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Keeping cool, staying virtuous: Social media and the composite habitus of young Muslim women in Copenhagen



This article builds on long-term anthropological fieldwork among young Muslim women in a social housing area in Copenhagen. It explores how morality, modesty, and gender- and generational relations become reconfigured in the ways in which young women use the Smartphone and social media to navigate their everyday lives. I focus on love and marriage, the imperatives of appearing cool among peers, and keeping the family’s honour intact through the display of virtuous behaviour. Building on Bourdieu’s writings on the split habitus, I introduce the term composite habitus, as it underscores the aspect of a habitus that is split between (sometimes contradictory) composite parts. The composite habitus of the young women is more than a hysteresis effect (where disposition and field are in mismatch and the habitus misfires), as the composite habitus also opens up to a range of possible strategies. I present examples of how intimate and secret uses of Smartphones have played out and show how social media have allowed for multiple versions of the self through managing public and secret relationships locally and across long distances.
MedieKultur | Journal of media and communication research | ISSN 1901-9726
Article – eme section
Published by SMID | Society of Media researchers In Denmark |
e online version of this text can be found open access at
is article builds on long-term anthropological fieldwork among young Muslim
women in a social housing area in Copenhagen. It explores how morality, modesty,
and gender- and generational relations become reconfigured in the ways in which
young women use the smartphone and social media to navigate their everyday
lives. I focus on love and marriage, the imperatives of appearing cool among peers,
and keeping the family’s honour intact through the display of virtuous behaviour.
Building on Bourdieu’s writings on the split habitus, I introduce the term composite
habitus, as it underscores the aspect of a habitus that is split between (sometimes
contradictory) composite parts. e composite habitus of the young women is more
than a hysteresis effect (where disposition and field are in mismatch and the habitus
misfires), as the composite habitus also opens up to a range of possible strategies. I
present examples of how intimate and secret uses of smartphones have played out
and show how social media have allowed for multiple versions of the self through
managing public and secret relationships locally and across long distances.
Social media, Muslim women, composite habitus
Keeping cool, staying virtuous
Social media and the composite habitus
of young Muslim women in Copenhagen
Karen Waltorp
MedieKultur 2015, 58, 49-67
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Karen Waltorp
Article: Keeping cool, staying virtuous
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A vignette on romance on Facebook
Bita, 24, a woman of Iranian origin (all names are pseudonyms), initiated a relationship on
Facebook1 with a young Iranian man living in Dubai, and they have now been in a relation-
ship for two years. Her mother knows about it, as do her friends. She and her boyfriend
have never met “irl” (in real life), but their relation has evolved from a Facebook romance
into communication within a more intimate media sphere, and they now use FaceTime or
Viber2 through which they can see each other while talking. She only sends him pictures
with her veil off. He would not find wearing the veil “cool”, as she says; it would imply that
she was boring and old-fashioned, wearing the veil in a European city where nobody forced
her to. He asked her to not be on Facebook. He is on Facebook himself, but he does not
allow her to be. Since other young men might write her on Facebook, and he feels uncom-
fortable with her being visible in that way. In response to her boyfriend’s demands, Bita has
closed down her “old” account and established a new fake account (alias profile) on Face-
book without his knowing it and has managed to acquire over 300 “friends” in common
with him. She is monitoring him close, all the while he (thinks he) is controlling her visibility.
Officially, she complies; but, through the smartphone and social media, she has made her
own rules in the relationship. She is keeping cool and staying virtuous.
e young Muslim women with whom I worked inhabit a complex position in moral
terms: How to imagine, and lead, a good and desirable life and be recognized as both a
virtuous woman and a “cool” person, when you have to negotiate the often conflicting
expectations from your family, the friends you grew up with in Denmark, and broader
Danish society? In other words, what constitutes and how does one obtain “the good life”?
e Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad as set forth in the hadith and sunnah
provide a set of fundamental guidelines for navigating everyday life. Negotiations with one-
self and others regarding how to understand and implement these guidelines in a Danish
context prompt debate about autonomy, sexuality, modesty and possible futures. ese
negotiations, I argue, take place in dynamic ways among these young women through the
use of social media.
As in many other places in today’s technologically-mediated world, smartphones are
ubiquitous among young Muslim women in the social housing area in central Copenhagen
in which I carried out ethnographic fieldwork (2014-2015) as part of my doctoral disserta-
tion research. My prior research in the area (2010- 2011) made it clear that smartphones
figure as a central networking device with respect to people inside and outside of the social
housing area and in broader transnational networks. In addition to their uses for accessing
information and for communication, smartphones have been applied in a multitude of
ways: As a tool for protection, gossiping, alliance-making, flirting, bullying, or trafficking
drugs. ey have been used for reading the Qur’an, geo-tagging, paying bills and commu-
nicating with municipal offices and social services; and they have been used for entertain-
ment and “flashing” one’s economic and technological capital.
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is article specifically explores the uses of social media by young Muslim women that
make it possible for them to navigate (conflicting) expectations from relatives and friends
and pursue otherwise incompatible strategies. I provide qualitative ethnographic examples
of how intimate, private and secret uses of smartphones have played out in a Danish social
housing area. By focussing on the themes of love and marriage, the imperatives of appear-
ing cool among peers, and keeping the family’s honour intact through the display of virtu-
ous behaviour, I show how social media have allowed for multiple versions of the self, for
cross-sections of “here” and “there” and for managing public and secret relationships across
long distances.
I propose the term composite habitus to analyse the ways in which these young women,
like most people in the modern, globalised world, are informed by multiple fields and by
multiple forces during their life trajectory. e idea of a composite habitus builds on French
sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s take on the concept of habitus3 –specifically, the writings late
in his career on the split habitus. Before discussing this main analytical concept, I shall
briefly introduce the applied methodology.
Methodology and the case study
e material is based on fourteen months fieldwork with young Muslim women between
20 and 30 years-of-age living in a social housing area in Copenhagen. Most of my informants
were born in Denmark, although some arrived in their early childhood, and are from Jorda-
nian, Moroccan, Palestinian, Syrian, Iranian, Pakistani, Danish, and mixed origin. Denmark
is a small country of 5.6 million people where first and second generation immigrants cur-
rently constitute around 11% of the national population and approximately 22% of Copen-
hagen’s population (Danmarks Statistik, 2014:11). e area where I worked was one of the
areas targeted by the Centre-Right government when launching their “Ghetto strategy” in
2010, whereby 29 areas were designated as ghettos according to three criteria: the percent-
age of residents unemployed or not in education, the percentage who were immigrants
from non-Western countries, and percentage of inhabitants with a criminal record (Ghetto
Strategi, 2010:5).
I conducted 8 months of fieldwork “in situ” between February and September 2014,
which included both participant observation and collaborative video-making, alongside 6
months of online fieldwork conducted via smartphones and the social media platforms that
the women use on these, including most importantly Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, text
messaging and telephone conversations (see note 1). Interaction with- and through social
media technologies has been central to my research and methodology (Markham, 2004;
2013), yet the use of social media cannot be understood without taking into consideration
the ways in which it is intertwined with other contexts and practices beyond the so-called
virtual (Ardevol, 2012). e latter 6 months of my online fieldwork was interspersed with
1-2 field visits a month in Copenhagen, during which I stayed at the homes of informants.
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Article: Keeping cool, staying virtuous
In their lives, on- and offline fields were integrated in complex patterns of socialisation and
interaction, and I have strived to adapt my research design to these dynamics4. Seen as
an extension of self and body (McLuhan, 1964), smartphones help maintain and nurture
relationships both near and far, and acts as extensions of real-world practices in concrete
places (Miller and Slater, 2000). At the same time, smartphones represent an ever-present
portal to other possible lives and futures for my informants; a “technology of the imagina-
tion”, as it were, (Waltorp, 2013b; Sneath, Holbraad & Pedersen, 2009), where (self)repre-
sentation, aesthetics and aspirational politics entwine and merge.
On the one hand, the examples of love on Facebook on which I focus in this article open
up an understanding of how young women use smartphones and social media to repro-
duce moral norms, since they do not publicly question or challenge what should be con-
sidered private and what can be public, what is acceptable and not. Yet, on the other hand,
their actions signify how the range of possible strategies (Zigon, 2009:254)5 has opened
up through their use of social media through which they can conceive of possible ways to
challenge moral norms, which thereby become open to them. is paradox of following yet
challenging moral norms may also be understood with reference to the composite habitus.
A composite habitus
Bourdieu famously described in e Logic of Practice (1990) how the habitus is a system
of durable dispositions that function as “structured structures predisposed to function as
structuring structures” (ibid:53). “Social agents are endowed with habitus, inscribed in their
bodies by past experiences”, he wrote (Bourdieu 2000:138), underscoring the habitus as a
system of bodily embedded experience that makes the individual more disposed to react
in one way rather than another (Bourdieu, 1990:66-96). And, as this embodiment of the
social, the habitus feels at home in the field from which it is born– the field structures habi-
tus as an internalised product of the immanent necessity of the field. Bourdieu’s analytical
concept of “field” allows an understanding of the social cosmos as composed of a range
of relatively autonomous fields. ese microcosms, or force fields, are to be understood
as social spaces with specific logics or demands that differ from the conditions and sets of
rules of other fields (Bourdieu, 2000:99; Bourdieu & Waquant, 2009:28, 84-85).
Bourdieu comments in Pascalian Meditations (2000) that he believes it is this mutual
adaptation of structure and habitus in his theory that has made critics misunderstand hab-
itus as a principle of repetition and conservation when, in fact, he started working with the
concept to understand the mismatches he experienced in Algeria in the 1960s between
objective structures and incorporated structures (ibid.:159). In situations of rapid social
change or geographical mobility, the mismatch is felt intensely. Bourdieu proposes: ere is
an inertia in the habitus, or a hysteresis effect, in which “dispositions are out of line with the
field…habitus has its ‘blips’, critical moments when it misfires or is out of phase” (ibid:160,
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In his later work, he opened up to the idea of habitus being split or “clivé”, which he also
terms a double bind. is double bind/split habitus term is applied in his analysis in e
Weight of the World (1999) to denote groups of people in which there is a great variation
and, at times, contradiction between experiences and expectations in their families, on
the one hand, and those of the educational system and broader society, on the other hand
(ibid.:383, 507). When the “structuring of habitus” happens across partially overlapping
fields, the tension between them can result in a split, or fragmented, habitus (Bourdieu,
2009:112-13). is resonates with the specific situation of young Muslim women, descen-
dants of immigrants, in my study. It is, in particular, Bourdieu’s take on a less unitary habitus
in which several dispositions are embodied and act simultaneously as durable dispositions
that inspires my analysis. e term composite habitus puts stress on these aspects of the
Bourdieu scholar Deborah Reed-Danahay has advanced a critique of the habitus con-
cept as too unitary (Reed-Danahay, 2004:156), and her concept of “bi-cultural individuals
(Reed-Danahay, 2000) building on his analytical framework, is an important step in efforts
to open up the idea of a closed, unitary habitus, which Bourdieu’s own term “split habitus”
also points in the direction of (Bourdieu, 1999). I take this one step further, in arguing that
the young, “second-generation” immigrant Muslim women inhabit a complex, composite
habitus in which they have a range of possible strategies. is does not imply that the com-
posite parts of the habitus can easily be disregarded or applied in a conscious and flexible
manner. In working with the composite habitus, I have been inspired by Marilyn Strathern
(1988) and Roy Wagner (1981), who have illustrated how Melanesians typically interact
as composite beings, constituted of the detached parts, or relationships, of other persons
through agentive elicitations and exchanges. It is more multiple predispositions than dual
opposing identities that inform the preferences, opinions and choices of my informants.
Composite habitus:
Two fingers Iranian, three fingers Danish and five fingers Arab
Bita, 24, the young woman of Iranian origin we met in the opening vignette, is beauti-
ful, veiled, and guards her virginity. She wears clothes that are tight-fitting (but never too
tight) and accentuate her slender yet curvy body. She wears makeup that enhances her big
brown eyes with extremely long lashes, has a small nose (courtesy of a cosmetic operation
in Teheran), and full lips that crack into a broad smile every other minute. Her appearance
and charming, fun manner give her status and popularity among peers, but she has to be
careful not to become the centre of negative attention and gossip. As her family is “more
free”, as she says, regarding gender relations, wearing the veil, etc., she is in a slightly different
position from that in which my Arab informants seem to be and does not risk provoking
her family’s anger, disappointment or punishment to the same degree as the others might.
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e uses of social media simultaneously mirror, augment and aid the complex con-
dition of a habitus shaped by composite parts in which young women are informed by
multiple forces and take up positions within multiple fields. e quote from Bita below
alludes to the idea of a composite habitus in the Wagnerian sense, as being established in
the elicitations and exchanges with significant others in the metaphor she offers of being
ten fingers:
Most of my friends are Arab; I grew up with them; I like Arab music and Arab food. I’ve
learned that Arabs always invite you and, if they have something, they offer you. ey’re
generous….Say, if I’m a person, and I’m 100 percent, or, say, I’m 10 fingers: I’m two fingers
Iranian, three fingers Danish and, maybe, five fingers Arab, because I grew up here in the area.
My mom regrets every day that we moved to this area and that we grew up here. If we had
lived somewhere else, we would have spoken a better Danish, and we would’ve been better
integrated and all that. We wouldn’t speak this “street language”. And if it wasn’t because we
live here, I wouldn’t even bother to wear the veil.
Bita is influenced by growing up in Denmark in an Iranian household, visiting family in
Teheran, watching Iranian TV and having many Iranian “friends” in various social media
platforms. At the same time, most of her friends, whom she has known since early child-
hood, are Arab and Danish, and they also influence her and make up part of her everyday
life. Bita donned the jilbab and hijab (full-length outer garment, and the head scarf show-
ing no hair) years ago but has been undecided as to whether she actually wants to wear
the scarf or not. She chose to wear a loose scarf “Iranian/Pakistani style” and does not hide
the hair around the forehead and ears. is has been debated among her girlfriends, who
accept her for who she is but point to the general sentiment in the local Muslim immigrant
community – that you should choose either to wear the veil properly or not at all: “Playing
with the scarf is playing with our religion”, as two of her friends confided. Bita had been
sharing pictures with girlfriends in Snaps and WhatsApp messages without the veil. is is
common practice, but her pictures were taken in a café in the city, not within the privacy
of a home, which was what spurred debate.
My informants have been influenced by significant others at home and in the local
Muslim community, by the (pre)school system in Denmark, as well as a myriad of state
and municipal institutions, national media, and everyday life in a Danish city (Gilliam, 2009,
Olwig, 2011). ese young women are more than “in-between” two different cultures –
that of their country of origin, on the one hand, and Danish culture, on the other hand.
ey inhabit and exhibit a habitus, which is formed in the conjunction of the country of
origin, the receiving country, the subculture of the social housing project, and the specific
mix of other migrants, descendants and Danes in the area. At a popular restaurant owned
by Muslim immigrants, a man ripped off Bita’s veil from behind, saying in a stern voice,
“what is this, on or off with it!” I was shocked when I saw this, but Bita played it cool, cover-
ing her hair, and laughingly responded, “So, which do you prefer, if it was up to you?” She
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is skilled in balancing and navigating people’s expectations and demands on her and her
appearance, and finds ways of asserting herself.
A composite habitus assembles multiple perspectives and develops them in a dialectic
movement within a field or, rather, overlapping fields. A composite habitus is not necessar-
ily flexible in the sense of being able effortlessly to bend, adapt and choose from a range of
available options. e habitus concept offers this: a reminder of how people do not simply
choose consciously to disregard what they have embodied as right, wrong and taken-
for-granted – the dispositions are durable. Having a composite habitus with sometimes
complementary, sometimes contradictory predispositions can be both an advantage and
a challenge. e latter – the challenge and suffering – is what Bourdieu stressed as symp-
tomatic of the split habitus, whereas I hope to draw attention to both the limiting and
productive potentials. is composite condition might be argued to be an overall condi-
tion of modern societies. Yet, this is especially accentuated for the young Muslim (second-
generation) immigrant women living in social housing areas in European cities.
Social media platforms and their (in)visible uses
Many of my informants have profiles on semi-public social media sites such as Facebook.
On these sites, they share their devotion to the Prophet Muhammad and his teachings.
ese displays have their own recognizable aesthetic with pictures and drawings, often
quoting ayat (verses in the Qur’an), shared on the person’s Facebook wall. However, these
posts also communicate different opinions and sentiments to discrete others. Depend-
ing on how intimately the audience knows the person posting these images and quota-
tions, different readings are possible. In some instances, family members are keeping a close
watch on subtle messages being sent and posted on Facebook – responding to a practice
that is already well in place.
On the “official” Facebook pages, where people use their real names and pictures, con-
tent range from food, fashion and beauty, children and family gatherings, certain political
crises and causes (Palestine, Syria), work/study related posting, etc. shared on the Facebook
wall. All this belongs to a public online sphere. Simultaneously, young women carve out
spaces for themselves in which they modify, censor and reveal, depending on audience and
context – within otherwise seemingly very “public” platforms.
Older forms of media, especially TV, also make up part of this mix as more private
discussions in the home become more public and shared through social media: Scenes
that people particularly liked or disliked in popular TV series, such as Noor and other soap
operas, are shared on Facebook or linked to on YouTube and, thereby, spur debate on
moral issues (Waltorp, 2013b, Salamandra 2012). Sometimes this is done as a Snapchat mes-
sage, taking a snap-photo of the TV screen while watching a broadcast of a TV series, writ-
ing comments directly on the picture before it is sent. My informants have explained how
the popularity of the TV series makes it possible to discuss moral issues on safe ground
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across generations through the interactions of the protagonists in the soap opera – issues
such as sex before marriage, drinking in public places, (im)proper dress, and gender roles
that might otherwise be seen as very personal and controversial to bring up.
As I became more familiar with my informants and spent more face-to-face time with
them in their homes, I learned about the different ways of communicating on social media
platforms, “Snapping pictures” and using various other popular Apps such as WhatsApp
(which integrates text, photos and, sometimes, film clips), and Facebook. Most of my infor-
mants only use Instagram’s visual platform and the personal comments and statements in
Twitter to communicate with a select group of people. ey discern closely who is allowed
to see what, who to trust with what, and when: Secrecy, (in)visibility and timing are of the
essence. is might be seen as a common dynamic related to impression management and
role conflict (Goffman, 1959; 1970).
Texting and calling are done frequently and at all hours by most of my informants.
ey seldom spend a day without being in contact with their close family and friends. is
also means that Tango and Viber (having taken over the platform that Skype previously
occupied as the primary face-to-face video phone service) are often used to communicate
with siblings who have married and settled either in their parents’ countries of origin or
neighbouring countries.
In semi-public and intimate spaces both on- and offline, these young women act out
and experiment with accepted, virtuous versions of themselves and try out behaviour and
relations that would otherwise be gossiped about if they occurred in public. Gossip-invok-
ing behaviour in these cases would have been detrimental to the woman’s reputation and,
consequently, to that of her family as well.
Belonging: Children of immigrants
Rania, 25, of Syrian origin, highlights an idea of shared experience and shared understanding
between young Muslim people born and raised in Denmark. is is what sets them apart
from other young people who are born and raised in their parents’ countries of origin:
I know a lot of Danish people, but none of my closest friends are Danish. Also, none of my
best friends are Syrian girls who live in Syria. I don’t think they would become my closest
friends, even if I went and lived there now. My best friends are Syrian or other Arab, Muslim
girls – but who grew up here, like me. I would also like my future husband to be Muslim, but
from Europe, and brought up here: So, there’s a better understanding.
As Rania points out in the quote above, none of her closest friends are Danish, nor are they
girls who live in Syria. ose friends with whom she is most at ease and naturally connects
are other Muslim Arab girls who grew up in Denmark – in other words, with backgrounds
similar to hers. is points to a composite habitus that is not shaped by parents or their
country of origin nor by Denmark, as such, but is a part of an identity shared by being in
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the same boat as other descendants of Muslim immigrants to Europe and being able to
relate to each other’s experiences. It also points to an intergenerational divide in immigrant
families, as this is a position they do not share with their parents. is specific instance of
Bourdieu’s split habitus, has been studied by his close associate, sociologist Abdelmalek
Sayad (1979, 2004).
In Les Enfants Illegitimes (1979), Sayad elaborates on an extended interview with the
young woman Zahouda, who was born in France to Algerian parents. In the interview, she
keeps returning to her experience of feeling almost like an illegitimate child, as her own
parents do not recognize themselves in her. She, along with those of her siblings who were
also born in France, had become too French according to their parents. Zahouda describes
her experiences of visiting Algeria and how she was unable to fit in, understand the codes,
the tacit knowledge of how to move, talk, and behave. Yet, in France, as she says, she would
be seen as Algerian. is experience mirrors that of several of my informants:
You can be born in Denmark, grow up here, but you’re not Danish (in the eyes of ethnic
Danes) – and the minute you set foot in Jordan, they know that you’re not from there: en,
you’re suddenly Danish. ey see it right away: the way we dress, the way we move, simply
the way we look at them! We have a different way of looking, I’ve been told. (Hadia, 22, Dane
of Jordanian origin).
What, then, could be considered as being “at home”, where there is an unquestioned fit
between habitus and field? I propose that feelings of belonging and feeling connected are
mediated by social media in new ways for this group of young Muslim women in Denmark.
A difference from Sayad’s study of Algerian immigrants in France in the 1960s, ‘70s, and
‘80s and of particular interest to the argument I put forward here is that, at the time he was
conducting his research, smartphones and social media were not available. Hence, the way
in which these technologies afford opportunities to negotiate one’s place in the world was
not present among his informants, as it is today.
Being connected
A number of my informants have married and settled in their parents’ country of origin
or other Arab countries, and most of them have sisters or girlfriends who have done so.
Dubai is a popular place, according to my informants, because “[i]t is like a European city,
but at the same time it is a Muslim and Arab city”. Copenhagen remains the preferred place
to live, however. rough social media such as WhatsApp groups, which connect siblings
across European and Arab countries, my informants have kept in daily contact with sisters
and other family members, updating each other with texts, photos, shared content, and so
Rania, whom I introduced above, told me of her experiences of moving back to Syria
with her family while she was still in middle school. Along with her sisters, she had longed
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for Syria and loved their holidays there; yet, when they lived there, they longed for everyday
life in Denmark. ey longed for rye bread and similar little, taken-for-granted things in
Denmark that makes one feel at home. After eight months, her parents decided to move
back to Denmark for good, since none of their children were able to adjust to life in Syria.
However, Rania has kept in regular contact with her family and friends in Syria and Jordan
through social media.
According to Bourdieu, migration entails a rupture in that the conditions for the pro-
duction of habitus are not “homologous to its conditions of functioning” and “practices
are always liable to incur negative sanctions when the environment with which they are
actually confronted is too distant from that to which they are objectively fitted.” (Bourdieu
1977:78). He sees that intergenerational conflicts solicit not age classes separated by natural
properties but forms of habitus that have been produced by different modes of genera-
tions: “by conditions of existence which, in imposing different definitions of the impossible,
the possible, and the probable, cause one group to experience as natural or reasonable,
practices or aspirations which another group finds unthinkable or scandalous” (ibid.).
ese conflicts between the impossible and possible are indicative of the intergenerational
relations among the Muslim families of my informants.
To sum up, what the young Muslim women in social housing share is the feeling of
being estranged from their parents’ country of origin as well as their embodied habitus
and worldviews from these countries of origin, similar to the experience of the informants
of Bourdieu (1999) and Sayad (1979, 2004) in the French context. At the same time, they
share many values, ideas and habits with their parents. e young women tacitly embody
and share values with their parents and pose questions and hold other values and beliefs
that are apparently contradictory. Below is an example of how conflict in the family can
be sparked by the fear that the younger generation will be influenced by amoral behaviour
and the wish to protect them as well as the honour of the extended family.
Navigating social media
A seemingly innocent status update on Facebook by a young woman, Hadia, 22, of Jorda-
nian origin, read: “Oh, I feel so happy today ….”. e update stirred controversy among
several of her uncles, however. e uncles contacted her mother and asked her to control
her daughter and be aware of “what people might think”. ey implied that people could
start talking about Hadia being happy for “non-virtuous” reasons, since the update could
be read as implying a relationship to a man who was making her happy. e mother was in
tears, and the incident made an impact on the whole family. Discussions ensued regarding
what takes place in social media.
Hadia, then, did what many young women do: She deactivated her account, only to
re-emerge under a new profile with a different name and with no pictures of herself that
might lead a larger audience to identify her. She became very restrictive regarding whom
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she allowed to be her “friend” under her alias profile. e strategy of changing her social
media identity involves hyper-vigilance, and new types of behaviour, where especially young
women activate and de-activate profiles. As we see here in Hadia’s story, the smartphone
and the virtual arenas it opened up became highly contested; and what some senior family
members perceived as looking out for the young woman’s honour and, thus, the honour of
the whole family, was more of a grey zone for many of the young women I spent time with.
e concept of honour as I use it here is intimately related to Islam, to piety and pro-
priety, to gender relations and the guarding of women’s virginity, and to sexuality (Eickel-
man, 1976; Salvatore & Eickelman, 2006)6, and it also contains local traits and inspiration
from the Danish context in which it works. e constant concern about harmful gossip
often works as a strong control mechanism. It is important to point out in the context of
this discussion that ideas of public/private spaces among informants and related ideas of
proper behaviour in different spaces, seem to offer frameworks for rich same-sex sociability
with frequent visits, informal home parties, and large parties (engagements, weddings) at
banquet halls with 200-300 women dressed in festive attire, unveiled, dancing to DJs play-
ing both popular Arabic tunes and Western hit songs. In these same-sex spaces, the young
women can display other versions of themselves than what they display in Danish public
spaces with both men and women present.
In social media, they carve out additional spaces in which they play with identities or
sides of themselves that seem to be informed by overlapping ideas of public/private in
new ways. A key issue concerns the ways in which these young Muslim women seek to
“augment their social being” as Bourdieu puts it (Bourdieu, 1993:274 in Hage, 2014:142)
by extending their typical appearance in public (veiled and dressed in a modest way) to
virtual spaces in which they live out and produce the composite habitus. ey do this
by playing with alternative ways of representing, expressing and being themselves; send-
ing pictures to close friends (or even a secret boyfriend) without the veil, wearing beauti-
ful make-up, pouting and posing in sexy positions. is mode of communicating in social
media is always done discreetly. Discreetly in this context means that this sort of content
would never find its way onto the public Facebook wall but is kept within private messages
in WhatsApp or Snaps.
Engagement with social media has become a contested practice and has the potential
to make these young women appear immoral if secret, discrete behaviour is revealed. A
disclosure of such clandestine activities would be shameful and the consequences unbear-
able, including a loss of social status for both the woman and her family and, potentially,
also exclusion from the family and community.
e fear of social exclusion and of being categorised as a “whore” (luder) in the eyes of
others represents the most frightful sanction. is has consequences for marriage oppor-
tunities, not just for oneself but, potentially, for one’s siblings, too. is is one reason sisters
keep an eye on each other, making sure that no one acts indiscreetly or in ways that are det-
rimental to the family’s honour. As Hadia says, underscoring the fear of what would happen
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should she dishonour the family and be rejected by them: “Without my family, if they
would throw you out…then, you’re nothing, just someone in the gutter”. As mentioned,
the young women express agreement with and adhere to many of the values that the older
generation holds high. Simultaneously and apparently paradoxically, they partake in social
media communication in a skilled, secretive way, applied with respectful discretion.
With the high risks involved, fearing sanctions by their family – for example, turning
their back on them, why do the young women engage in social media (including relations
with young men) at all? How can we understand this precarious practice? I see my infor-
mants’ actions as a struggle to augment their social being, which seems to pull them in
different directions. Bourdieu defended himself against misinterpretations of his theory as
a purely economic framework, with agents driven by interests and the need to accumulate
capital and maximize profit, saying: “It is not true to say that everything that people do or
say is aimed at maximizing their profit; but one may say that they do it to perpetuate or
to augment their social being” (Bourdieu, 1993:274 in Hage, 2014:142). Understanding this
struggle to augment one’s social being through the analytical concept of the composite
habitus allows us to understand the social agent as skilfully navigating social media spaces
and drawing upon different moral and aesthetic codes.
(Arranged) marriages and Facebook debate
Several informants visit or follow Facebook pages and groups, where experiences and issues
around what it means to be a (young) Muslim in Denmark are shared and debated. An
example of such a Facebook page is the page “Det Bar’ Ayib” (ayib meaning embarrassing
or inappropriate/rude/awkward). e administrators of the page allow anonymous blog
posts on the Facebook wall once in a while, putting on the agenda issues such as arranged
marriage vs. forced marriage, homosexuality, being “cheap” vs. being generous, and other
topics. e discussion on arranged marriages and the good/bad aspects of it had over 400
comments on the thread within a few days. e very different opinions voiced on these
media platforms also show to the young women themselves how broad the definition of
the good Muslim can be within the Muslim community in Denmark (see also Piela, 2010).
e social media platforms, thus, accommodate explicit debates, and facilitate concrete
actions when pursuing love. A video has circulated on Facebook in the network of some of
my informants, warning against the misfortunes befalling a girl who is lured into contact
with a young man through Facebook. In this video, the exchange starts very innocently but
ends up with actual meetings in a park, where pictures are taken that are later used by the
young man to pressure the girl to meet him again, even as she is about to marry another
man. She is caught in this dilemma and ends up taking her own life in order not to cast
shame on her family. e video ends by advising strongly that parents and brothers look
out for their sisters’ wellbeing by being alert to what can take place in social media, so that
they do not end up in such an unfortunate situation.
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Some of my informants have, or have had, relations with young men. Some of these
relationships take place solely online; others developed outside ‘the grid’ of arranged mar-
riage; and yet others transform into morally sanctioned marriages, that is, if the young
woman plays her hand well. Playing your hand well involves letting parents take over at the
appropriate time. ose of my informants who are married had in some instances been
living in arranged marriages that were more or less freely chosen liaisons. One informant
did not have any say in her marriage: She was taken out of 8th grade by her parents and mar-
ried off at the age of 16 to a cousin 12 years her senior. Another informant met her future
husband at the university while she was studying. After slowly getting to know each other
(albeit not physically), falling in love and, they introduced the idea of future marriage to
their parents, who then took over from there. ese two informants represent two oppos-
ing poles in terms of how much/little they were individually involved as driving forces in
their own marriage – and the other informants fall in between these two poles.
Several of my unmarried informants received marriage proposals or requests to begin
conversations toward that end via their parents, who were contacted by the parents of a
suitor. e dynamic in each family was different: Some of the young women simply turned
down the prospect of marriage, which was accepted by their parents; others had some say
in the matter but might have experienced more pressure in the process. Some of the con-
flicts and divergent wishes regarding marriage and romantic love can be traced to the fact
that the concepts of love and marriage seem to be quite different between the younger
and older generation: Is marriage about securing the larger family, building a strong founda-
tion and secure a viable liaison for your offspring? Or is it about finding the one and only,
that significant other to whom you are attracted and with whom you fall in love – some-
one who makes you feel special and with whom you want to start a family and spend the
rest of your life? e older generation express – and is perceived as having – clearer ideas
regarding marriage than the younger generation (even though they might have experi-
enced similar dilemmas).
Rania was approached at one point in her life, when she was not keen on the prospect
of marriage:
ere are just so many things that I want to do, I want to experience and achieve, before I
want to get married. I want to finish my education! No, no, no – I don’t want to get married
at this point in my life. Surely, nothing will come of this. It’s just one of those things – at least,
for an Arab girl. Surely nothing will come of this.
A couple of years later, after having finished her education and while looking for a job to
no avail, she received another offer through her family. is time, she felt differently about
the prospect of marriage. In the end, her father and the suitor did not agree on a suitable
bride price, and the arrangement was broken off. Rania was sorry the process broke down,
especially after she and her suitor had gotten to know each other quite well through Skype.
Later, a similar process worked out, and she is now married and living in Dubai. is is an
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Article: Keeping cool, staying virtuous
example of how an arranged marriage can pass through various phases, courtesy of social
media, in which the young people have an opportunity to get to know each other over
time and to see how they feel about the proposed arrangement.
Aansa and the romantic potentiality in Facebook
Aansa, 30, of Pakistani origin, was introduced, virtually through her network, to a Paki-
stani suitor from Britain. He was shown her Facebook profile “to get a feel of what kind of
person she was”. ey went through the steps of checking out each other’s public profiles
in social media, then communicating via SMS, calling each other and, finally, arranging for
the potential suitor to come to Denmark.
Ansaa met her previous boyfriend through Facebook, too, and they secretly kept in
contact through Facebook, WhatsApp, text messages and calls. In this way, Facebook has
the potential of containing many hidden and private places where you can get in contact
and communicate without it ever becoming public or traceable. Her secret lover was told
that he was to marry a cousin, whom he never met. He was stressed about the situation,
started losing hair, but he could not bring it upon himself to disappoint his family, who
value social standing and caste highly. His brother had disappointed the family by “choos-
ing love” and marrying someone other than the woman they would have preferred. Now,
the younger brother was not it any position to choose Aansa over his cousin. e honour
of the whole family would suffer, and he had to uphold it by “doing the right thing”. eir
relationship ended when he married. In this instance, it was the young man who was pres-
sured by his family, whereas the young woman’s family would have accepted the liaison.
One of Aansa’s sisters married a Danish (converted) Muslim man; another married and
moved back to Pakistan. ey all kept in contact through social media. She herself was
open to whatever life and marriage might bring her: “If it is a good Muslim man, so we
agree on how to bring up our children, and if the financial situation is in order, I would go
to Pakistan”. She preferred to stay in Copenhagen but was also ready to move to England,
if the relationship with the young man with whom she was communicating in social media
had evolved in a different direction.
e complex situation of trying to accommodate individual wishes and desires with
expectations from the family may not be anything new, but the arenas and the ways in
which this played out among these young women have changed with the introduction of
smartphones and new media technologies.
Messages with multiple layers
– from poetry to social media and surveillance
In her monograph Veiled Sentiments (1986), anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod writes exten-
sively on the subject of honour as intricately related to the wearing of the veil and relations
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Karen Waltorp
between the sexes in Islam. I see parallels in the way the Bedouin women she worked with
use poetry (ghinnawa) as a vehicle to express (non-virtuous) sentiments that are not nec-
essarily talked about in the open and how my informants communicate (secret) messages
layered with multiple meanings and sentiments in social media.
My informants know how to conduct themselves in both private and public spaces
on- and offline. ey have a “feel for the game” with a practical sense of how to “perform”
(Bourdieu, 1990:66-67), how to avoid negative attention by living up to the kind of modest
behaviour expected of a young Muslim woman, and how to dress, greet people politely
in the public sphere, etc. ey know when and where they can “let loose” in the company
of peers (of the same sex), yet out of sight of the older generation or others who do not
have their trust, who might be likely to gossip and “be headache” (være hovedpine): People
“being headache” might include talking about them wearing too much make-up, being out
too late, or being in the company of men who are not family or known by their family, etc.
In short, they know how to be respectful and discreet in terms of where, when and what
kind of behaviour is appropriate and expected, just as they know what content and tone
has to be kept within private messages or in an inbox that can be shared in a closed Face-
book or WhatsApp group and what can be shared on a Facebook wall.
e smartphone and social media in general do not hold unbridled transformative
potential, as the surveillance the social media allows for is highly problematic. As we saw in
the case of Hadia’s Facebook post on being happy, this skilful “knowing” is somehow not
secure; it is always a negotiation. One cannot know what consequences a public post on
social media may incur. e young Muslim women I worked with agree that, in the area in
which they live, everyone will gossip and have an opinion about their appearance.
Hélène, a social worker of many years in the area, reports that many brothers and
fathers have a system whereby their sister/daughter must send a text message indicating
her whereabouts every 30 minutes if outside the home. If she fails to do so, she will be pun-
ished (potentially, physically). Hélène has experienced examples of abuse by parents and
brothers towards their daughter/sister and explains how text messaging and telephoning
is not necessarily a “private” space for the young women, as parents will take the mobile
telephone and monitor their calls and the content of text messages sent. She herself has
been called numerous times by concerned parents when her number has shown up in the
list of outgoing calls on young women’s smartphones. e concerned parents wished to
know with whom their daughter was in contact and what the nature of their relationship
might be. Neighbours watch each other, Hélène stresses, and strict rules apply for young
women (Waltorp, 2013a).
It is important to keep in mind that concepts such as “social control”, often used in
conjunction with “ethnic minorities”, denote everything from socialisation to the extreme
of (physical) sanctions on individuals’ unwanted behaviour by the group. Most of my infor-
mants have experienced calls and questions if they had been out longer than what was
agreed on or without informing their husband/parents of their whereabouts. e expres-
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Article: Keeping cool, staying virtuous
sion of someone “being headache” mirrors the pressure and irritation in the face of the
pervasive control mechanism that regulates behaviour by the very fear of the potential
consequences of other people’s surveillance and subsequent gossip. It is a habituated state
whereby the young women automatically remain alert, monitoring who is able to see them
and to listen in on a conversation. Gossip is an ever-present danger, and the family’s loss
of honour the dreaded consequence. Pictures or short video clips from places that are not
strictly indicative of a good or virtuous woman are only sent via Apps to intimate friends
who are trusted to keep them secret.
Most of the young women censored themselves by not uploading pictures taken in a
public place after a certain time and by paying attention to what is expected of them, as do
all young people to some extent, when discerning what version of themselves they want
to project to their friends vs. those they want to present to their parents (boyd & Mar-
wick, 2011). In the company of (Danish) friends who meet other restrictions than the ones
with which they have personally been brought up, my informants might downplay sides of
themselves. Social media is a way to “augment their social being” by keeping cool among
friends (and, perhaps, a boyfriend) without crossing any lines that make it impossible to
remain, and be seen as, virtuous at the same time. e composite habitus helps understand
how they navigate other people’s differing expectations of them and their own, sometimes
contradictory, expectations of themselves.
Building on ethnographic fieldwork with young Muslim women in a Danish social housing
area, this article has sought to explore the role that the uses of social media have played in
young women’s positioning in multiple spheres, or fields, when seen through the analytical
prism of Bourdieu’s habitus concept.
I have presented empirical examples of how young Muslim women draw upon and use
social media to enable both legitimate contact and “clandestine” relationships in order,
thus, to “augment their social being” in different ways and to pursue otherwise seemingly
incompatible strategies, namely, aspirations for love and maintaining the family’s honour
through the public display of virtuous behaviour. Discreetly, these young women negotiate
morality between themselves and their girlfriends, experiment and push boundaries, and
extend the “range of possibilities” through the use of social media: keeping cool and staying
Engaging in the field of social media might allow for negotiating paradoxes and navigat-
ing between conflicting desires and expectations in everyday life, if not resolving or dissolv-
ing these conflicts and paradoxes. is is not to imply that another set of challenges and
risks is not introduced as part of these new practices. ere are multiple parallel, overlap-
ping fields that are managed through these uses of the social media, turning the smart-
phone into a portal to other possible lives, ways of relating, and experimental acts. At the
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Article: Keeping cool, staying virtuous
Karen Waltorp
same time, there is the ever-present control and monitoring of self and others. In this way,
the uses of social media mirror, augment, and aid the conditions for – and are productive
of – a composite habitus.
Are the smartphone and social media merely a valve for young Muslim women’s vari-
ous desires for expressing themselves and forging relations, while not actually changing the
status quo, enacting “part-revolutions”, as Bourdieu calls it (2001:119)? Or do ideals about
morality and modesty and gender and generational relations become reconfigured in the
ways in which young women use the smartphone and social media to navigate their every-
day contested and monitored lives? is warrants further studies.
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Karen Waltorp
1 Facebook is the largest social (networking) site, which affords both public displays on “the wall” as
well as private communication in an inbox. e inbox can be used for communication without being
“friends”, so that other contacts on Facebook cannot see that you are linked to the person in question.
So-called “Snaps” are sent from the “Snapchat” photo messaging application that allows users to take
photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. e con-
tent is deleted after a set time limit of maximum 10 seconds. e “WhatsApp” application integrates
photos, text and small videos but, unlike Snapchat, content is not deleted automatically. “FaceTime” is
a videotelephony/voice over IP (VoIP), and “Viber” is an instant messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) app:
In addition to instant messaging, users can exchange images, video and audio media messages.
2 See note 1 for an explanation of all applications mentioned in the article.
3 According to Bourdieu, all the thinkers who have worked with the concept habitus – from Hegel’s ethos,
Husserl’s Habitualität to Mauss’ hexis – have been engaged in a theoretical project of how to free one-
self from a subject philosophy without giving up on agency. (Bourdieu, 2009:107).
4 My contribution to media studies could be seen as an example of what scholars have called ‘non-medi-
acentric media and communication research’ (Couldry, 2013; Hepp, 2010; Morley, 2009).
5 Jarett Zigon (2009) discusses the moral range of possibilities that appear in the face of moral break-
down, moments in which people consciously reflect on ethics. He uses the term moral habitus (how-
ever, without referencing Bourdieu but Mauss).
6 ‘Honor-and-shame’ has been a “gate-keeping concept” (Appadurai, 1986:357) for the circum-mediterra-
nean area and the Middle East because of its pervasiveness in anthropological studies here.
Karen Waltorp
Ph.D. fellow
Department of Anthropology
Aarhus University
... In addition to gender, therefore, religion also plays a significant role in vloggers' self-personae since both are subtly embedded in manners and visibly marked on bodies, especially in Islam. In connection to this, Kavakci and Kraeplin (2017) and Waltorp (2015) state in their research that when Muslim women appear on social media as influencers, they typically maintain modest dress and curate their profiles so as to be inspirational while managing their acts on the basis of their faith. As opposed to other social spaces dominated by men, Lewis (2015) and Piela (2017) point out that social media platforms provide a relatively safe space for Muslim women to communicate with others and curate their own modesty norms. ...
... In constructing their online identities, as Pearce and Vitak (2016) state, they need to calculate the costs and benefits through the use of privacy settings and paying close attention to the social codes prevailing in their environments. This includes careful self-monitoring and limiting their sharing on social media in accordance with the honor-culture aspect of their societies (Günsoy et al., 2015;Waltorp, 2015). This active detachment of themselves from the public on social media platforms that are accessible to anyone could also result in diminishing patriarchal and religious domination over these women while creating their own public image. ...
... For this reason, they all worked hard to control their (in)visibility on the Internet. As in the cases researched by Günsoy et al. (2015), Waltorp (2015), and Salam (2020) based in honor culture settings, my participants invested considerable efforts in self-monitoring and censoring themselves to avoid posting anything online that could possibly harm their reputation. For instance, Nazan said she had been very upset when she learned that her neighbor did not want her own husband to talk to Nazan because she is divorced. ...
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... This does not mean that female Muslim voices mediating and challenging discourses on gender do not exist on online platforms. 5 These female actors form an important subject of research in the study of gender and Islam representing a new generation of female public online actors (see , Saethre 2020, Waltorp 2015, Robinson 2015, Piela 2013, Kavakci and Kreaplin 2016, van Es 2016. How-ever, studying this group would call for a different investigative approach since the representation of these female actors' focuses primarily on gender norms and are primarily aimed at a female audi-ence. ...
... 14 Following the work of Roald (2001) and in concordance with Edward Said (1979), Roald finds a great difference between how "the West" perceives Islam and how Muslims perceive Islam. Khani presents a different per-ception of the need for a women's movement within Islam that reflects how, as a Muslim individu-al, he understands gender equality (van Es 2016, Waltorp andAhmad 2019, Roald 2001). Another example of this discourse is from a YouTube series produced by the Imam Ali Mosque called Islam Misunderstood: "Islam establishes that men are not more human than women just because they are men and vice versa. ...
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In this article, I examine how religious Muslim actors representing a religious institution and reli-gious Muslim actors who are independent of such institutions mediate Muslim gender norms in online platforms in Denmark, and what modes of argumentation the actors use in their articulation of gender roles and family structures. I find that most of the actors subscribe to traditional gender norms and family structures with the main argument being the natural stature of traditional gender roles. I discuss the fluidity of the religious and secular mediation of the actors, and how the argu-mentation used by the actors challenges secular perceptions of notions such as gender equality and emancipation.
... So, based on informants' experiences and thoughts, both Rinsta and Finsta, are Front Region. This result is in line with how social media's covert and intimate use has enabled multiple versions of the Self through managing public and confidential relations locally and remotely (Waltorp, 2015). Informants recognized the field of scholars valued, but they also used what they had available to best operate within the arena. ...
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p>This research aims to identify the Self formed by Self-Presentation through different social media channels. This presentation of the Self's process is known as Dramaturgy. This study also identifies the Dramaturgy carried out by this study's participants by considering the Doxa, Habitus, Arena, and Capital surrounding the participants. Frameworks of this research are Goffman's Presentation of Self and Dramaturgy; and Bourdieu's Logic of Practice. This research relies on the constructivism paradigm, using a qualitative and in-depth interview to collect data. The founding of this research, Fragmented Self, occurred when participants presented Self on social media. Digital Dramaturgy takes place by considering the participant's Doxa, Habitus, Field, and Capital. The results convey how participants arrange the most likely symbolic Capital by showing their attitude to their impression management. In other fields, participants prefer showing their social Capital through friendship photos or community popularity as the front stage. Others keep their Capital and only stalk friends' social media accounts to be duplicated in other fields. To sum up, the presentation of the Self is fragmented, considering doxa, habitus, arena, and Capital to manage impressions needed in digital Dramaturgy—this Self, namely Fragmented-Self. Keywords: Digital Dramaturgy, Self, Doxa, Habitus, Capital </p
... Self-disclosure is an outcome of both anonymity and other affordances of social platforms [23]. The emergence and growth of anonymous social media [7], alternative social media [15], dark social media [12] [13] [16] [18] [19], and the increasingly privacy-attuned design choices of clearnet social platforms [5] [20] is congruent with the Communication Model of Anonymous Interaction in that social platform user anonymity is best viewed as a continuum from fully anonymous to fully identified [15]. This is also reflected in our proposed continuum (Figure 1) which comprises two dimensions: Platform Disclosure Risk (PDR) and Individual Disclosure Practice (IDP). ...
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Darknet technologies are a transformative technology , particularly in the context of online social media. This paper explores social media platforms where user anonymity artificially constrains self-disclosure. It proposes a social media platform anonymity continuum that recognises how the emergence and growth of darknet social platforms-and the affordances of darknet technologies-have exposed conceptual limitations in our understanding of self-disclosure and technical and social anonymity on social media platforms.
... Regarding gender differences, Hannah Bradby (2007) shows that even though the religious proscriptions concerning alcohol are formally gender blind, concerns about reputation and future marriage options mean that women's behaviour is considerably more contained and controlled than men's. Therefore, Muslim women in particular risk becoming the focus of malicious gossip, becoming excluded from certain Muslim communities or subjected to stricter social control (Bradby, 2007;Kosnick, 2018;Waltorp, 2015). As the first author has also shown elsewhere (Baerndt & Kolind, 2021), the youth culture of drinking in Denmark has the potential to actualise gender inequality (within their families) for those young Muslim women who wish to participate. ...
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Aim: Focusing on drinking and partying among young Muslim women in Denmark, our aim was to examine how the drinking practices of young Muslim women are influenced by belonging, understood as sentiments of (national) belonging as well as the broader (politicised) discourse on Muslims in Denmark. Methods and data: Based on 32 qualitative in-depth interviews with young Muslim women, this paper explores their drinking practices as situated in a national youth culture highly influenced by alcohol intoxication. We draw on Nira Yuval-Davies’ (2006) distinction between belonging (as emotional attachment) and the politics of belonging. Findings: We found that the young women attempt to avoid negative comments based on stereotypes of Muslims and their drinking, by toning down being a Muslim. In addition, we showed how the difficulties of drinking alcohol while being both Muslim and Danish leads to several of the young women experiencing an ‘identity crisis’. Lastly, we found that a way for the studied women to reconcile Muslim and Danish identities is through faith, namely through actively choosing what kind of Muslim they want to be. Conclusion: Being part of a national youth culture of alcohol intoxication is inevitably dilemma-filled for the study's participants and they are challenged in their belonging. We argue that these dilemmas do not stand alone, but rather point to the broader predicaments of these women in Danish society.
... Importantly, young people from cultural and ethnic minority groups also use social media to access social support and connect with family who live overseas [21,22]. Young people from Muslim backgrounds have also described how online environments promote agency, social connection, inclusion, and expression of identity and religion [23][24][25][26][27]. Few qualitative studies have recruited both young people and parents from cultural and ethnic minority groups; thus, further research is required to better understand their experiences on social media, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. ...
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Background Digital technology and social media use are common among young people in Australia and worldwide. Research suggests that young people have both positive and negative experiences online, but we know little about the experiences of Muslim communities. Objective This study aims to explore the positive and negative experiences of digital technology and social media use among young people and parents from Muslim backgrounds in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Methods This study involved a partnership between researchers and a not-for-profit organization that work with culturally and linguistically diverse communities. We adopted a participatory and qualitative approach and designed the research in consultation with young people from Muslim backgrounds. Data were collected through in-person and online focus groups with 33 young people aged 16-22 years and 15 parents aged 40-57 years. Data were thematically analyzed. Results We generated 3 themes: (1) maintaining local and global connections, (2) a paradoxical space: identity, belonging and discrimination, and (3) the digital divide between young Muslims and parents. Results highlighted that social media was an important extension of social and cultural connections, particularly during COVID-19, when people were unable to connect through school or places of worship. Young participants perceived social media as a space where they could establish their identity and feel a sense of belonging. However, participants were also at risk of being exposed to discrimination and unrealistic standards of beauty and success. Although parents and young people shared some similar concerns, there was a large digital divide in online experiences. Both groups implemented strategies to reduce social media use, with young people believing that having short technology-free breaks during prayer and quality family time was beneficial for their mental well-being. Conclusions Programs that address technology-related harms must acknowledge the benefits of social media for young Muslims across identity, belonging, representation, and social connection. Further research is required to understand how parents and young people can create environments that foster technology-free breaks to support mental well-being.
Research on women’s social media practices in Muslim societies has primarily focused on middle-class or elite women, such as influencers, activists, and members of online communities. However, we know little about working-class women’s use of social media in Muslim contexts. Using ethnography and interviews, I analyze TikTok’s early popularity with working-class women in Pakistan and report three main findings. First, TikTok’s initial reception in Pakistan was fractured across class lines; whereas middle-class and elite women dismissed it, working-class women flocked to it, and TikTok became associated with a “low-class” femininity. Second, women engaged in a range of gender transgressions on TikTok. Third, women simultaneously crafted new practices of “digital purdah,” or veiling, on TikTok. I contribute to scholarship on digital purdah by, first, showing how women combine tools available on TikTok with other veiling strategies to conceal their identity while expressing their sexuality and second, arguing that “digital purdah” is compatible, rather than incongruous, with gender transgressions on TikTok. By showing how co-constituted class and gender dynamics shaped the simultaneous popularity and moral disapproval of TikTok in Pakistan, I argue for increased attention to class dynamics in studies of new social media platforms.
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This article aims to analyze the reasons behind the increasing number of expressing the religiosity on social media by the millennials, especially by discussing the preconditions those religious expressions. This study uses a qualitative approach with literature-based and netnographic study methods. It is also supported by interviews and observations on social media related to the activities of millennials in expressing their religiosity on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. The results showed that the massive expression of religiosity on social media by the millennial could be considered as a "resistance" against the dominant discourse, both in virtual and in the religious spaces. These dominant discourses, such as: 1) religion is a private matter, and 2) the existence of a virtual world can only be achieved by displaying an established image, academic achievement, hedonic behavior, good looking appearance and creativity. By using the idea of mimicry by Bhabha, that massive activity of expressing religiosity in the virtual space emphasizes a counter-discourse that millennials have created. This is done in a “similar” way from common social media users, in response to the dominant discourse which tends to place their religious expression and their existence on social media as two separates aspects. Mimicry shows that anyone can show their religiosity in the same ways as the common users or celebrity on Instagram, but with a different idea and interests. Artikel ini bertujuan untuk menganalisis alasan dibalik maraknya aktivitas mengekspresikan religiusitas di media sosial oleh generasi milenial, dengan membahas bagaimana prakondisi yang melandasi aktivitas tersebut. Penelitian ini menggunakan pendekatan kualitatif dengan metode studi kepustakaan dan netnografi, dibantu teknik wawancara dan observasi partisipan di media sosial untuk mengamati aktivitas para millenial dalam mengekspresikan religiusitasnya di platform Instagram, Facebook dan WhatsApp. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan bahwa masifnya ekspresi religiusitas di media sosial oleh generasi milenial merupakan sebuah praktik “pelawanan” terhadap wacana dominan, baik dalam ruang virtual maupun dalam ruang agama. Wacana dominan ini antara lain: 1) agama adalah urusan privat, dan 2) eksistensi dunia virtual hanya dapat dicapai dengan cara memamerkan citra kemapanan, pencapaian akademik, perilaku hedon, good looking dan kreatif. Menggunakan gagasan Mimikri Bhabha, ekspresi religiusitas yang masif di ruang virtual menegaskan adanya sebuah upaya counter wacana yang ingin dibangun oleh para milenial. Hal tersebut dilakukan dengan cara-cara yang tidak jauh berbeda dengan para pengguna sosial media lainya dalam menampilkan citra good looking, pencapaian akademik dan perilaku hedon sebagai bentuk eksistensi, demi merespon wacana dominan yang cenderung menempatkan ekspresi beragama dan eksistensi di media sosial sebagai dua hal terpisah. Mimikri menunjukkan bahwa siapapun bisa menunjukkan ekspresi religiusitasnya dengan cara-cara yang sama seperti yang dilakukan oleh artis atau selebgram di Instagram, namun dengan dasar dan kepentingan yang berbeda.
This article investigates spatial belonging and how qualifiers of the night and darkness inform policies and experiences of migrant living in contemporary Denmark. I focus on ‘youth clubs’ (Ungdomsklubber), a network of state and community sponsored buildings located in periphery neighbourhoods within Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. My approach to the youth clubs is in terms of nocturnal geographies, as ‘the night’ is not only a temporal category but also a spatial one. Beyond the specificities of this case study, I argue that migration scholars should give critical attention to nocturnality, within a strategic intersectional approach, as a contested ecology that generates differentiated value. As a time–space, the night helps define the legitimacy of occupations, passages, visibilities and other kinds of presence in the city thereby providing insight into migrant experiences and the problematic nature of immigration and ‘integration’ policies.
Bringing niqab wearers' voices to the fore, discussing their narratives on religious agency, identity, social interaction, community, and urban spaces, Anna Piela situates women's accounts firmly within UK and US socio-political contexts as well as within media discourses on Islam. The niqab has recently emerged as one of the most ubiquitous symbols of everything that is perceived to be wrong with Islam: barbarity, backwardness, exploitation of women, and political radicalization. Yet all these notions are assigned to women who wear the niqab without their consultation; “niqab debates” are held without their voices being heard, and, when they do speak, their views are dismissed. However, the picture painted by the stories told here demonstrates that, for these women, religious symbols such as the niqab are deeply personal, freely chosen, multilayered, and socially situated. Wearing the Niqab gives voice to these women and their stories, and sets the record straight, enhancing understanding of the complex picture around niqab and religious identity and agency.
analyserer artiklen dramaserier på tv som en art social teknologi, der tillader informanterne at generere forestillinger om andre liv og andre verdener, der på én gang er langt væk og tæt på. Serierne, der indbefatter sæbeoperaer produceret i USA og Europa, arabiske ,,musalsalat“ og latinamerikanske ,,telenovelas“, indvirker påog forskyder noget i informanternes liv. I artiklen argumenteres der for, at serierne indgå i forskellige ,,associationer“ og virker som forestillingsgenererende social teknologi, der muliggø et moralsk laboratorium. I forhold til fortalere for den ontologiske vending, som foreslå, at vi kan siges at bebo ontologisk forskellige verdener, argumenteres det, at sæeoperaerne muliggø andre retninger, handlinger og fremtider end hidtil muligt i informanternes daglige gøen og laden, og skaber nye mulighedsrum, som indikerer, at vi bebor, men ogsåbeskuer og interagerer med, forskellige verdener, der kontinuerligt rykker ved egne verdener. Da é verden –sæeoperaen –har effekt i andre, kan vi nok siges at bebo forskellige verdener, der dog ikke er inkommensurable, lukkede verdener, men multiple og overlappende. Søgeord: sæbeopera, forestillingsgenererende teknologi, moralske laboratorier, Mauretanien, Danmark, Sydafrika
De umulige børn og det ordentlige menneske handler om etniske minoritetsbørns identitetserfaringer i den danske folkeskole. Den viser, at de etniske minoritetsbørn - stik imod skolens og lærernes intentioner om integration - oplever, at der er et skarpt skel mellem danskere og etniske minoriteter. Børnene føler, at den danske og andre nationale identiteter er hinandens modsætninger, og at de etniske minoritetsbørn laver ballade og er dårlige elever, hvorimod danske børn opfører sig pænt og er dygtige elever. Men hvorfor bliver nationale og religiøse identiteter så vigtige i folkeskolen? Og hvorfor ender især muslimske drenge i kategorien som skolens ballademagere? Disse spørgsmål besvarer bogen gennem en analyse af skoleinstitutionen og børns identitetsopbygning omkring fællesskaber og kulturelle former. Her bliver det tydeligt, hvordan den danske folkeskoles ideal om "det ordentlige menneske" bringer begreberne om køn, nationalitet og religion ind i samspillet mellem børn og lærere på en måde, som ikke fremmer integration.
The article discusses the historical and contemporary emergence of a sense of an Islamic public in a variety of Muslim majority societies and elsewhere. These manifestations of public Islam facilitate discussions concerning how to define the common good, equitable solutions to collective problems, shifting boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, and practices that encourage the emergence of a public Islam. Compared to notions of public sphere developed within Western social theory, the article shows that the public sphere is no prerogative of Western modern societies nor of democratic political systems. The study demonstrates that also semi-formal and informal articulations of Muslim identities can facilitate the emergence of public, and therefore accountable, forms of Islam.