The Unveiling Body

  • Sahar GhumkhorEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Political Psychology book series (PSPP)


This chapter interrogates the political imagination that imbues unveiling with the values of liberal progressive politics. It asks, why is the removal of the veil and the revelation of flesh, an expression of freedom? Why is freedom imagined unveiled? The chapter argues western fixation on the veil is a symptom of modernism’s investment in knowing the body by imagining its natural “secular” condition. The chapter traces the secular body, a body that has no racial shadow, in the fantasy of unveiling freedom which imagines a universal prescription for securing the body.


  1. Agamben, Giorgio. Homosacer: Sovereign Life and Bare Life. California: Stanford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  3. Alain-Miller, Jacques, and Jacques Lacan, eds. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan on Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge, Book XX, Encore 1972–1973. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.Google Scholar
  4. Alinejad, Masih. “My Stealthy Freedom,” (Facebook page, 2014).Google Scholar
  5. Almutawakel, Boushra. “The Hijab/Veil Series.”
  6. Asad, Talal. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. California: Stanford University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  7. Asad, Talal. “Thinking About the Secular Body, Pain and Liberal Politics.” Cultural Anthropology 26, no. 4 (2011): 657–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Badiou, Alain. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Translated by Peter Hallward. London: Verso, 2001.Google Scholar
  9. Badiou, Alain. “Bodies, Languages Truth,” 2006.
  10. Borradori, Geovanna. “Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides—A Dialogue of Jacques Derrida.” In Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. Chicago: The University of Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  11. Bourdieu, Pierre. Language and Symbolic Power. Translated by Gino Raymond and Mathew Adamson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, Wendy. States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  13. Butler, Judith. “Foucault and the Paradox of Bodily Inscriptions.” The Journal of Philosophy 86, no. 11 (1989): 601–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Butler, Judith. Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  15. Butler, Judith. “Sexual Politics, Torture, and Secular Time.” The British Journal of Sociology 59, no. 1 (2008): 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. Oxon: Routledge, 2011.Google Scholar
  17. Cheng, Anne Anlin. Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  18. Copjec, Joan. Read My Desire: Lacan Against the Historicists. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  19. Derrida, Jacques. “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow).” Translated by David Wills, Critical Inquiry 28, no. 2 (2002): 369–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Douzinas, Costas. The End of Human Rights: Critical Legal Thought at the Turn of the Century. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2000.Google Scholar
  21. Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  22. Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch: The Woman, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. New York: Autonomedia, 2004.Google Scholar
  23. Fink, Bruce. The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  24. Fink, Bruce. “Knowledge and Jouissance.” In Reading Seminar XX: Lacan’s Major Work on Love, Knowledge and Feminine Sexuality, edited by Susanne Barnard and Bruce Fink. New York: State University New York Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  25. Foucault, Michel. The Will to Knowledge: The History of Sexuality I. Translated by Robert Hurley. London: Random House, 1978.Google Scholar
  26. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Random House, 1995.Google Scholar
  27. Foucault, Michel. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76. London: Penguin, 2004.Google Scholar
  28. Foucault, Michel, Michel Senellart, and Collège de France. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–79. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.Google Scholar
  29. Frost, Tom. Giorgio Agamben: Legal, Political and Philosophical Perspectives. London: Routledge, 2013.Google Scholar
  30. Fukuyama, Francis. End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  31. Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (Theories of Representation and Difference). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  32. Hesford, Wendy S. Spectacular Rhetorics: Human Rights Visions, Recognitions, Feminisms. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  33. Hirschkind, Charles. “Is There a Secular Body?” Cultural Anthropology 26, no. 4 (2011): 633–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hook, Derek. A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial: The Mind of Apartheid. London: Psychology Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  35. Josephson-Storm, Jason. The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity and the Birth of the Human Sciences. Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 2017.Google Scholar
  36. Kamali Dehghan, Saeed. “Iranian Woman Wins Rights Award for Hijab Campaign.” The Guardian, February 24, 2015.
  37. Kirby, Vicky. “Reality Bytes: Virtual Incarnations.” In Telling Flesh: the Substance of the Corporeal. London: Routledge, 1997.Google Scholar
  38. Krips, Henry. “A Slave to Desire: Defetishising the Colonial Subject.” In Fetish: An Erotics of Culture. New York: Cornell University, 1999.Google Scholar
  39. Lacan, Jacques. Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Jacques Alain-Miller. Translated by Dennis Porter. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.Google Scholar
  40. Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.Google Scholar
  41. Levine, Phillipa. “States of Undress: Nakedness and the Colonial Imagination.” Victorian Studies 50, no. 2 (2008): 189–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mahmood, Saba. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
  43. McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York and London: Routledge, 1995.Google Scholar
  44. Miriani, Mike. “The Tragic, Forgotten History of Zombies.” The Atlantic, October 28, 2015.
  45. Mooney, Annabelle. Human Rights and the Body: Hidden in Plain Sight. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014.Google Scholar
  46. Morsi, Yassir. “Islamophobia Is Racism.” Right Now, October 31, 2014.
  47. Neroni, Hilary. The Subject of Torture: Psychoanalysis, Biopolitics in Television and Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.Google Scholar
  48. Pavey, Jacqui. “The Burqa or the Ban: Which Is Worse?” Right Now, February 14, 2011.
  49. Riley, Denise. “Am I That Name?” Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1988.Google Scholar
  50. Rose, Arthur, Stefanie Heine, Naya Tsentourou, Corrine Saunders, and Peter Garratt. Reading Breath in Literature. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sanburn, Josh. “Behind the Video of Eric Garner’s Deadly Confrontation with New York Police.” Time, July 23, 2014.
  52. Santner, Eric L. The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  53. Saul, Heather. “Iranian Women Discard Their Hijabs for ‘Stealthy Freedom, Facebook Page’.” The Independent, May 13, 2014.
  54. Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  55. Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  56. Scott, Joan Wallach. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  57. Seshadri-Crooks, Kalpana. Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race. New York: Routledge, 2000.Google Scholar
  58. Soler, Colette. What Lacan Said About Women: A Psychoanalytic Study. Detroit, MI: Other Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  59. Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  60. Tyrer, David, and Salman Sayyid. “Governing Ghosts: Race, Incorporeality, and Difference in Post-Political Times.” Current Sociology 30, no. 3 (2012): 353–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. United Nations. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
  62. Verhaeghe, Paul. “Enjoyment and Impossibility: Lacan’s Revision of the Oedipal Complex—Reflections on Seminar XVII.” In Jacques Lacan and the Other Side of Psychoanalysis, edited by Justin Clemens and Russell Grigg. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  63. Ward, Marguerite. “Young Iranians Continue to Shock the Internet by Being Normal.” Policy Mic, February 13, 2014.
  64. Wiering, Jelle. “There Is a Sexular Body: Introducing a Material Approach to the Secular”, Secularism and Nonreligion 6, no. 8 (2011): 1–11.Google Scholar
  65. Yeğenoğlu, Meyda. Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  66. Žižek, Slavoj. “The Real of Sexual Difference.” In Reading Seminar XX: Lacan’s Major Work on Love, Knowledge, and Feminine Sexuality, edited by Suzanne Barnard and Bruce Fink. New York: State of University of New York Press, 2002.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social and Political SciencesThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations