The West Vs. the Rest – Locating the “Transnational” in Discourses on Islam

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:39
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Kristina NOTTBOHM, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Luis HERNÁNDEZ AGUILAR, Independent Researcher, Mexico
The aftermath of the 9/11 and the ensuing ‘War on Terror’ have reactivated and provided a new air to racial constructions of Muslims and Islam as the violent enemies of what is deemed the West. The problematization of a Muslim ontology seems to disperse and transpire uniformly trough different national contexts. Notions like “the west”, “Muslim countries”, “the Muslim”, and the “Umma”, to name just a few, function as signifiers of the transnational characteristics of the issue. While Orientalism and its contemporary avatar Islamophobia are usually described and conceptualized as genuinely transnational emphasizing the continuity, recoding, and legacy of colonialism and imperialism, empirical studies of these discourses often remain within the national framework.

In this paper, we want to address two interrelated issues: On the one hand we will examine how in public media debates in France and in Germany “Islam” and “Muslim communities” are discursively constructed as transnational phenomenon. In particular, we will focus on the discursive positioning of self-labeled secular Muslim intellectuals who have appeared as the most credible critics of Islam and Muslims, since they are deemed as “authentic voices” and representatives of an alleged transnational Muslim community. On the other hand, we want to address the above mentioned gap between the transnational in the theory and the national in discourse analysis concerning the study of islamophobia.

We argue that contemporary Islamophobia poses a challenge to its academic inquiry since the entanglement of this discourse articulates beyond the borders of particular nation-states. We seek to contribute to the critique of methodological nationalism through showing how statements of native informants circulate both at the national and transnational level. Finally, the analysis requires taking into account the transnational scope on methodological level but also the specific embeddedness according to its local and national contexts.