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Do liberal societies need beliefs?

Do liberal societies need beliefs?

Ryan Schram

Mills 169 (A26)

ryan.schram@sydney.edu.au

24 May 2017

Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/2667/11

Readings

Mahmood, Saba. 2013. “Religious Reason and Secular Affect: An Incommensurable Divide?” In Is Critique Secular?: Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech, edited by Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Judith Butler, 64–100. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://criticism.english.illinois.edu/2012%20Spring%20pages/Readings/Mahmood_Is_Critique_Secular%20.pdf.

Keane, Webb. 2009. “Freedom and Blasphemy: On Indonesian Press Bans and Danish Cartoons.” Public Culture 21 (1): 47–76. doi:10.1215/08992363–2008–021.

Other readings

Bellah, Robert N. 1967. “Civil Religion in America.” Daedalus 96 (1): 1–21. http://www.robertbellah.com/articles_5.htm.

Hirschkind, Charles. 1997. “What Is Political Islam?” Middle East Report. http://www.merip.org/mer/mer205/what-political-islam.

Weill, Nicolas. 2006. “What’s in a Scarf?: The Debate on Laïcité in France.” French Politics, Culture & Society 24 (1): 59–73.

Other media

Ramzy, Austin. 2015. “Singapore Arrests Teenager Over Video Critical of Lee Kuan Yew.” The New York Times, March 30. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/world/asia/singapore-arrests-teenager-over-video-critical-of-lee-kuan-yew.html.

Theodorou, Angelina. 2015. “Which Countries Still Outlaw Apostasy and Blasphemy?” Pew Research Center. Accessed May 13. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/28/which-countries-still-outlaw-apostasy-and-blasphemy/.

A critique of liberalism

  • Western societies tell a story of themselves in which the present social order represents the emancipation of the individual and a recognition of the individual's natural rights.
  • In this story, history moves from traditional institutions which limit people's freedom to a new, rational order in which people can choose their own destiny.
  • According to Marx, a liberal state governs citizens as individuals, and hence denies that they are also necessarily part of actual communities.
  • This ideology disguises the alienation which makes liberal citizenship possible and thus serves the interests of the bourgeoisie.
  • Marx's critique of liberalism is, in that sense, an extension of our critique of Western secularism from last week.

Civil religion

  • The question of this week–Do liberal societies need beliefs?–can be read as asking whether a liberal society needs to give citizens a substitute for their communal religious identities.
  • Robert Bellah: “Civil religion”

Blasphemy

  • The question of this week can also be read as asking something else: f there is a risk of a liberalism becoming a civil religion, is there a way we can imagine a liberal society which is safe for all kinds of religion?
  • Should liberal societies prohibit blasphemy?

Why might blasphemy be threatening to society?

  • “Speech acts” according to J. L. Austin.
    • constative, performative
    • locutionary, illocutionary, perlocutionary
  • Fighting words, hate speech, “trigger warnings.”

Laws against blasphemy

  • Proselytising by all is illegal: Bhutan, Nepal, Greece.
  • Proselytising to members of the majority is illegal: Algeria, Morocco, Iraq*
  • Proselytising is restricted: Venezuela (indigenous), Oslo (against evangelical Christians).
  • Foreign visas denied to missionaries: China, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Denmark.
  • China only allows proselytising in recognized places of worship.
  • Malaysia sets very high restrictions on conversion from Islam.

(see Fox 2015: 193).

Semiotic ideology

  • Like language ideology, or the indexicality of language, register, ritual, and style.
  • More generally, an implicit cultural 'theory' of how communication works, and the connection between communicator, code, message and world.

Communicator–Message–Code–World

The Danish cartoon controversy and Terry Jones

  • Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartooons controversy, September 2005 to January 2006 (University Post Newsroom 2015).
  • Terry Jones and threatened Qu'ran burning, July to September 2010 (Derby 2010).
  • What is this conflict really about?
    • Mahmood: assimilative versus representational ideologies of meaning. Is it that simple?
    • Another case of iconophilia? The Zurenuoc affair in Papua New Guinea.

References

Austin, John L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words: The William James Lectures. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Derby, Kevin. 2010. “World Weighs In to Condemn Terry Jones’ Planned Quran-Burning.” Sunshine State News, September 8. http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/world-weighs-in-condemn-terry-jones-planned-quran-burning.

Fox, Jonathan. 2015. Political Secularism, Religion, and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

University Post newsroom. 2015. “Ten Years of the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis: 2005-2015.” University Post, January 8. http://universitypost.dk/article/ten-years-muhammad-cartoon-crisis-2005-2015.

A guide to the unit

2667/11.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/23 16:26 by ryans