Fabricating Difference - Steven W Ramey

Fabricating Difference - Steven W Ramey

1. Myths of the French Republic

Fabricating Difference - Steven W Ramey

Mayanthi L Fernando [+-]
University of California, Santa Cruz
Mayanthi L. Fernando is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz whose specialties include Islam, modern France, secularism, and sexuality. Her book, The Republic Unsettled: Islam, Secularism, and the Future of France (Duke University Press, 2014), alternates between an analysis of Muslim French politics, ethics, and social life and the contradictions of French secularity (laïcité) that this new Muslim subjectivity reflects and refracts.


Reflecting on public discourse in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, including the author’s own participation in that discourse, this essay reverses the typical framing of France’s “Muslim problem” to consider the ways that French secularism (laïcité) and the French republican political tradition are problems for pluralism. Rather than take for granted the conventional narratives that laïcité entails strict neutrality and that the French nation is one and indivisible, Fernando analyzes French secularism and French republicanism as myths that are historically fabricated but have real effects on the world. Fernando draws on Muslim French civic activists’ critiques of France to trace a history of laïcité and republicanism, and to delineate the ways France has constructed Muslims as inherently different. Presenting this ethnographic methodology as a model, she also calls on her fellow scholars to take “native” interlocutors on the ground seriously as theorists in their own right and not merely as social actors, theorists who may be right about the world.

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Fernando, Mayanthi. 1. Myths of the French Republic. Fabricating Difference. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 13-37 Jul 2017. ISBN 9781781794876. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=30316. Date accessed: 15 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30316. Jul 2017

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