The debate over the tragic attack on Charlie Hebdo quickly settled into a familiar script that posits Islam as being antithetical to art, and Muslims therefore as enemies of liberal values such as free speech. The title of conference for which this short paper was written—“Fear of Art”—risks affirming this script. Positing a “fear of art” as the reason behind this attack consigns it to the realm of the irrational, devoid of politics and history. Instead, I argue that we look at art as something that emerges from within society, and thereby as necessarily embodying/reflecting the extant relations of power in society. The paper also underlines the importance of differentiating between art which (explicitly or implicitly) affirms the existing power relations within a society, and art which contests them. Only then can we hope to move our understanding of this incident beyond a simplistic and dangerous civilizational narrative.


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pp. 21-31
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