Valuable lessons

In the last two weeks there have been some valuable lessons about writing learned around this manor. While this paper may have been suitable for workshop purposes, it was not designed for a graduate journal paper. I’ve heard it said that talking about films is akin to dancing about architecture. I think writing styles for theses and journal papers (the main output of academics and their trainees) may well be dance and architecture. Advice received from family and The Supervisor about structure and content lead me to entirely rework the UCC workshop paper and fashion it into a more interesting story about the veil in Irish and French contexts. I rose earlier most mornings in the last fortnight and massaged the text to make the October 15th deadline. In essence, I ended up rewriting vast sections of it, compiling data from secondary sources and learning another valuable lesson. To become self-critical at this stage is a humbling experience but not one of humiliation. (I’m still waking earlier despite the passing of the deadline; my brain wants to write at 6.11am it seems.)

I’m tired now although I have also put in three or four weeks of good work at my job, completing one small project and pushing another ahead, again with a group of people rather than on my own. There’s a project on school patron models to work on in the coming time and this second group met for the first time last Friday to discuss what it is qualitative research on the changing nature of Irish primary schooling could look like. Two trips west to conduct a focus group and a meeting also ensured that I reacquainted myself with a little bit of the spark that I had lost in recent times at my place of work. So, here’s the introduction of the new paper. It is not the completed article by any means but I am much happier with it now than a few weeks back.

“In April 2010, Premier Jean Charest, introduced a bill to Quebec’s national assembly outlining a basis by which face coverings would be banned in government buildings. Introducing the legislation contained in Bill 94, Charest stated “The principle is clear. Two words: uncovered face.” The legislation received support across the assembly, with his cabinet colleague Christine St-Pierre describing religious face coverings “ambulatory prisons” (Patriquin and Gillis, 2010). Some other deputies stated that the legislation did not go far enough. Quebec’s wishes to ban full face coverings in public spaces and government properties is an intervention in a much larger debate about what it means to be religious in public. Being religious in public is considered a test of the sovereignty of the state in its dealings with groups of its residents. Veiled Muslim women are a challenge to representations of being religious in public and the paper illustrates the how some subjects become ‘secular’ and how others remain ‘religious.’ The paper challenges the homogeneous view of ‘being’ religious in public space. It is about geographic scale and how secularisation works on different groups of people within these different scales. It draws on the work by Talal Asad (2003) on what is understood by human rights; on the work of Judith Butler (2008) and secular time, and; on the work by Jose Casanova (1994) on public religion and secularisation.

In examining ‘being’ religious and how we ‘become’ secular, the paper brings together ideas about how veiling works in different European countries and how public space works in these various contexts. In Ireland, where veiling has been an important part of Catholic consciousness in public since the nineteenth century, there is little discussion about the place of veiled women in public spaces. In France, as they move closer to a ban on specific forms of face covering in public and private spaces, the understanding of religion in public space is entirely different. The paper will outline how the covering of women’s faces in public space is treated in both countries. It will frame these in a broader literature on religious subjectivity, particularly religious subjectivity in public. Finally, the paper will propose how religious subjectivities in a European context can be reframed through the lens of geographic scale.”

© Eoin O’Mahony