand and supply within the hijab business sector, the project looks at various symbolic, historic and discursive domains that influence contemporary, local perceptions and practices of veiling (hijab) in Tajikistan. Linking the Tajiks’ “traditional ways” of female clothing with new influences from global media and with the nation-state's political responses, the project enters a field where social actors continuously (re-)negotiate ethnicity, merge and distinguish various traditional and modern Islamic trends through an everyday commodity. Beyond the macro- and micro-levels of business flows and incentives, the project also looks into the various religious motivations and moral commitments of those (female) traders, sellers and buyers who are involved in the hijab trade-fashion nexus in order to trace the multiple angles and complex particularities for this case of economy's intersection with religious, ethnic and global ways of identifying.

To approach the hijab and the various practices and discourses associated with its production, distribution and consumption within a translocal context, ethnographic fieldwork for this project will primarily focus on the local bazaars and trading centers, its sellers and clients in Tajikistan, as well as on the (associated) companies and their employees in Dubai which are involved in market research, design and final production. Beyond this, the project will engage with interlocutors from various political, scientific and religious domains to reconstruct the historical trajectory of veiling in Tajikistan, which then will serve as a complementary “cultural” matrix for nowadays multiple ways of “dealing” with the hijab.

Pictures (top down): Hijab shops, Dubai (December 2015); Korvon Bazar, Dushanbe (August 2015); Young lady selling hijabs in Korvon Bazar (September 2015); Young lady selling fruits in one of building material markets. Uses hijab as a “defending technique” in this market where the buyers and sellers are mainly men. Dushanbe (September 2015); Young ladies walking through Korvon Bazar, Dushanbe (September 2015)


The research was funded by Volkswagen Stiftung between 2013-16 as part of the joint research project "Translocal Goods - Education, Work, and Commodities between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China, and the Arab Emirates", Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.