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Hijab, visibility and the performance of identity


European Journal of Social Psychology

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Theories concerning the relationship between social identification and behaviour are increasingly attentive to how group members emphasise or de‐emphasise identity‐related attributes before particular audiences. Most research on this issue is experimental and explores the expression of identity‐related attitudes as a function of participants' beliefs concerning their visibility to different audiences. We extend and complement such research with an analysis of group members' accounts of their identity performances. Specifically, we consider British Muslim women's (n = 22) accounts of wearing hijab (a scarf covering the hair) and how this visible declaration of religious identity is implicated in the performance of their religious, national and gender identities. Our analysis extends social psychological thinking on identity performance in three ways. First, it extends our understandings of the motivations for making an identity visible to others. Second, it sheds light on the complex relationship between the performance of one (e.g. Muslim) identity and the performance of other (e.g. gender/national) identities. Third, it suggests the experience of making an identity visible can facilitate the subsequent performance of that identity. The implications of these points for social identity research on identity performance are discussed. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.