Incomplete lives: experiences of Islamophobia as governmentality in education and employment in Flanders, Belgium

Published on 23 June 2023, in Ethnic and Racial Studies

This paper discusses Muslim experiences of differential treatment in Flanders, Belgium, and builds on theories of Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism and a form of governmentality. I argue that Islamophobia understood as historically and structurally embedded, residing in social institutions rather than personal intentions or actions, operates in coercive and subtle ways to steer, structure and limit Muslim life courses. The analysis draws from forty semi-structured life story interviews conducted between 2020 and 2022 with mainly second and third-generation immigrants. Education and employment are prime domains where differential treatment restricts life aspirations and effectively governs Muslims’ life choices. Female respondents view a headscarf ban in education and job offerings conditional on veil removal as “a rejection of the (Muslim) self”, at times leading to veil decision fatigue. Respondents offered mixed prospects for the future, with some expressing a desire to leave Belgium in search of better opportunities for self-realization.

The paper will be available in accordance with the Green Access procedures of the journal.