Islamophobic disciplining of Muslim women in public space: a social reproduction approach

Carmen Teeple Hopkins



In recent years, geographers have identified the exclusion of Muslims from public space as a significant and growing concern (Falah and Nagel 2005; Hopkins 2009; Dwyer 2000). Some countries have contributed to these exclusions through national legislation. In 2004 the government of France, for example, passed a law that prohibits religious dress from public schools and in 2010 it established a law that bans face veils from public space. These laws were based on the belief that religion should not overlap with the state, laïcité, and such laws have negatively impacted the experiences of veiled Muslim women in public space (Hancock 2015; Amnesty International 2012; Teeple Hopkins 2015). Although research in Sweden demonstrates that many veiled women who have been harassed or attacked were with children (Listerborn 2013), this phenomenon has not been explicitly linked to feminist geographies of social reproduction. For instance, a few days after the November 13 Paris attacks, a Muslim woman in Toronto allegedly was attacked while she was picking up her children from school and the attackers told the woman to “go back to your country” (Nielsen, Shum, and Miller 2015). The safety and ability of Muslims to perform daily tasks illustrates the need to examine social reproduction within public space. While the increasing violence that Muslims experience in public space opens the door to Foucauldian analyses of anti-veil legislation where citizens absorb the state-sanctioned racism of these laws by regulating and disciplining Muslim women in public space, this paper argues that Foucauldian analyses of biopower are insufficient to analyze the socio-spatial realities of Muslim women. This paper proposes a Marxist social reproduction lens to analyze islamophobic violence in public space. First, the paper outlines the discrimination in public space that Muslim women experience in Canada and France. Second, it considers how one might approach this topic from a Foucauldian perspective and then outlines the weaknesses of this approach. Finally, the paper demonstrates how a Marxist social reproduction approach is necessary to capture the both socio-economic positioning and islamophobic disciplining of working class Muslim women in public space in France and Canada.

Racism - social reproduction - politics of space - islamophobia