August 29 - September 1, 2013: APSA Annual Meeting - Chicago.

I'm presenting:

Discipline and Freedom as Alternative Practices: Muslim Women's Responses to Republicanism and Islam 

This paper reflects on the understanding of freedom within the recent debate and ban of Muslim full veils from public spaces in France. Instead of understanding freedom as liberation from constraints, I propose to use the Foucaultian understanding of freedom as distinct from liberation. If we can conceive of freedom as always taking place within relations of power, and as a self-forming activity that may involve the conscious acceptance of obligations, religious practices can be reinterpreted. I consider the Foucaultian understanding of practices of freedom and disciplinary practices as two ways in which subjects relate to their own selves and to games of truth (of which Republicanism and Islam could be considered cases). I argue that both French Republicanism and Islamic revival movements contain strands that open spaces for practices of freedom, as well as disciplinary strands. I focus on the ethnographic literature on European Muslim revival movements and reconstruct Muslim women’s practices of the self. These practices illuminate that French Muslim women are actively contesting discourses of secularism and freedom that construct them as inherently passive and in need of tutelage. In this context, the actions of the French state are best understood as normalizing interventions that try to eliminate the capacity of racialized minorities to intervene politically and alter the contemporary meaning of secularism and freedom.