Performing Piety and Perfection: The Affective Labor of Hijabi Fashion Videos

Author(s) Kristin Peterson
Contact K. Peterson, U. of Colorado, 1511 University Av., Boulder, CO 80309-0478, USA. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 10, Iss. 1, 2016, pp. 7-28
Published May 10, 2016
Type Article
Abstract This article examines the work of a popular Muslim woman on YouTube, Amena Khan, who has attracted over 310 thousand subscribers to her channel and runs a successful online boutique. While Amena’s hijab tutorials and lifestyle videos might appear to be just about superficial topics like fashion or makeup, this article argues that she does actual labor to not only produce an aesthetic style but to also create an affective condition of what it means to be a Muslim woman living within a neoliberal context. Amena’s videos illustrate what Michael Hardt (1999) defines as “affective labor” within this neoliberal economy. Amena might sell hijabs online, but she does not actually produce physical objects. What she does produce is an affective state—feelings around how to properly act within this neoliberal culture while still maintaining Islamic piety. The space of YouTube also allows for Amena to blend different affects and aesthetic styles, such as neoliberal elements of aspiration, creativity and individuality with Islamic ethics like piety, modesty and submission. Ultimately, the reason why Amena can attract viewers and run a successful fashion business is because she works to produce an affective state that seamlessly moves between Islamic ethics and neoliberal values.
Keywords identity, social media, gender, Muslim women, fashion