Dr. Enaya Othman, associate professor of languages, literatures and cultures in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, has received a Fulbright Scholar Award to research women’s use of traditional dress — thob — in the Middle East.
Othman will conduct archival and onsite research in Palestinian Territories and Jordan to explore the forces working on women’s dress choices, including the dualities of regional cultures along with nationalization projects, cultural authenticity within a frame of modernity/hybridity, and local technologies employed in globalized economy.
“In the Middle East, women’s traditional cultural dress is often studied only as museum material, or as an indicator of tribal identity,” Othman said. “Recently, however, women’s renewed interest in, and rethinking of, traditional dress indicates an assertion of agency and empowerment. Whether as entrepreneurs, designers or producers, women are starting to reinterpret the role of dress and reclaiming authority over dominant, stereotypical discourses about women.”
Through this project, Othman will develop an analysis of clothing conventions by locating them within historical, cultural and political circumstances in each country alongside individuals’ constructions of the notions of identity and belonging and gaining control over nationalist discourses. She will then draw a comparison among the conventions in these two countries that, to a great extent, share cultural resources and heritage, yet are simultaneously demarcated by social boundaries and historical particularities.
Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, supported for more than half a century by the American people through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress and by the people of partner nations. The Fulbright Scholar Program is designed to expand and strengthen the relationships between the people of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world. The Fulbright Global Scholar Award allows U.S. academics and professionals to engage in multi-country, trans-regional projects.