Reconfiguring France: Muslim Citizens in the Shadows of Secularism

Mayanthi Fernando
UC Santa Cruz

Reconfiguring France weaves together an analysis of Muslim piety and French secularity (lacité), asking what an examination of Islam in France can tell us about the nature of religion, politics, and secularity in the modern world. Drawing primarily on ethnographic fieldwork as well as on archival research and media and political discourse analysis, it analyzes how pious Muslim citizens fashion new forms of ethics and politics as they reconfigure both the Islamic and secular republican traditions. My book also explores tensions within lacité that emerge in its encounter with Islam, tensions that are deferred onto Muslims who are, as a result, put at risk as viable ethical and political subjects. Departing from dominant interpretations of the articulation between French Islam and the secular state that insist on a mutual, monolithic unintelligibility between the two, my book re-situates conflicts between Muslim citizens and secular institutions within the longer histories of both lacité and French Islam. In so doing, it treats these conflicts as symptomatic not only of an emergent form of Islam, but also of long-standing tensions integral to French secularism itself.