Veiling Highlights Topic of February Exhibit, Lecture and Panel at U-Idaho

Wednesday, January 19 2011

MOSCOW, Idaho – Veiling: Is it a fashion statement? A cultural or political declaration? A health or safety issue? For women and men? Or all of the above? In a series of events Feb. 7-8 at the University of Idaho, area women will discuss the practice, history and future of veiling.

“Veils may be a means of concealment, but they are inherently visual as well,” author and cultural journalist Jennifer Heath said. “We see them increasingly as symbols of oppression and violence, yet veils are not the preserve of one set of religious practices – Catholic nuns wear them, as do most Western brides.”

Heath is the primary speaker at the two-day symposium, “Seen and Unseen: (Dis) Covering the Meaning of the Veil.”

To be veiled is, to some degree, to be unseen, a condition of both great attraction and disgust, writes Heath, who will discuss the universal fashion Monday, Feb. 7, and moderate a panel on the topic Tuesday, Feb. 8, both on the University of Idaho campus.

“Current tensions over Islamic veiling often collide with civil liberties, and those tensions can distract from deeply urgent feminist concerns of poverty, disease, hunger, maternal and infant death rates, environmental degradation and war,” Heath said.

Heath’s lecture, “The Veil: Visible & Invisible Spaces,” is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 7 in the university's Idaho Commons Whitewater Room, 875 S. Line St. in Moscow. Her topic engages the politics of concealing and revealing hair; male veiling; the veil in popular culture; veiling in religious traditions worldwide and more. Her illustrated talk is bookended by two short films, “Confluence,” by Turkish-American artist Tulu Bayar, and “Hollywood Harems,” by Egyptian-American documentary filmmaker Tania Kamal-Eldin.

Heath is editor of “The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics” (University of California Press, 2008) and curator of the traveling exhibition, “Ways of Seeing: Veils from Inside Out to Outside In,” which will be on display at the University of Idaho’s Prichard Art Gallery, 414 S. Main St. in Moscow, from Feb. 8-13.

The exhibition includes selected items from Idaho’s Leila Old Historic Costume Collection in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, curated by collection director Susan Torntore. Items include 19th and 20th century bridal veils, cocktail hats and a “motoring veil,” and will be shown in conjunction with several short films and interactive new media by 13 artists from the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and North Africa curated by Heath. Additional information about the university's Costume Collection is online at

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Heath will lead a gallery talk at 10 a.m. in the Prichard Art Gallery.

A panel featuring area women discussing “The Complexity of Invisibility” is scheduled from 3-5 p.m. Feb. 8, in the Idaho Commons Whitewater Room.

The panel, moderated by Heath, will consider the veil and veiling practices in multiple contexts to reveal its complex contemporary cultural meanings in both Western and non-Western societies, said Dinah Zeiger, the symposium organizer and faculty member in the School of Journalism and Mass Media. What does wearing a head covering say about a woman’s status in society? What effect does veiling have on relations of power and freewill?

This two-day symposium is presented by the School of Journalism and Mass Media and funded through a Diversity Initiative Growth Grant with additional contributions from the Women’s Center, the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, and the Prichard Art Gallery.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to be classified by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation as high research activity. The student population of 12,000 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For more information, visit

Media Contacts: Dinah Zeiger, Journalism and Mass Media, (208) 310-0319,; or Joni Kirk, University Communications, (208) 885-7725,

Note to Media: More about Jennifer Heath is available at and To talk with Heath, contact her at (303) 444-1886. Details about the panel members are available from Dinah Zeiger, To reach Susan Torntore, e-mail her at