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Såsom en slöja: Den kristna slöjan i en svensk kontext
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2014 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
As a veil : The Christian veil in a Swedish context (English)
Abstract [en]

This study takes its point of departure in the tradition of Christian women covering their hair for religious and cultural reasons, hereafter called veiling. The aim has been to investigate what ideas were projected onto the veil in Sweden during the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as when and how the tradition of veiling disappeared among most Christian Swedes. My definition of what constitutes a veil has little to do with the form of the head covering. If an item is used in the mean of covering women’s hair for religious or cultural, rather than practical reasons, then it is considered to be a veil.In his first letter to the assembly of Corinth (1 Cor. 11), the Apostle Paul advocates a veil as a sign of women’s subordination. He also states that women’s hair is a sign of honour and to have it cut would be a disgrace. In 19th century Sweden, it was tradition among the rural populations for women to have long hair, covered indoors as well as outdoors. The sources show that people were aware of the words in 1 Cor. 11 about female subordination and the veil as a sign thereof. Women’s hair became the means for an individual’s inner body to show its virtues via the outer, physical body.In the mid-1920s it became popular for young women to cut their hair short. By accentuating how the world had changed, short hair became a symbol of modernity. Within a decade short hair for young women became the norm all over the country. There were no significant protests of this from the Swedish Church, though free-churches with a more fundamentalist understanding of the Bible remained disapproving. As the century progressed women gradually appeared bare-headed in church. Paul’s words about subordination became considered as an Oriental influence rather than a divine command. By projecting the inequalities of the sexes as an ancient Oriental idea, the western society’s identity as modern and democratic could be asserted. Essentially, everyone agreed that Swedish Christian women were not veiled, nor ever had been, nor should be. Hence the tradition of veiling disappeared in the Swedish Church without much notice.In the more fundamentalist Swedish Pentecostal movement the hair itself began to carry the religious symbolism otherwise given to the veil. In this manner, the hair had indeed become like a veil, as Paul had written. Renouncing long hair was in the end a renunciation of Paul’s words and the hierarchical system assigned by God. Nevertheless, short hair for women eventually became accepted within the Swedish Pentecostal movement as well.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2014. , 141 p.
Historiska studier: skrifter från Umeå universitet, 6
Keyword [en]
History of science and ideas, veil, Christianity, religion, Pentecostal movement, Church of Sweden, gender, women's liberation, Orientalism, Swedish culture, ethnology
Keyword [sv]
Idéhistoria, slöja, kristendom, religion, pingströrelsen, Svensk kyrkan, genus, kvinnosakskamp, orientalism, svensk kultur, etnologi
National Category
History of Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-84707ISBN: 978-91-7459-780-6 (print)OAI: diva2:688469
Public defence
2014-02-07, Hörsal 1031, Norra Beteendevetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-01-17 Created: 2014-01-17 Last updated: 2014-01-17Bibliographically approved

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Hallgren Sjöberg, Elisabeth
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