Critique of Muslim reason:Achille Mbembe and a study of race, racism and Islamophobia in modern Britain

Hafiz, Muneeb (2020) Critique of Muslim reason:Achille Mbembe and a study of race, racism and Islamophobia in modern Britain. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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The philosopher Achille Mbembe tells us: “Europe is no longer the center of gravity of the world. This is the significant event, the fundamental experience, of our era. And we are only just now beginning the work of measuring its implications and weighing its consequences.” Symptomatic of the European idea, Britain goes astray, deeply conflicted about where it is within and with the world, and what it wants to know about, or do, with the racial subject. It is into this context of (white) anxiety that I write Islamophobia. This thesis argues that Islamophobia in Britain is a nodal point for a range of transformations in governance, power and knowledge propelled by technologies and economies of the seemingly endless war on terror, that contain within them the twin figures of race and Blackness constitutive of British, and more broadly European, colonial modernity. I locate Islamophobia as an (il)logical outcome of a constitutive history of raciology that authorised sophisticated systems of dehumanisation with macro and molecular effects in the transatlantic slave trade, (settler) colonialism, and the formation of global empire, with parallels in the present. The dehumanised subject at the peripheries of the racial formation is also, however, the premier site of (ethical) pedagogy for our engagements with history, for confronting the presentness of the past, and for living in the present. Addressing the specific site of Islamophobia opens up possibilities – and presents dangers – for building more just futures absent the destructive phantasms of imperial racism and the “British race.” Situated within the scholarly terrain of postcolonial international relations, this study contributes to a different understanding of Britain’s international history, which signals an alternative political ethic and mode for living in the present. Thinking with Achille Mbembe, my theory of the postcolonial subject of dehumanisation develops a much-needed approach within studies of the international – postcolonial or otherwise – which pays close attention to the human subject in his/her raced and gendered distinctions. One who must live within an entangled global order, and through whom the race, racism, and coloniality of white reason that birthed the international system operates. I think about Britain’s modern relation to the global order from the racialised subject outwards, from the individual to the international, seeking to affirm the reason of Others within racial formations that work to do the opposite. Achille Mbembe’s work on race, Blackness and European modernity, captured in his Critique of Black Reason (2017), is my chief philosophical anchor and point of departure to pursue my own Critique of Muslim Reason. This study is, in sum, an attempt to build an adequate vocabulary for analysing the complexities of racism today, its potential future(s), and (Muslim) techniques for its dismantling.

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Thesis (PhD)
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16 Apr 2020 10:40
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 01:41