Geographies of Orientalism

    • Cover Porto 2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Mariam Banahi, Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University / Visiting Research Fellow, Hamburg University, Germany


    In her interrogation of the ‘post-colonial’, Ella Shohat reminds us that “the ‘neo-colonial’, like the ‘post-colonial’ also suggests continuities and discontinuities, but its emphasis is on the new modes and forms of the old colonialist practices, not on a ‘beyond’ (1992: 106)”. Orientalism’s geographies are no longer delimited to textual and geographic ones, but must be reconsidered to make space for new imaginings of an internal Other, no longer at the borders of Europe, but at its center. The independence of former European colonies in the Middle East in the mid-twentieth century, as well as the rise of Muslim immigration to Europe in the post-World War II period has reterritorialized European geographic space with Islam and Muslims no longer posed as existential threats at the borders of Europe, but as residing within them. Mamdani further reminds us that, “[...] the history of the modern state can also be read as the history of race, bringing together the stories of two kinds of victims of European political modernity: the internal victims of state building and the external victims of imperial expansion’ (2004: 11). My consideration of Islamophobia and Orientalism will take up the convergence of imperial expansion and state-building as it pertains to the figure of the Muslim in Europe. By tracing these discursive continuities and the ways in which Islam and Muslims are thought of, spoken about, and studied we can begin to parse through the connections between colonial projects, Orientalism, and Islamophobia, as well as the production, durability, and adaptability of such discourses. By attending to the continued violence of Orientalism and Islamophobia through an examination of studies of Muslims in France and Germany, albeit with disparate colonial histories and engagement with entities loosely defined as the ‘Middle East’, ‘Islam’, and ‘Muslims’, I will add further complexity and tension to the prevailing conceptual and geographic limits of the ‘Middle East’, and to return the gaze onto the West.