When it comes to the veil, religious, political, aesthetic, and personal values are constantly mixed, and any attempt to disentangle them can too easily be foiled by the bias of the observer. In principle, the veil is (represents, signifies) nothing that can be spelled out in terms of fixed symbolisms, but it will only function in a certain way. In theory, any veil is cool because it plays with limits, status, and privileges. It does not simply attempt to install purity and moral perfection. I compare veiling with some of the principle virtues of African American coolness: moderation and self-control. Coolness is at odds with puritan traditions and invents its own virtue code of moderation because it strives to obtain access to a formerly forbidden space. However, that alone would limit coolness to republican virtues; in order to become cool there must also be provocation. The cool person is usually in a non-power position and challenges those who have power in masked and ironical ways. Therefore, coolness must always contain just the right amount of flexibility and “fluency.” African Americans who wear sunglasses, speak Ebonics, and overemphasize their black identity create transcultural identities through the principle of coolness. Can the veil function as such a tool of cool? Does this piece of cloth maintain the crucial balance between visibility and non-visibility, assimilation and cultural resistance, submission and subversion, control and the inability to control? Or is it not too likely to tip over into either submissive disappearance or mono-cultural, fundamentalist combat?


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pp. 249-263
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