October 19, 2016—briefing: “Islamophobia as Ideology of Empire” with Arun Kundnani. Cosponsored with The Bridge Initiative and the Berkley Center. Is Islamophobia a form of racism? If so, how does it relate to the broader history of racisms? Drawing on the work of Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall, Islamophobia is here analyzed as a lay ideology that offers an everyday “common sense” explanatory framework for making sense of mediated crisis events (such as terrorist attacks) in ways that disavow those events’ political meanings (rooted in empire, racism, and resistance) and instead explain them as products of a reified “Muslimness.” Thus Islamophobia involves an ideological displacement of political antagonisms onto the plane of culture, where they can be explained in terms of the fixed nature of the “Other.” This maneuver is also an act of projection in the psychoanalytic sense: the violence upon which US-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in a nominally liberal society so it is transferred onto the personality of the Muslim and seen as emanating from “outside” the social order.
Archive for October 2016
October 12, 2016—briefing: “Only Women Understand Women!” – Muslim Female Preachers Claiming Religious Authority in Contemporary Malaysia" with Norbani Ismail. During the past two decades, Malaysian Muslim female preachers have gained access to opportunity and spaces in preaching Islam to the public. Their preaching activism, both through the mass media and the public podiums, is seemingly an indication of a shift in knowledge construction and diffusion, and the meaning of religious authority in contemporary Islamic discourse in Malaysia. They have gained trust from the public and become authoritative voice of Islam through acquired knowledge in fundamental texts of Islam. To claim the spaces in preaching, the female preachers have mastered the skills such as Arabic language, memorization of religious texts and public speaking. Just like the men preachers, they have dedicated their works towards creating a sound moral and ethical society based on Islamic framework. They preach to the public on various issues: moral-spiritual endeavors, socio-religious advices and practices, marital and family relations, and on events based on Islamic calendar. Nevertheless, the female preachers have to navigate their activism within the confines of expected social norms and of the highly-bureaucratized religious authority and administration. By adhering to social expectations and religious orthodoxy, the female preachers are able to continue preaching to the public, as well as to build the trust with both the established religious authority and the public.
September 21, 2016—briefing: "Al-Shabab’s Media: The Evolution and Strategic Role of Al-Shabab's Narrative Production and Insurgent Media Operations, 2007-2016" with Chris Anzalone. Since it emerged fully independent from the ashes of the Islamic Courts Union coalition in 2007, Al-Shabab's leadership has been busy establishing a bureaucracy of power designed to exercise regional and local nodes of governing authority and control. As part of its broader strategy, Al-Shabab recognized the need for a sophisticated, multi-directional media operations apparatus capable of reaching multiple target audiences at the domestic, regional, and international/global levels. These media continue to form an integral part of Al-Shabab's overall strategy of governance, survival, and expansion as an ideologically-driven insurgent organization, despite mounting battlefield, territorial, and personnel losses. Al-Shabab has also utilized its media machine in tandem with its formidable internal security apparatus to crack down on internal dissent including, thus far successfully, on attempts by Islamic State to establish and expand a strong foothold in Somalia and East Africa. This talk discussed the history and evolution of Al-Shabab's media operations and narrative production capabilities and their integral role in the insurgents' broader strategy of territorial control and rule.