Mayanathi L. Fernando

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2008)

CURRENT POSITION

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

PROFILE

My first book, The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism (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. It explores how Muslim French draw on both Islamic and secular-republican traditions as they create new modes of ethical and political engagement, reconfiguring those traditions to imagine a future for France. It also examines how the institutions, political and legal practices, and dominant discourses that comprise French secularity regulate and govern–and profoundly disrupt–Muslim life. In so doing, it traces a series of long-standing tensions immanent to laïcité, tensions not so much generated as precipitated by the presence of Muslim French. It argues, ultimately, that “the Muslim question” is actually a question about secularism.

My next project attends to the nexus of sex and religion in the articulation of modern secularity, analyzing how the secular state’s project of regulating and transforming religious life is interwoven with its project of sexual normalization, i.e. the production of secular, sexually “normal” citizens. I am interested, in other words, in how proper religion and proper sexuality are mutually constituted (often in opposition to each other) by secular rule.

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SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
EDUCATION

B.A., Harvard University
M.A., Ph.D., University of Chicago