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Feminism and the attraction of Islamophobia. A view from a semi-periphery

The CEU Campus
Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 5:30 pm

Some variants of feminism turn out to be prone to Islamophobic attitudes. It is mainly because they assume a vision of women's emancipation that presents it as irrevocably incompatible with religion. This incompatibility is particularly emphasised in the case of Islam which is commonly perceived as an ultimate opposition to the Western modernity and its values of human autonomy and individual freedom. On the other hand, however, there are feminist voices claiming that, especially in the current political circumstances, absolutizing the value of secularism supports a type of politics that is anti-immigrant, xenophobic and exclusionary. These feminist voices postulate that we should look for the alternative frameworks for conceptualizing female agency and empowerment in which they would not necessarily be opposed to women's religious identifications. In my presentation I will discuss conceptual and political stakes that are linked with divergent feminist approaches to Islam and Islamophobia. I will particularly focus on the Polish context and show how these approaches are shaped and complicated by semi-peripheral character of Poland and a role that politicised Catholicism plays in its political life. It will be my thesis that in order to dismantle feminist Islamophobia we not only need to rethink the relationship between religion, power and emancipation but we also need to problematize special functionality that a discourse of cultural and religious identity has in the neoliberal politics.



Monika Bobako is an assistant professor at the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. She holds PhD in philosophy and MA in Gender Studies (obtained from the Gender Department, CEU). Her areas of specialisation include political anthropology, postcolonial theory, gender theory, critical race theory, religious studies (with a special focus on Islam). She is the author of a book Democracy and Difference. Multiculturalism and Feminism in the Perspective of the Politics of Recognition (in Polish). She has just completed a research project ”Contemporary humanities and the problem of Islamophobia in Europe” (funded by the Polish Ministry of Science and Highier Education). Her new book Islamophobia as a Technology of Power: A Study in Political Anthropology is due to be published in autumn 2017. Since 2012 she has been a regular visiting professor at the Gender Studies PhD program at the University of Abdelhamid Ibn Badis, Mostaganem, Algeria.