Fri Oct 5, 11:00am– 1:00pm
Joseph Massad: The Democracy Offensive and the Defenses of Islam
British and US imperial policies included, in the case of the British since the nineteenth century and of the Americans since World War II, the production of certain forms of Islam that could be put in the service of colonial and imperial policies. This involved intermittently the imperial production of “liberal” forms of Islam, “Jihadist” forms of Islam, and then again a new “liberal-democratic” Islam, wherein the very relationship of “Islam” to “democracy” from the view of American and British imperialisms was being determined by these very policies. Concomitant with these policies, British and American liberal political doctrine would deploy explanations of both, the emergence of liberal “democracy” in the so-called “West,” and the persistence of despotism in the non-West, with particular attention to and focus on “Islam.” Much of this, Joseph Massad argues, is a projection of Western imperial commitments to despotism at home and abroad onto “Islam,” not only to showcase Western cultural and political superiority ushered in by the age of secularism through a suspect claim to democratic governance, but also and more importantly to secure imperial aims in what came to be known and religiously defined as the “Muslim world.”
With discussant Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center, CUNY
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