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Book: Identity, Politics and the Study of Islam

Chapter: 1. The Modesty of Theory

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30323


In this contribution, I use the “dispute” between Omid Safi and Aaron Hughes to rethink the relationship between theory and politics. I argue that while scholars of religion cannot avoid being pushed into political discussions, there are crucial differences between “intervention, collaboration, and interpellation” that need to be recognized so that contemporary political issues don't stand in the place of theory. Drawing on the likes of Stuart Hall, Weber, Foucault, and Asad, I urge for more rigorous attention to the lines between our political commitments and the theoretical goal of open-ended inquiry, which means paying attention to the ways in which we are all caught up in ideological state apparatuses, to borrow a line from Althusser, and how theory authorizes politics and vice versa. More concretely, I urge scholars to think about how critique is tied to normative assumptions about the relationship between Christianity, secularism, and Enlightenment, and how “Islam” and “Muslim modalities” are made to fit within this “modernist enterprise.”

Chapter Contributors

  • Ruth Mas ( - rmas) 'Freie Universitaet Berlin'