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Visibility and Mobility: Reclaiming Agency in a Contested Space

This essay discusses how Muslim women use symbolic identity markers as a form of covert resistance to social, religious, and legal restrictions on their mobility. I examine the unilateral domination and violence that Muslim women experience and that is heightened by their presence in contested spaces in the Middle East. At high levels of regulation, women’s bodies become the living mark of political, religious and other boundaries. Through the use of ethnographies and essays I analyze the feminist filmmaking techniques, spoken word, and clothing choices of women in Israel, Jordan and Iran. This essay describes how women in these high-conflict areas intentionally signal alternative identities with physical, verbal and other markers to achieve forms of public visibility and authority and thus repossess control over their movement through urban space and the social hierarchy. Muslim women wield this agency over public perception to subvert traditional roles and power dynamics and expand the boundaries of their movement into formerly restricted space.

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