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(RE)NEGOTIATING MODESTY: A LOOK AT TRADITIONAL AND MODERN SOMALI FEMALE POETRY

Presented by Bilan Hashi, MA Gender Studies 

Wednesday April 23, 1:30pm Speaker's Corner, Stauffer Library

The Islamic concept of ‘modesty’, al-hayya is defined as a sense of ‘shame or shyness’ in dress, speech, and behaviour. The Somali word hishod has an equivalent meaning to al-hayya but also incorporates elements of Somali traditional culture. This notion of modesty, I argue, forms the basis of Somali gendered identification and while it generally affects both men and women, women are socialized to a deeper degree with maintaining a particular ideal of Somali femininity, what I refer to as ‘gabar hishood leh’ (a modest girl). Starting with traditional poetry by Somali women from the early 20th century in north-eastern Somalia, the region now known as Somaliland, to modern poetry in the 1960s, I trace the notion of the ‘gabar hishod leh’ as a particular sociality and performance where Somali women (re)negotiate ways of being and belonging within the discourse of Somali identity

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