• collage of eight book covers to which Anna Piela contributed or wrote in full


    I am a scholar of gender, Islam and new media affiliated with the Department of Religion at Northwestern University. My second book, Wearing the Niqab: Muslim Women in the UK and the US came out in February 2021. I have a PhD in Women's Studies (York, U.K.)




    With her excellent ethnographic research and her sympathetic analysis, Anna Piela has shed much-needed light on Muslim niqab-wearing women. Her book is of great value to a wide variety of scholarly and lay readers, and I strongly recommend it.

    Shabana Mir, American Islamic College, USA


    A landmark study, providing a rich and nuanced examination of niqab-wearing women…Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand women’s niqab journeys.

    Line Nyhagen, Loughborough University, UK


    Piela uses interviews with British and. American niqabis to address a lacuna in Islamic and fashion studies and in doing so finds important insights about the role of agency, authority, race, and identity in religious covering.

    Liz Bucar, Northeastern University, USA


    Women who wear the niqab are often spoken about but rarely spoken to. Amid the noise of ill-informed and opinionated media debate, at last we have a scholarly book that gives Muslim women an opportunity to articulate their own perspectives, written with intelligence and sensitivity.

    Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Cardiff University, UK


    The material is gripping. This book is a balanced, yet devastating, critique of both the reasons women wear it and the discrimination they have to face. It has had a powerful impact on my own understanding of the niqab.

    James Huffman, Wittenberg University, USA

    My other publications about the niqab

    Wearing the Niqab is not just the book; it's a wider research project that explores the perspectives of women who choose to wear the Niqab. My articles about niqab wearing have been published in the Journal of American Academy of Religions, New Media and Society, Hawwa: Journal of Women in the Middle East and the Islamic World and Feminist Media Studies. My chapters that discuss the niqab are also included in two edited collections published this year: Cyber Muslims and Digital Religion 2.0.


    Please contact me for copies of these publications if you do not have access to the publishers' databases, and check out my ResearchGate account where the pre-pub article versions are available.


    Public scholarship

    A screenshot of the article with the title and no photo

    Swiss Burka Ban Is Not About Protecting Women Or Security (Modestish.com)

    A screenshot of the article with the title and no photo

    One Year On, Muslim women Reflect on Wearing the Niqab in a Mask-Wearing World (The Conversation US)

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    What Face Coverings Mean for Some Minorities (Psychology Today)

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    Some Pitfalls of Public Engagement (Women in Higher Education)

    a screenshot of an article about the niqab with a photo of a woman wearing a niqab

    2020: The Niqab Revisited (The Maydan)

    screenshot of the article with a photo of two women in single layer face veils

    “I Wear A Two-Layer Niqab When I Want To Look Really Marvelous”: How Fashion Influences Face Veils (Modestish.com)

    Screenshot of article with title and picture of a niqab wearing woman on a busy street

    Muslim Women Who Cover Their Faces Find Greater Acceptance Among Coronavirus Masks (The Conversation US)

    A picture of a Muslim woman in a purple abaya taking a selfie

    Muslim Women Observe Ramadan Under Lockdown – and Some Say Being Stuck at Home for the Holiday is Nothing New (The Conversation US)

    A photo of a woman in a single layer niqab on a busy street

    Wearing the Niqab in the UK: What is British Culture, Anyway? (London School of Economics Religion and Global Society Blog)

    A woman in a black niqab is sitting in a park with a young child and playing

    The Niqab Wearers Bracing Themselves for Abuse: “It’s Open Season on the Muslims Now” (The New Statesman)

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    Sexual Misconduct in Academia: Reassessing the Past (Times Higher Education)

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    The Study of Islam in the US: Now What? (Times Higher Education)


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    Muslim Women's Religious Practice during the COVID-19 Pandemic


    This is a collaboration with Dr. Joanna Krotofil (Jagiellonian University). We investigate the consequences of the lockdown for pluralist Muslim women.

    Our talk at George Mason University:

    At #AAR21 we're presenting two papers from this project: (1) & (2)

    We also just published an article in Religions.

    picture with the title and logo of the project - a red crescent

    Managing Spoiled Identity: Social Functioning of Polish Female Converts to Islam


    A collaborative investigation (with Katarzyna Górak-Sosnowska, Joanna Krotofil, and Beata Abdallah-Krzepkowska) into identities of Polish women converts who live in Poland or the UK. We are writing a book together. As of 2021, we had two articles accepted by Sociology of Religion and the Journal of Contemporary Religions.

    a picture of the Muslim Women online book on a laptop keyboard

    Muslim Women Online


    This project comprises a book, Muslim Women in Virtual Space (Routledge, 2014); journal articles in The Muslim World, Contemporary Islam, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, and Online: Heidelberg Journal of Religions; and a book chapter in the anthology Media, Gender and Religion (2013).

    a picture of a group of men holding a banner at a demonstration with torches

    Islamophobia in Poland


    This involved my contributions to the annual Islamophobia in Europe Report in 2017, 2018, and 2019, as well as my chapter about representations of Islam in Polish media published in the Handbook of Religions and Journalism (2020).



















    Interviews, contributions, and mentions

    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    The Guardian, May 10, 2021

    "Some Muslim women told researcher Anna Piela that the pandemic allowed them to feel more comfortable adopting the niqab, which they had wanted to do before." more

    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    "England Unwrapped: It's all in the eyes" - BBC Local Radio, Dec 22, 2020

    I was invited by the program's author, Ruchi Tandon, to share some findings from my research on how women who wear the niqab are dealing with the pandemic, social distancing, and widespread mask-wearing.

    Interview for the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, July 28, 2020

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    The Guardian, July 18, 2020

    "Dr Anna Piela, an academic and author of Wearing The Niqab (out next January), has reinterviewed some of her contributors since the start of the pandemic. Many told her they have found greater acceptance now that more people are covering up, she says. Loubna (a pseudonym) from Birmingham, says: “I went to a park the other day, and it felt completely different. (...)” more

    An interview on the Drive Time Show on Voice of Islam Radio

    Talking about the niqab in the context of the UK's new requirement to wear masks in public spaces

    A drawing of three individuals wearing masks that read Smiley Annoyed and Neutral on a green background

    The New York Times, June 10, 2020

    "Anna Piela, a visiting scholar in religious studies and gender at Northwestern University, has noted that Muslim women she interviewed said they find it easier to wear masks because it has softened the stigma of face coverings. 'Suddenly these women - who are often received in the West with open hostility for covering their faces - look a lot more like everyone else,' she wrote in an article in May (...)" more

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    TRT World, April 13, 2020

    "As Northwestern University scholar Anna Piela points out in an article for the Conversation, Muslim women are finding themselves looking a lot like everyone else.

    'Now, in an unexpected turn of events, people across the West are jogging in face masks and grocery shopping in bandanas tied across their mouths. That’s making public life in the niqab much more pleasant, say Muslim women.' Piela wrote."


    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    My article on a #VogueChallenge cover made by @StockholmJilbabista

    The best endorsement a is to be organically cited. Other examples include my work in syllabi of cool courses like

    Veiling in the Muslim World (University of Texas);

    Women in Scriptures (University of Texas);

    Gender and Communication (Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism);

    Intro to Gender Studies 125 (Manchester Metropolitan University, IN);

    ART4001 Critical Debates: Photography (Middlesex University, UK)


    Critical thinking

    Students leave my courses having mastered the skills to engage with critical concepts in the context of their personal experience. Demonstrating a great deal of scientific curiosity, they often develop remarkable answers to well-posed questions about social reality.

    Using research to problem-solve

    Connecting theoretical problems to life outside the classroom is one of the most important aspects of my teaching. It underscores students’ potential for social change in a wide range of contexts.

    Critiquing power hierarchies

    I place accounts of power at the center of my work. I aim to expose bias in academic disciplines and show how it may be overcome. I encourage students to become familiar with diverse perspectives beyond the usual canon.

    Fostering diversity

    I encourage students to question normative narratives in politics, media and their own social environments. In order to facilitate this, I help them develop vocabulary to discuss inequality in such ways as to remain respectful and appreciative of diversity. By independently building on the knowledge acquired in the classroom, they emerge as socially conscious, fair, and empathetic citizens.

  • Download my CV + publications list