Saba Mahmood

Saba Mahmood is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, which received the 2005 Victoria Schuck award from the American Association of Political Science. Most recently she is the co-author of Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech (2009), published by the University of California Press. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals including Critical Inquiry, Cultural Anthropology, Boston Review, Social Research, American Ethnologist, Public Culture, and Cultural Studies. Mahmood is the recipient of the Carnegie Corporation’s scholar of Islam award (2007), and the Frederick Burkhardt fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (2009-10). She is also a Co-PI on a three-year project, funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, that focuses on a comparative study of the right to religious liberty in western and non-western political contexts. Her broader work centers on issues of secularism, religion, gender, and postcoloniality in the Middle East.

Posts by Saba Mahmood:

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report—An introduction

Saba Mahmood | Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority ReportIt is no exaggeration to say that the religious diversity that characterized the Middle East for centuries is in precipitous decline. The reasons for this are multiple, including civil wars that have ravaged Iraq, Syria, and Libya; territorial expansion of militant Islamist groups (like ISIS); and steady erosion of political and civil rights in the region. The US invasion of Iraq and subsequent intervention in Libya have left wide swaths of the Middle East in utter disarray and brought the plight of religious minorities to a new impasse.

Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report is an exploration of the minority question not so much in the context of warfare but of stable governance where the promise of civil and political equality continues to hold sway. Because I am interested in how religious difference has come to be regulated and remade under secularism, I focus on the problem of religious minorities rather than groups defined by ethnic, linguistic, or other attributes.

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Monday, March 5th, 2012

Religious freedom, minority rights, and geopolitics

Conventional wisdom has it that religious liberty is a universally valid principle, enshrined in national constitutions and international charters and treaties, whose proper implementation continues to be thwarted by intransigent forces in society such as illiberal governments, religious fundamentalists, and traditional norms. Insomuch as the Middle East, and the Muslim world in general, are supposed to be afflicted with the ills of fundamentalism and illiberal governments, then the salvific promise of religious liberty looms large. In this brief post I would like to question this way of thinking through a consideration of the career of religious liberty in the modern Middle East.

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Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Secular imperatives?

Calls for the embrace (or for that matter rejection) of secularism are premised on a putative opposition between secular and religious worldviews wherein each is defined as a necessary and stable essence that is superior to the other. It is argued that there is an essential kernel to secularism that must be preserved and defended from religious extremism and backwardness. For some this is secularism’s scientific rationality, for others it is secularism’s incipient objectivity, and for yet others it is secularism’s strict separation between state and religion. The idea that the “good” elements in secularism can be distinguished from its “bad” sides, the latter discarded and the former refined, only serves to further reinforce the blackmail that one is either for or against secularism.

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Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Is critique secular?

One of the most cherished definitions of critique is the incessant subjection of all norms to unyielding critique. Or is it?

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