Friday, June 27, 2008

The Keffiyeh Yisraelit

This might just be the most controversial conversation starter you see all day.

I stumbled upon this Keffiyeh Yisraelit and had nearly spontaneous and opposite initial reactions. First I though, wow, this is cool, I would definitely wear something like this. . . if I was in the desert or during the winter, or possibly as a hard-to-decipher-cuz-I'm-hipper-than-you fashion accessory. Second I thought about cultural appropriation and the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian-Muslim-West conflict. More specifically, taking an object which has most recently been associated with the Palestinian resistance/stuggle/terrorism as well as a fairly prominent hipster accessory, and re-branding it can be seen in two ways.

First, it can be seem as taking something that we find cool, like hip hop or reggae, and putting our own spin on it, like most of the Jdub records artists. Or you could see it as taking something hurtful, like the 'n' word in America, and turning it into a regular part of the urban African-American speech pattern.

From an outside perspective, it shows some of the tensions we feel as both taste-makers and historical underdogs, to find ourselves affiliated with accusations of atrocities and oppression. Perhaps by appropriating the Keffiyeh, an ancient garb worn pre-Islam to protect against the sand and sun, we are embracing that complexity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally I don't feel that mainstream culture is re branding anything. The majority of people wearing these scarves see them as a hip to wear scarf, not a statement regarding the middle east, but for many pro israeli jewish people they symbolize something extremely powerful and far from meaningless. Interviewers have approached many on campus and asked them if they were aware of what the scarves stood for, most unaware and some even removing their scarves immediately.

It's important not to ignore what symbols mean to others, and respect that not everyone will know you are (and by you, i mean someone, not specifically YOU) trying to transform something that is extremely recognizable.