Unveiling Colonialism in the Republic

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Unveiling Colonialism in the Republic, Multidisciplinary Research WorkshopMultidisciplinary Research Workshop 14 March, Report
By Daniel Lee and Inés Valdez, Max Weber Fellows 2011-2012

The workshop “Unveiling Colonialism in the Republic” was a day-long discussion on the present controversies around Islam in France which took place on 14 March 2012, Villa La Fonte.

Invited speakers Mayanthi Fernando and Carole Reynaud-Paligot offered perspectives on processes of both historical and contemporary racialization. Reynaud-Paligot reflected on the way in which the intellectual development of ideals of Republicanism developed vis-à-vis race thinking.

Fernando offered a critical analysis of the French state’s efforts to incorporate Muslims today, noting the way in which this process of inclusion is at the same time a process of regulation and/or construction of a particular French/Republican kind of Islam.

Additional speakers included Eléonore Lepinard, who made a contribution on the importance of tracing the changing meaning of laïcitè, and Inés Valdez, on the potential for depoliticization that discourses of egalitarianism and freedom may have in the political sphere.

Finally, Leila Hadj-Abdou, Nadia Marzouki, and Mathias Möschel shared their research on Islam and Islamophobia in Austria, the United States, and Italy.

Fedja Buric, Christelle Gomis, and Daniel Lee served as Chairs for each of the panels.

The discussion served to reflect on the continuities and departures of current conflicts rising from an encounter between Islam and Europe. Not only does this encounter take place today between the French state and Muslims as minority citizens, but it is also shaped by conflicts that share features with socio-economic conflicts that characterize processes of migration that are not necessarily politicized along the axis of religion. The examination of the cases of Austria, Italy, and the United States acted as useful reminders that French exceptionalism and the Republican brand of laïcitè cannot be considered the sole explanatory grounds for the emergence and durability of this controversy.