The Source Text

The Four Hijabs is inspired by ideas in Dr. Manal Hamzeh's book Pedagogies of DeVeiling: Muslim Girls and the Hijab Discourse (Information Age Publishing, 2012). To purchase the book, click here.

Praise for Pedagogies of Deveiling:

Pedagogies of DeVeiling is a stunning critical ethnography of young muslim women moving across contexts and ideologies, resisting the binaries that clutter their lives, and narrating rich lives in the post-colonial rim of contemporary U.S. Hamzeh’s writing is elegant; her work reads like a modern day Du Boisian scholar, interrogating young lives, relationships, institutions and political arrangements with a critical eye on gender, Islamophobia, racism and the post colonial “war on terror” ravaging communities in the U.S. and globally.  Hamzeh’s brilliant contestation of the hijab discourse is a critical cultural tool that will serve scholars in feminist, queer, cultural and post-colonial studies.

The text teaches us much about the critical epistemologies deployed by Hamzeh; the productive reflexivity she engages and also the humor and wisdom young women bring to and through the veil as they sit in the messy intersection of “colonialism, racism, Islamophobia in the nation and sexism within community.”  But more than a particularistic analysis of a compelling group of young women, Pedagogies of deveiling offers a significant model for serious and sensitive post-colonial feminist inquiry into young women’s lives as an opportunity to refract back on critical cultural studies. Pedagogies of deveiling should be taught in gender studies, educational studies, and psychology and research methods courses.  Hamzeh is a sensitive researcher, compelling theorist and a beautiful storyteller of the cultural tensions in which these young women are trying to carve lives of meaning.

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, The Graduate Center - City University of New York, Social Personality Psychology, Urban Education and Women's Studies 

We have a brave new Arab-Muslim feminist in Manal Hamzeh.  She had given us a gift of a book that goes beyond a simple feminist reading of the hijab (veil) in the Islamic texts. Instead she delivers a groundbreaking analysis steeped in the best tradition of critical postcolonial feminism that challenges the ‘hijabophobia’ of the West.  With great skill and eloquence she gives us an intimate insight into the hidden lives of second generation transnational Muslim girls in USA, who, like her, claim their own public space as athletes and critical learners. Pedagogies of DeVeiling is a must for scholars, educationalists, and social commentators who believe in the power of education to transform lives.  

Heidi Safia Mirza, Professor of Equalities Studies in Education, Institute of Education, University of London, UK.
Author of Race, gender and educational desire: Why black women succeed and fail (Routledge)

 Manal Hamzeh has a deep understanding of the Muslim-American culture by virtue of the many years she has lived and worked in Jordan and the United States. In her youth, she played on the Jordanian national basketball team and later took part in college varsity teams in the US.  Back in Jordan, she taught educational audiology for seventeen years, before returning to the United States and becoming a Professor of Women’s Studies at New Mexico State University. These experiences make her book truly informative and unique as well highly engaging.

In Pedagogies of DeVeiling, Manal Hamzeh explores the limited physical activities choices in the lives of four Muslim-American teen-age girls.  Young girls wearing headscarves or not are caught between their parents’ insistence on gender-segregated activities.  By becoming an informed mentor to a group of Muslim girls, Hamzeh helps them negotiate a third space where they can partake in many physical activities while developing their own agency in expressing their Muslimness.  Hamzeh calls teachers in American school (and colleges) to break out of the binary discourse of “to veil or not to veil” and work with Muslim girls as partners taking charge of their own learning. Pedagogies of DeVeiling must read for American educators.

Janet Afary, Professor of Religious Studies and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Author of Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2009, winner of the British Society for Middle East Studies Annual Book Prize)

Dr. Mónica Torres’ Introduction of Pedagogies of Deveiling: Muslim Girls and the Hijab
Book Launch Event, April 26, 2012

Let me turn to the book, Pedagogies of Deveiling: Muslim Girls and the Hijab Discourse. This book has been a long time in the works. Some would say its origin goes back to Manal’s work as a graduate student and more specifically her dissertation. Others, including Manal, would say it goes back a lifetime. And maybe a good number of lifetimes. And for that reason and many others—it is an important book.

Pedagogies of Deveiling emerged as a result of a fourteen-month-long study in which Dr. Hamzeh collaborated with four Muslim girls—Layla Dojua, Abby, and Amy—to explore issues of gender in their lives. This book describes that collaboration including the development of critical concepts “hijab discourse” and “hijabophobia.”

The discussion introduced in this book has the potential to engage many audiences. What does it hold for us? I read this from the book: “What Pedagogies of Deveiling puts forward is [also] critical to educational researchers and teachers who have reduced a central gendering discourse in the lives of muslim girls to a headscarf. . . . This book suggests an alternative understanding. . . .”

  • This includes understanding the hijab in more complex configurations than we have historically—including the hijab in spatial, ethical, and spiritual contexts.
  • This includes understanding hijab discourse as a challenge--to rethink how we see and how we work with muslim girls, as agents navigating a variety of circumstances and discourses.
  • This includes understanding hijab discourse as an opportunity--to reconsider some of our epistemological assumptions and methodological practices.

Pedagogies of Deveiling has the tremendous potential not only to provide us with information but to prompt us to action.

It is important for me to note that this book is theoretically rich. And when I say that I mean several things.

  • One, it clearly values critical cultural theory as framework for thinking and navigating the world we live in and the scholarship we engage. Dr. Hamzeh both relies and builds on multiple compelling feminist theoretical traditions including Arab-Muslim, postcolonial, critical, and poststructural scholarship.
  • But the book does much more than that. Many people think of theory as distant, abstract, disconnected from the material circumstances of the world. This book firmly challenges that. In Pedagogies of Deveiling, Dr. Hamzeh uses theory to navigate the day-to-day experiences of these young girls and uses those day-to-day experiences to negotiate theoretical claims. She blurs these lines so fully, so productively that for me to distinguish them as I have here feels problematic.

And so Pedagogies of Deveiling asks us to theoretically engage, and critically so, in the lives of the Muslim girls as well as a broad range of scholarship that address gender issues generally as well as in specific contexts.

Finally, I want to say something about Dr. Hamzeh’s final chapter. It is an exceptionally reflexive discussion urging researchers and educations to practice critical reflexivity. In it, she demonstrates the very practice she is calling for, and in doing so, invites us to fully engage these girls’ stories in and through this critical practice.