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Visualizing Secularism and Religion

Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, India

Alev Cinar

Publication Year: 2012

Over the past two decades secular polities across the globe have witnessed an increasing turn to religion-based political movements, such as the rise of political Islam and Hindu nationalism, which have been fueling new and alternative notions of nationhood and national ideologies. The rise of such movements has initiated widespread debates over the meaning, efficacy, and normative worth of secularism. Visualizing Secularism and Religion examines the constitutive role of religion in the formation of secular-national public spheres in the Middle East and South Asia, arguing that in order to establish secularism as the dominant national ideology of countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and India, the discourses, practices, and institutions of secular nation-building include rather than exclude religion as a presence within the public sphere. The contributors examine three fields---urban space and architecture, media, and public rituals such as parades, processions, and commemorative festivals---with a view to exploring how the relation between secularism, religion, and nationalism is displayed and performed. This approach demands a reconceptualization of secularism as an array of contextually specific practices, ideologies, subjectivities, and "performances" rather than as simply an abstract legal bundle of rights and policies.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. c-ii

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction. Religious Nationalism as a Consequence of Secularism

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pp. 1-22

Over the past two decades secular polities across the globe have witnessed an increasing turn to religion-based political movements, such as the rise of political Islam and Hindu nationalism, which have been fueling new and alternative notions of nationhood and national ideologies. The rise of such movements has initiated widespread debates over the meaning, efficacy, and normative worth of secularism....

Part 1: Performances

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1. Subversion and Subjugation in the Public Sphere: Secularism and the Islamic Headscarf in Turkey

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pp. 25-46

In the mid-1980s, university students wearing the Islamic headscarf started to appear in public places in Turkey, giving a new sort of visibility to Islam in the public sphere contrary to the secularist norms sanctioned by the state.1 Within a decade the headscarf went from being a controversial item of religious attire to a matter of Turkish national security. In February 1997, the National Security Council identified the headscarf as one of the...

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2. Islamic Visibilities, Intimacies, and Counter Publics in the Secular Public Sphere

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pp. 47-69

This essay seeks to shed light on the particularities of Turkish secularism and its deeply entwined relations with Islam, as well as the transformation of the secularist public sphere in Turkey. Based on the argument that the reformulation and the transformation of secularist public sphere can best be understood in its relationship to Islam, I examine the activities of two Islamic...

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3. Mirrors of Emancipation: Images of Sovereignty and Exile in the Balmiki Ramayana

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pp. 70-92

Is the paradigm of the universal/particular or the politics of inclusion/exclusion adequate to conceptualize the cultural citizenship that the secular state grants to communities marginalized through sociopolitical hierarchies such as caste? Or does the framing of this question in these terms mask a more primary metaphor, that of the condition of the ban or exile that forms the counterpart of secular citizenship? When the secular state...

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4. Secularism, Islam, and the National Public Sphere: Politics of Commemorative Practices in Turkey

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pp. 93-110

This chapter examines the politics of commemorative practices in Turkey as a site of intervention between discourses of secularism and religiosity. This analysis is based on arguments developed in this book analyzing secularism as a constitutive norm of the national experience of the public sphere. The focus is on the politicization of commemorative practices between Islamist and secularist constituencies in Turkey in the last two...

Part 2: Mediations

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5. Mediating Secularism: Communalism and the Media Assemblage of Hindi-Urdu Film

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pp. 113-141

What is the relationship between ‹lmic representations of “difference” (caste, gender, religion, sex, region, nation, etc.) and the system of transformations that over the past twenty years has communalized everyday life in much of north India? As Kidwai points out in her contribution to this volume, secularism and fundamentalism in India have actually developed hand in hand over the past thirty years, blurring the once obvious lines demarcating...

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6. The New Kid on the Block: Bahibb Issima (I Love Cinema) and the Emergence of the Coptic Community in the Egyptian Public Sphere

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pp. 142-173

The modern culture industry in Egypt has historically been produced and administered by the state. The making of a modern nation-state in the aftermath of the initial Western colonial encounter—the French Expedition to Egypt—involved the creation of a national imaginary, the construction of a national identity, and the protection of national sovereignty, all of which were primary concerns for the nineteenth-century reformists. To...

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7. Talk Television: Reinventing Secular Muslims in the Era of Neoliberalism

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pp. 174-203

This essay focuses on one of the most trenchant motifs of Turkish nationalism, “we are all secular Muslims,” to explore the ways in which that motif has been simultaneously destabilized and also reconfigured in the political conjuncture of the 1990s. The essay’s main emphasis is on how the meanings of being secular, and of being a secular Muslim, have acquired content through the visual formats and commodity logic of television, at a...

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8. The Visual/Textual Marginalization of “Muslim Women” in Secular Democratic India, 1985–2001

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pp. 204-224

Secularism in postindependence India has been defined as the legacy of the Nehruvian era, which in turn was shaped by the independence struggle led by the Congress Party with Jawaharlal Nehru at its helm. It emerged from a strong desire of the founding fathers not to define national identities in terms of religion, so as to lay to rest the violence of Partition (the division of British India into two separate nation-states of India and Pakistan on...

Part 3: Politics of Spaces and Symbols

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9. Building Cities and Nations: Visual Practices in the Public Sphere in India and Lebanon

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pp. 227-257

In 1926, the historic city center of Beirut, the capital of the six-year-old Republic of Lebanon, was redesigned as the new public and institutional center for the city. Around twenty years later, Chandigarh was constructed as a new regional capital for the state of Punjab in newly independent India. This essay will use the architectural and urban characteristics of these two capital cities (the first national and the latter regional) to explore the...

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10. Sincan, A Town on the Verge of Civic Breakdown: The Spatialization of Identity Politics and Resistance

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pp. 258-280

Contrary to the common argument that secularism is a by-product of the Enlightenment Project and a successor to religion, recent studies have argued that it is a public practice that is in perpetual relation to religion.1 Accordingly, the manner in which to understand how secularism positions itself and the unique ways it manifests itself in the surrounding political...

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11. The Secular Icon: Secularist Practice and Indian Visual Culture

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pp. 281-307

Since the 1980s, India’s secular intelligentsia has struggled to understand the nature of the threat that Hindu nationalism poses to more inclusive forms of national culture established during the freedom movement and by the postcolonial...

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12. Spatial Representation of Sectarian National Identity in Residential Beirut

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pp. 308-334

To dig into urban space in Beirut is to enter a minefield of symbols. The city’s many inhabitant groups all have richly varied ways of expressing their cultural, religious, and political beliefs. Moving from quarter to quarter through Beirut, one cannot fail to notice the posters, flags, and writings that dot the streets and buildings. Throughout the Lebanese civil war (1975–90) the social fragmentation of Beirut was mirrored in symbolic...


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pp. 335-340


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pp. 341-348

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028139
E-ISBN-10: 0472028138
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472071180
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071181

Page Count: 356
Illustrations: 17 images
Publication Year: 2012