Kristen Ghodsee, Bowdoin College
Minarets and Miniskirts: Debating Islamic Dress in Contemporary Bulgaria
March 5, 2008
This article examines Bulgaria's recent post-socialist history, and sees the headscarf controversy as a window on to the growing conflicts between Bulgaria's traditional Muslim communities and the new Saudi-influenced believers, as well as the renewed tensions between the Pomak/Muslim minority and the majority secular Orthodox Christian majority. In both cases, women's bodies were becoming the terrain upon which these battles were being played out. Women's "modesty" and women's "freedom" were the tropes deployed to justify the superiority of one worldview over another. On both sides of this debate, the irrationality or immorality of the opposite position was identified with the clothing choices of the women: the headscarf (hijab) and loose gown (jilbab or shamiya) for the Muslims and the miniskirt for the Orthodox Christians and atheists. Although the author has been studying Bulgaria for over ten years, specific research for this article is based on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Bulgaria between 2004 and 2007, as well as formal interviews with Bulgarian politicians and leaders in the Muslim community.