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Visibly Unlike: Religious Dress between Affiliation and Difference

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Abstract This article focuses on the relevance and consequences of visibility of religious identity respectively difference by means of religiously connoted clothing. Based on six case studies it emphasizes the perspective of wearers of religious vestment in the area of Zürich (Switzerland). The project takes account of the fact, that the aspect of visual, respectively embodied (religious) difference is not only of relevance to Muslim headscarf wearers (though, due to eager public discussion, it became here the most obvious, and the main subject of scientific interest), but also for wearers of religious clothing belonging to other religious communities. Regarding the case studies the present article will mainly focus on three aspects of religious clothing: firstly, it will address one important motive (among others) for wearing religious dress. Secondly, the individual perceptions of visual difference based on the specific way of sartorial self-presentation will be thematised — especially regarding their involvement with their social environment. Finally, various individual strategies for coping with tensions based on the experience of visual difference will be demonstrated.

Affiliations: 1: University of Zurich Switzerland, Email:; 2: University of Zurich Switzerland


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