Muslims in Europe

Veils in Public Spaces and the Current Political Crisis

Professor Valérie Amiraux (University of Montreal)

J.M. Synge Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College 19:00 :: 26th November 2013

The Department of Sociology in collaboration with University College Dublin (UCD) and the Policy Institute at Trinity College Dublin would like to invite you to a public lecture, Muslims in Europe: Veils in Public Spaces and the Current Political Crisis by Professor Valérie Amiraux of the University of Montreal.
Over the last thirty years, the visible “otherness” embodied by the Muslim population in the European Union has sparked transnational movements of moral panic, driven mainly by the fear of the collapse of “national cohesion.” Islamic women’s attire is presented as an increasingly delicate problem, an issue at the center of legal battles and the subject of virulent political controversies in various countries. What does the omnipresence, not to say ubiquity, of public discussions about religious otherness reveal about the current political crisis?

This keynote is more specifically concerned with the “public texture” of the discussions surrounding the recent ban on the wearing of the full veil in public spaces. Occurrences of local frictions, tensions, and more recently, episodes of outright violence, have emerged in different contexts, regardless of the national conventions with regards to immigration politics, the relationship between church and state and the wider construction of national identity. They are part of a racializing configuration about which I wish to develop three arguments. The first hinges on the unintelligibility of certain manifestations of belief in secularized European public spaces. The second develops an analysis of the racialization of the indicators of religious belonging, which most specifically affect the Muslim population of the EU. The third finally proposes some speculative readings of the public experience of the different crises arising from the visibility of Islamic religious signs and the capital attached to their visibility: what does this fetishism surrounding religious attire tell us about the European political adventure?

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