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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

May 16, 2007

Written by C.N.

Blending Tradition and Modernity

Historically and continuing today, a popular issue among Asian Americans is assimilation, otherwise described as the process of combining their traditional Asian ancestry and heritage with their modern lives as young Americans. In fact, this process of negotiating new vs. old, traditional vs. contemporary happens all over the world. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, a very interesting example exists among young Egyptian women and their choices regarding wearing of the hijab:

When she’s not watching Egyptian fashion TV, Ms. Mohammed is checking out what other young Muslim women are wearing on the street or on the subway. “If I like any of their ways of putting [on the] hijab, I can ask them how to do it,” she says of other women she sees in Cairo’s Metro. Mohammed’s two head scarves – aquamarine blue peeking out from under a sea foam green – match her knee-length dress over the top of blue jeans. . . .

Mohammed is like a growing number of young Muslim women in Egypt who have taken to transforming the hijab, the Islamic head dress, from tradition to fashion statement. As head scarves have come to mean many things to Muslims and non-Muslims alike – a sign of piety, a declaration of identity, a center of controversy, a political statement – in Cairo today they sparkle. . . .

As more women began to wearing the scarf, they experimented with new ways to tie it, such as braiding the ends of the scarves or pinning them up to look like flowers. There is even a magazine called Hijab, one of several that feature tying techniques and scarf styles.

The article emphasizes that this growing popularity of the hijab comes at a time when Muslims in Egypt and all around the Arab world are becoming more religious. In other words, they are truly embracing both their traditional culture and their new contemporary sense of aesthetics and fashion and in the process, weaving together their own personal identity that combines elements from both worlds.

Nowadays, Asian Americans have the same opportunity. The reality is that these days, whether we like it or not and with the good and the bad, the world in general and American society in particular is becoming increasingly globalized and transnational — true international community. As nations such as China and India rise toward global superpower status, we as Asian Americans have the opportunity to capitalize on this situation and to leverage our knowledge and ties to our Asian roots, for our benefit and that of American society in general.

In other words, our expertise is increasingly in demand, here and abroad. In contrast to decades past where being “Asian” was a mark of inferiority, it now has the potential to represent progress into the future. With that in mind, we as Asian Americans have the chance to be at the forefront and lead American society into the 21st globalized and transnational century.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Blending Tradition and Modernity" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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