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Jennifer's paper won second prize in the 46th Annual Midwest Sociological Society Student Paper Competition in February, 2009. She completed a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews to gather the data for her second-place paper, “Style and Consumption among East African Muslim Immigrant Women: The Intersection of Religion, Ethnicity, and Minority Status.” She analyzed the meanings people attach to dress style and consumption at the intersections of culture and identity. Based on her analysis of interviews she conducted with East African Muslim women, Barnes found that the women creatively draw on elements of both Islamic identity and American fashion and consumerism in order to both demonstrate their belonging in the different social spheres in which they move and to distinguish or distance themselves in these same contexts.


What meanings do people attach to dress style and consumption, how do these meanings vary among cultures, and how do immigrants and other multicultural actors negotiate the different systems of meaning they encounter in different cultures? My research examines the dress choices and shopping behaviors of East African Muslim immigrant women to explore whether and how they understand dress and consumer choices in the context of ethnicity, Islam, and their relationships with non-Muslim Americans. I conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with nine East African Muslim women in their twenties living in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. I found that women use a personal Islamic framework to explain their style choices, though they also conceptualize dress as a collective attribute when positioning themselves relative to non-Muslims in the United States. These women frame their experiences in American stores as an experience of agency; they feel that knowledge of American fashion and consumerism demonstrates their belonging in or acculturation to non-Muslim American society. My findings suggest that the meanings these women assign to dress and consumption and the flexibility with which they can deploy these meanings depend on social relationships as well as personal religious views about style and consumption

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