Workshop "Religion and Secularism as Problem Space in Postcolonial Occidentalist Discourses within the MENA Region"
Leipzig University, 3-4 November 2022
The workshop aims to discuss the question of religion and secularity/secularism in (postcolonial) Occidentalist discourses and their critiques in the MENA region. The question of religion plays a pivotal role in both the Orientalist view of the “Orient” and the Occidentalist view of the “Occident”. While the Orientalist view is indebted to a binary perspective on religion and the secular, with stereotypical essentializations of the religious dimensions of the “Orient”, the Occidentalist view oscillates between two apparently contradictory reductions, which present the “Occident” alternatively as Christian or as secular. Furthermore, dominant Occidentalist discourses in the MENA region self-identify with Islam in a way that overlaps with Orientalist imaginaries of an essentially Islamic Orient.
The workshop intents to explore the trajectories of postcolonial Occidentalist discourses in the MENA region. It aims to reflect on their various genealogies, forms, and contents. Postcolonial Occidentalism draws heavily on Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), and Hassan Hanafi’s Introduction to the Science of Occidentalism (1991). Critical stances of postcolonial Occidentalist discourses towards the “West/Orient” are thereby often entangled with academic critiques of secularism (e.g. Asad, and Mahmood), democracy and liberalism (e.g. Massed), the modern state (e.g. Hallaq), as well as modernity and civilisation (e.g. Abdel-Rahman and El-Messiri).
This workshop endeavours to bring together empirical case studies on particular Occidentalist debates, including their historical trajectories with theoretical reflections on Occidentalism and Orientalism in the MENA region.
The guiding research questions of the workshop are: