In this keynote held at the 2018 NSRN conference Worldviews in World View: Particularizing Secularism, Secularity and Nonreligion, Samuli Schielke discusses secularism as a form of discursive power in the Middle East.
In his keynote lecture lecture to the NSRN conference in 2018, Samuli Schielke thinks together his fieldwork in Egypt and critical anthropologies of the secular, and argues that thinking about secularism as a form of discursive power that promotes specific subjectivities can provide a useful but partial understanding of various developments regarding state power, faith, and imagination that are going on in a God-fearing part of the world. Rather than trying to think them through the somewhat mystifying entity of “the secular”, he suggests that they may be understood in a clearer way as different shapes of the relationship between humans and God. Some of these shapes correspond with a binary model that juxtapose Islamic and secular-liberal traditions as distinct, mutually external regimes; and some of them do not. Schielke proposes to add to the theme of secularism a more complex landscape of heresies and imaginative explorations that either unsettle a tradition from within, or have different concerns altogether. A transcript of the keynote is available.
Samuli Schielke is a social and cultural anthropologist working on contemporary Egypt. He is a research fellow at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), associate primary investigator at Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, and visiting fellow in the ERC project Comparative Anthropologies of Revolutionary Politics at UCL. He is author and editor of The Perils of Joy (2012), The Global Horizon (with Knut Graw, 2012), Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes (with Liza Debevec, 2012), Egypt in the Future Tense (2015) and Until the End of Oil (2017, in Arabic).