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"Reclaiming Our Muslimness": Intersectional Identities of Muslim American Women in Higher Education

  • Author(s): Alnagar, Hala
  • Advisor(s): Hamilton, Laura
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation explores the identity development of Muslim American women (N=25) in higher education, utilizing intersectionality as both a methodological and theoretical framework. First and foremost, it centers the lived experiences, agency, and autonomy of Muslim women throughout the findings. Second, it takes into account the intersecting identities of participants and how they relate to their place in larger systems of oppression. I explore their religious identity, alongside their race, ethnicity and gender. I offer the hijab as an added facet of Muslim women’s identity, as—when it is worn—it serves as a physical marker of being Muslim. The study finds that Muslim women carry the burden of maintaining their family’s reputation and thus must strategize ways to attain their goals despite the gendered constraints they encounter. These familial expectations then place Muslim women in double binds when they enter higher education, as their families simultaneously expect high academic achievement as well as a strict maintenance of one’s religious identity. While navigating these conflicting expectations, the women in this study redefine and reclaim their Muslim identities independent of familial and societal influences.

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