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Department of Social Anthropology


Decolonise Anthropology Seminar with Nadia Fadil (University of Leuven)

State Islamophobia and the perplexities of anthropology: towards a pluriversal Europe


After the decapitation of Samuel Paty and the murdering of three worshippers at the Basilique de Notre Dames in Nice in October 2020 an intense attack on the civil society, targeting Muslim organizations in particular, took place in France. Whereas some prominent human rights organizations were dissolved, others (like mosques) were subjected to an intense policing and crackdown by the police forces. In parallel to these developments, academics and journalists were also caught in a storm of insults and fury. Especially those working on race and Islamophobia saw themselves being accused of complicity with radical Islam and the terrorist attacks. In the name of challenging islamo-gauchism (islamoleftism) and defending Republican values, some prominent politicians even went as far as attempting to curtail the freedom of academic of inquiry in the universities. In this presentation, I want to reflect on the events of the recent months. In so doing, however, I not only want to attend to the political climate, but also reflect on the role of scholars and social scientists – and anthropologists in particular – in challenging these dynamics. In a first moment, I will critique the prevailing tendency to view the events of the past months as an ‘assault on free-speech’, and will rather situate them in a larger preventive security policy which aims at addressing the ‘root causes’ of radicalization. In a second moment, I will reflect on the social sciences – and anthropology’s – own ambivalent relationship with what is often described as politicized forms of Muslim agency. I will relate this ambivalent relationship with what I describe elsewhere as a double epistemological impasse of the discipline (Fadil 2019). I will also reflect on the congruencies between these epistemological impasses and the current state policies. I will conclude my reflection by exploring the role and potential of anthropology, in particular for turning Europe into a pluriversal political space.


Nadia Fadil is an Associate Professor at the IMMRC (Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities Research Centre) at the University of Leuven. Her work focuses on Islam in Europe, both as a lived tradition as well as an object of regulation. Her most recent publications include Secular Bodies, Affects and Emotions. European configurations (with Monique Scheer and Birgitte Scheplern Johansen, Bloomsbury 2019) and Radicalization in Belgium and the Netherlands. Critical perspectives on Violence and Security (with Martijn de Koning and Francesco Ragazzi, IB Tauris 2019). She has also been active as a columnist and writer in the Belgian press and is a board member of a few organizations working on migration, multiculturalism and social inequality in Brussels.

Tuesday, 16 February, 2021 - 17:00 to 19:00
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation