To understand the burkini bans in France in summer 2016, our starting point needs to be based on an assumption of intersectionality. The bans are not only about religion or security, they also involve gender, sexuality, race, power, and history.
What is going on with the burkini ban (or literally bans) in southern France?
There can be no doubt that many French people are in fear at the moment. Not only of the tangible threat of Daesh (ISIS) political violence, but also from a more nebulous fear of an ‘enemy within’ amongst the country’s 4.7 million Muslim population. Fear of such French Muslims predates Daesh by many years, and has been carefully encouraged by certain political groups in France for a long time, particularly by Le Pen’s Front National Party.
Such scapegoating and stereotyping is rarely rational, so it comes as no surprise in the end that it has culminated in an image of armed male police on a sunny beach, forcing an (apparently) Muslim woman to remove her clothing, and then fining her.
It appears from the outside to be quite literally fighting (perceived) patriarchy with, well, actual patriarchy.
In this episode I use an intersectional approach to explore the issues of this burkini ban.
Intersectionality is about trying to understand complexity through the framework of complexity. It is about recognising that every context has multiple issues, that there are no straightforward or reductive explanations, but that instead there are multiple strands of any situation, cultural context, or even public controversy.
The burkini ban in France is a clear example of the need for such an intersectional approach.
Intersectionality requires us to ask questions about gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, religion, history, politics, and agency. Although in any given culture or situation one of these may be stressed by particular parties (thus, some will argue, of course, that the burkini is primarily about religion), we gain so much more by looking not only at all the different aspects — as a complex matrix — but also the intersections between and across those aspects.
The full text of this episode can be found on the Religion Bites blog.
About the Religion Bites Podcast
Religion Bites is a podcast by Malory Nye, an academic and writer based in Perth, Scotland.
The Religion Bites podcast gives you quick and simple intros to the study of religion, to help you think a bit further about the issues of religion and culture in the contemporary world. If we want to understand today’s world, we need to ‘get’ why people are religious – why they ‘do religion’ in the many ways that religion is done. This is not a podcast about being religious, it is about understanding religion and the role that religion has in the contemporary world.