Under the Influence: The Role of Headcoverings in North American Identity Creation

Thursday, February 01, 2018

4:30 PM

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When a Pakistani immigrant woman, Zunera Ishaq, took the Canadian federal government to court over her right to wear her niqab (face veil) during her citizenship ceremony, it sparked a heated national debate about North American identity and values that fundamentally shifted the Canadian federal election of 2015. This case shared many overtones with Baltej Singh Dhillon’s struggle to wear a turban as part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform in 1990. Laura Stemp-Morlock,a PhD candidate in human rights and religious diversity in North America at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, notes that "when minorities bring overtly religious headcoverings into public spaces they challenge cultural norms and majority discourses of the 'other.' They prompt dialogue around reasonable accommodation and multiculturalism. They push the dominant society to examine the truths they unquestioningly accept as universal, leading nations to ask, 'who gets to be ‘us’?” Stemp-Morlock will explore this dialogue during a talk in conjunction with "Heads and Tales," an exhibit produced in partnership with the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection. The exhibit examines headwear and accessories worn around the world. The event, co-sponsored by the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection, will be free and open to the public.