November 26, 2020
01:30 PM Eastern Time (UTC-5)
Title: The Secular in Middle East and Islamicate History
Speaker: Florian Zemmin, University of Leipzig
Discussant: Sari Hanafi, American University of Beirut
Islam is all too frequently regarded as the other of secular (Western) modernity. Sometimes this perception extends to Middle Eastern societies, for which Islam allegedly plays a constitutive role. However, secularity, the difference between religion and the secular, has been shaping modern societies in the Middle East too. Moreover, recent scholarship has highlighted patterns of secularity both within modern Islamic thought and in Islamicate history. The lecture first establishes the factual secularity of modern Middle Eastern societies, focusing on the relation between religion and politics. Moving from structures to ideas, it then shows how modern Islamic thought conceptualized secularity. Examples from Islamicate history will make clear that secularity in the Middle East was not the exclusive product of colonial modernity, but drew also on earlier distinctions between religion and the secular. Florian Zemmin is Senior Researcher at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences “Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities,” Leipzig University. He is the author of Modernity in Islamic Tradition. The Concept of ‘Society’ in the Journal al-Manar (Cairo, 1898–1940) (De Gruyter, 2018) and co-editor of Working with A Secular Age: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Charles Taylor's Master Narrative (De Gruyter, 2016) and Islam in der Moderne, Moderne im Islam. Eine Festschrift für Reinhard Schulze zum 65. Geburtstag (Brill, 2018).