Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Racism in the West

Lee Medovoi, PhD
Professor and Head of the Department of English

Affiliated Faculty:
Program in Gender and Women's Studies
Program in Religious Studies
Institute for the Environment

University of Arizona

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
7.00pm in ILC 120 (Map)

Co-sponsored by the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, the Department of Gender & Women's Studies, the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies, Department of English, the Religious Studies Program, and the Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging Initiative (RelSec).

Video of the talk

This event is free and open to the public

CMES Distinguished Lecture

With the recent attacks in Paris, Europe seems poised to join the post 9/11 United States in an era of intensified Islamophobic politics. Anti-Semitism too appears at stake, but in vexing ways for defenders of European multiculturalism who do not want to stigmatize Muslim minorities in raising the issue of anti-Semitism. This talk places this current predicament in a larger context by inquiring into the long political history and significance of both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. In Europe today, Islamophobia is typically considered a form of xenophobia, or anti-immigrant sentiment. A quite different approach has analyzed Islamophobia as a variation on what Edward Said once called the Orientalist knowledge project of European imperialism.  Anti-Semitism, meanwhile, appears as a repudiated form of biological racism. This talk takes a somewhat different approach, suggesting that both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism exemplify a uniquely western form of politics that involves the racializing of religion. As such, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism ironically share a common logic and a complex history. By calling attention to these intertwined histories of western racism, the talk aims to shed critical light on our present moment. 

Lee Medovoi is a Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Arizona. A graduate of the Ph.D. program in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University, he was the founding director of the Portland Center for Public Humanities. His book, published with Duke University Press, explores the transformation of American culture and politics during the Cold War. He is currently working on a new book titled The Second Axis of Race: Biopolitics of the Dogma Line that studies the history of Islamophobia in light of post 9/11 events. He has lectured on this project at universities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Lebanon, and China.  He is also the principal investigator for an international collaborative research project, funded by the Mellon Foundation, that takes a global approach to the study of "Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging."

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