Muslim women’s embodied geographies in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand: An intersectional approach
Soltani, A. (2018). Muslim women’s embodied geographies in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand: An intersectional approach (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12666
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12666
This thesis focuses on the embodied geographies of a diverse group of Muslim women who live in Hamilton, New Zealand. Given that Islamophobia is on the rise gloablly, it is important and timely to examine in more depth the complex and multiple ways that Muslim women express, feel and embody their gender, religious, national, migrant and professional identities, simultaneously. Participants’ lived experiences show that their identities are co-constructed and subject to change across space and place. A variety of feminist, emotion and intersectionality theories were used to inform this research on Muslim women’s everyday geographies in Hamilton. Between 2015 and 2018, a total of 44 semi-structured interviews were carried out, 11 with key informants and 33 with Muslim women. In addition, 30 emotion maps were drawn, 20 participants engaged in self-directed photography, and numerous participant observations were conducted. These methods provided a rich array of data. Findings are organised around three spaces: the body; workplaces; and, play places. The first space – the body – foregrounds the importance of the veil and fashion as intersectional expressions of Muslim femininities. A multiplicity of Islam and Western practices occur at the site of the body. Issues that were addressed include why women chose to wear or not wear the hijab, modifying the hijab, modesty and fashion, and the intersection of Muslim and New Zealand national identities. The second space – workplaces – focuses on the intersections of embodied identities, educational credentials and English proficiency, and employment opportunities in education and healthcare services for Muslim women. Finally, the third space – play places – reflect that access and definitions of leisure are shaped through intersections of religion, age, marital status and culture, in relation to the city of Hamilton, and New Zealand as a nation. Intersectional analyses of Muslim women’s experiences demonstrate not only the complex and diverse ways that Muslim women practice their faith but also the ways that their embodied identities (re)shape the geography of Hamilton. Paying attention to Muslim women’s embodied geographies prompts consideration of how their bodies shape feelings and experiences of exclusion and inclusion in different spaces in Hamilton. By demonstrating how Muslim women’s bodies resist, conform and subvert gendered, religious and racial geographies in a particular place, I have added to the feminist geographical literature on identities, bodies and space.
The University of Waikato
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