Philosophy and Religion

The Oppression of (Not) Being Seen (Dr. Nourah Alhasawi)

Sat, 3 Feb 2018 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

The Oppression of (Not) Being Seen

Dr. Nourah Alhasawi

Scholar-Artist, Director of Faculty of Arts Research Center, Princess Nourah University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


*Reception with Lecture Via Skype, Saturday Feb 3 at 10 am* HIGHLANDS ROOM, FESTIVAL HALL – metered visitors parking across the street (Free on weekends)

Dr. Nourah Alhasawi

I am a prisoner who is craving freedom

My prison is the eyes of those who are looking at me

Its bars are thoughts and names made up by others

So every time they look at me,

They cannot see me as who I am

They see me through illusions that they created

Behind those illusions, they are hiding from their fears

In 2016 I came to Harrisonburg, Virginia from Riyadh Saudi Arabia for a year to obtain my Master's Degree in Conflict Transformation from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. As a face-veiled Muslim Woman, I suddenly found that there were times when I felt invisible. It was the first time I have ever felt that way, whether in my country or in others. I have traveled many times to different countries, including to the United States, and I always have been seen. In different Western countries, I was stared, laughed, and discriminated at many times. Some other times, I have been avoided or ignored. But I have always been seen.

Not being seen was a different experience. It was painful, as painful as my experiences of disrespectfully being seen, and interesting at the same time. You see before you women veiled in the face-veil that some Muslim women, including I myself, wear to express our religion, our individuality, our freedom, and our self-determination.

But the women in these photos are not Muslim. They are Hindu, Buddhist, Spiritual, Jewish (Orthodox and Liberal), and Christian: (Mennonite, Old Order Mennonite, Catholic, and others). Some wear head coverings in their religions. Some do not. As you, the viewer, interact with both photos of each woman, I ask you: how do you change? She is the same. Can you see her?

Nourah Alhasawi

I would like to thank the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Terrorism and Peace (CISTP) represented in Prof. Frances Flannery and her amazing team (Che’Maiah Francis and Kristen Betzner), for organizing and sponsoring this exhibition. I also thank Wren Stevens, curator of this space at James Madison University, for her invaluable help. I also would like to thank all of the participants, the talented photographers Howard Zher, Soula Pefkaros, and Adrian Hammond, and the designer of the coloring photos, Rhoda Miller. I sincerely thank the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding represented in my supportive friends from the faculty, staff and students, and especially my advisor Carl Stauffer. Last but not least, I would like to thank you, dear viewers.

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