MAAS-457 Intro to Anthro of Secularism: "Seeing" the Arab World
Spring for 2014-2015
The sequence of upheavals that has spread across several Arab countries since 2010 has been greeted the world over with enthusiasm as a new era of freedom, justice, and, democracy. But, the prominence of religion in the uprisings—as a mobilizing force, organizational instrument, cause of sectarian violence, or source of political legitimacy—is sometimes considered a good reason to cast doubt over their ultimate outcome. This combination of sentiments articulates expectations about what properly belongs to a democratic state, such as religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities, and what does not—sectarianism, for example. It involves embedded assumptions, not only about what religion is, its place in revolutions and the modern state, and its relationship with politics and law, but also about the state, revolution, freedom, violence, suffering, sexuality, gender, the body, and pain, to name a few. As an introduction to the anthropology of secularism, this course explores some of these assumptions, their multiple provenances, and the many ways they inform our perceptions of the Arab world.
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