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Abstract

By exploring the “Western” reception of the sari in comparison to the hijab, I hope to illuminate the racial aesthetic that is at work in vilifying the latter while glorifying the former. The history of colonialism and the forced domestication of the sari help to facilitate its reception as an acceptably “sexy” garment. By contrast, the hijab has not been subjected to colonial modification. It has remained unmodified, and is still experienced as culturally, racially, and aesthetically strange by observers. In order to explore the role that political and cultural authority plays in shaping “acceptable” and “unacceptable” racial aesthetics as linked to the hijab and the sari, I will explore the regulation of the sari and explore the sartorial strategies enacted by Mohandas Gandhi in his political resistance to British rule over India. Finally, I will draw on the prior analysis to highlight the contrast between the acceptability of the colonially domesticated sari in contemporary society and the hostility that the as-yet still undomesticated hijab incurs in contemporary society.

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Esthetics Commons

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