Journal article

Defacing Levinas: vision, veiling and the ethics of republican citizenship in France

Muslims Muslim ethnic identity Muslim women Hijab (Islamic clothing) Islam Church and state Islamophobia Burqa France

In 2010, the French parliament passed legislation banning the concealment of the face in public in response to a highly publicised debate over the place of the full-face Islamic veil in French society. This essay explores the thus far unexamined relationship between Jewish-French philosopher Emmanual Levinas' ethics of the face-to-face encounter and France's so-called burqa ban. It draws particular attention to the role vision plays in the articulations of ethical comportment between French citizens that were used to justify the burqa ban. In his writing on the face, Levinas remarked more than once that ethics for him is an optics. I seek to demonstrate that his understanding of vision in relation to the face of the Other is a very different optics from that advanced in French anti-burqa discourse.

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