New Criticals

The spatial environment of the Paris metro has long been the focus of sociological, criminologist, and urban studies, each invested in tracking the affect of these spaces, in order to strategize methods for decreasing future acts of deviance or violence in these spaces.

In a study on the potential for the then new Paris line, Météor (inagurated in 1998, and expanded in 2003 and again in 2007) to lessen crime, professors Marina Myhre from the School of Criminal Studies, and Fabien Rosso discuss the ways in which this line's design philosophy embodies the newest trends in contemporary surveillance. Building upon the minimalist and functionalist philosophies that inform the design of the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway, and the metro in Washington D.C., Météor in Paris similarly incorporated graffiti-resistant finishes, clear lines of vision increasing surveillance potential, and a layout that minimized unused spaces, dark corners and nooks so as to diminish travelers' fears and anxieties [1].

The built environment's emphasis on instrumental function however, obscures "the perception that the organization, shaping, and attribution of meaning to space is a social process," as Rosalyn Deutsche helpfully reminds us [2]. It is this exact social process that Princess Hijab's hijabizing act foregrounds and dissects through her disruption of the space.

To return to the specific effect of "hijabizing" men with coverings historically worn by women, Princess Hijab's tagging provides a bold metaphor for the ways in which social space (and in particular consumerist space) functions as a type of multivalent dressing for the socially-marked body. Both the veil and the architecture of the Paris metro inhibit and police desire (whether for order or disorder), while allowing a certain element of ambivalence to remain. Like the commuters who may be arriving or departing, the hijabized ads may also serve as points of entry or exit: they simultaneously invite viewers to internalize the gaze of surveillance or offer up symbols of agency, the models having either reclaimed interiority or made their voicelessness hyper-visible.