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Retraditionalisation, Anti-Foundationalism and Glocalisation in a Post-Islamist Muslim World (2/2)

Panel Chair: Cecilie Endresen | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Since the 1990s, some researchers of the contemporary Muslim world have been predicting the end of political Islam -- introducing the term Post-Islamism. This does not mean the end of the role of religion in the Muslim world. A wide spectrum of religious practitioners, Muslim activists and intellectuals, ranging from social conservatives to critical progressives, propose innovation through critical and appreciative engagement with the Islamic tradition. The vacuum in the centre is filled by a trend towards 'retraditionalization'. These include strategies to rehabilitate local Islamic traditions and regimes of knowledge promoted as more pious, authentic, or progressive and tolerant. More ‘adventurous’ intellectuals advocate different forms of Muslim cosmopolitanism and worldliness, drawing inspiration from the 1980s Heritage Thinkers and writings of anti-foundationalist philosophers and postcolonial theorists. In contrast to reactionary Islamism, proponents of these trends seek an alternative Muslim future while retaining an ‘Islamic referent’.

Carool Kersten

Alternative regimes of knowledge for a Post-Islamist World: Pragmatism, Anti-Foundationalism and Hermeneutics of Alterity

Examining the use of pragmatist/anti-foundationalist philosophies in challenging the totalizing and teleological tendencies in contemporary Muslim thought by analysing the writings of two Iranian-born but US-based sociologists of knowledge: Dabashi’s ‘hermeneutics of alterity’ is a counterpoint to the metaphysics underlying the false binary of ‘West’ vs ‘the Rest’ rejects the inherently violent totalitarian ideologies undergirding the French Revolution, Bolshevism and Islamism, he proposes an alternative decentered, postcolonial, postorientalist and postwestern world, using Arendt, Gadamer, Deleuze and Vattimo for a new ‘geography of liberation’ that restores the worldly cosmopolitanism found in the literary humanism of the Muslim past. Ali Mirsepasi identifies non-Islamic elements in the ‘philosophies of despair’ manifested in Persian nativism and Islamist ideologies, traceable to the totalitarianism of Jacobin Enlightenment and Heideggerian authenticity. Mirsepassi’s alternative ‘philosophy of hope’ draws on the appreciation of everyday experiences in British Enlightenment and Drew’s pragmatism for realizing human freedom and deliberative democracy.

Émilie Roy

Educating Pious Citizens in Bamako’s Médersas: Sacralising Daily Life and Islamising the Public Sphere

The arabisants of Bamako’s médersas have constructed, occupied, and controlled a social space within the officially secular Malian public sphere by constituting a class of self-conscious Muslims, pious and productive citizens. They are at the forefront of a re-traditionalization of the public sphere where Islam is claimed and celebrated as both a factor of internal cohesion and of social peace. The choice for the arabisants was never between modernity and Islam, but rather between an Islamicized and a Westernized modernity. Malian arabisants have focused their activism on moralizing the daily lives of Malian through “Islam mondain,” a form of sacralisation of daily life that allows one to live as a pious Muslim in a secular, pluralistic, and democratic environment. This paper thus illustrates the agency of the arabisants in defining their activities, rendered Islamic, in the public sphere in light of Bayat’s theorizing of daily life as politics (2010).

David Vishanoff

Hermeneutics and the Traditional Islamic Sciences in Indonesia Today: Continuity, Rhetoric, or Creativity?

Numerous recent Indonesian books on Qurʾānic hermeneutics present their adaptations of modern and postmodern Western theories as reformulations or extensions of the classical Islamic disciplines of exegesis (tafsīr), legal theory (uṣūl al fiqh), and the Qurʾānic sciences (ʿulūm al qurʾān). This essay will consider several scholars such as Aksin Wijaya, whose “new direction in the study of the Qurʾānic sciences” includes a reformulation of the classical Ashʿarī doctrine of God’s eternal speech in terms of modern communication theory, and Sahiron Syamsuddin, who recasts classical exegesis as a hermeneutical system comparable to modern and postmodern western hermeneutics. It will be argued that while these scholars distort or modify the classical disciplines quite seriously, they are not just using them as a rhetorical strategy to mask their divergence from tradition, but are engaging them in substantive and creative ways, and treating them as real intellectual resources on a par with their modern western counterparts.


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