Islam, France, and Secularism, Feb. 9-10, 2017

Dr. Mayanthi Fernando, UC-Santa Cruz, Anthropology

Dr. Mayanthi Fernando, UC-Santa Cruz, AnthropologyThis talk examines how Muslim French – i.e. those committed to practicing Islam as French citizens and practicing citizenship as pious Muslims – negotiate a social and political world in which they are imagined, a priori, as always already not-French because they are Muslim. It explores how this impasse is not only lived but also challenged by a post-immigration generation of Muslim civic activists. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with these activists, the talk reflects on new forms of public religiosity, national citizenship, and political possibility.

Mayanthi Fernando is the author of The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism, which alternates between an analysis of Muslim French politics, ethics, and social life and the contradictions of French secularity (laïcité) that this new Muslim subjectivity reflects. It argues that “the Muslim question” is actually a question about secularism. Her current work attends to the nexus of sex and religion in modern secularity, analyzing how the secular state’s project of regulating and transforming religious life is interwoven with its project of sexual normalization, i.e. the production of secular, sexually “normal” citizens.

Public Lecture

“Unpredictable Futures: Islam, Citizenship, and Political Possibility in France”
Thursday Feb. 9, 5:30 pm, MacLaurin D110


“The Republic Unsettled: Secularism and Islam in France”
Friday Feb. 10, 10:30 am, Sedgwick C168


Mayanthi Fernando. 2014. “A Memorial to the Future,” in Fernando, M. ed. The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism. Durham: Duke University Press, 105-144.

Mayanthi Fernando. 2010. “Reconfiguring Freedom: Muslim Piety and the Limits of Secular Law and Public Discourse in France” American Ethnologist 37 (1): 19-35.