Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

The Long-Duree Entanglement between Islamophobia and Racism in the Modern/colonial Capitalist/patriarchal World-System: An Introduction

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

The Long-Duree Entanglement between Islamophobia and Racism in the Modern/colonial Capitalist/patriarchal World-System: An Introduction

Article excerpt

Any discussion of Islamophobia today has to depart from a discussion about the cartography of power of the "world-system" for the past 500 years. If we understand the "modern world-system" as a global inter-state system organized solely in terms of an international division of labor, Islamophobia would then be an epiphenomenona of the political-economy of the worldsystem and, in particular, of the ceaseless accumulation of capital on a world-scale. However, if we shift the geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge from a North oriented gaze of the world-system towards a South oriented view, we get a different picture of the global cartography of power. From a Southern perspective, the world-system is organized not only as a global interstate system centered around an international division of labor, but includes, not as additive elements but as constitutive of the capitalist accumulation on a world-scale, a global racial/ethnic hierarchy (Europeans/ Euro-Americans vs. non-European peoples), a global patriarchal hierarchy (global gender system and a global sexual system), a global religious hierarchy, a global linguistic hierarchy, a global epistemic hierarchy, etc. (see Grosfoguel 2006). The "package" of entangled power hierarchies of the worldsystem is broader and more complex than what is frequently theorized in world-system analysis. For the sake of economizing space, when we use the term "world-system" in this essay, we refer to the "modern/ colonial European/Euro-American Christian-centric capitalist/patriarchal worldsystem." At the risk of sounding ridiculous, we prefer a long phrase like this to characterize the present heterarchical structure (multiple power hierarchies entangled with one another in complex historical ways) of the world-system, than the limited characterization of a single hierarchy called "capitalist world-system" with capital accumulation as the single logic of the system (Ibid). The latter can lead to an economic reductionist understanding of the world-system, while the former leads to a more complex, non-reductive structural-historical analysis. Islamophobia as a form of racism against Muslim people is not an epiphenomenon, but constitutive of the international division of labor.

The first part of this essay discusses Islamophobia as a form of racism in a worldhistorical perspective. The second part is a discussion of Islamophobia as a form of cultural racism. The third part is on Islamophobia as orientalism. The fourth part is Islamophobia as epistemic racism, while the final part is an example of this using the case of European Islamic Philosopher and Theologian, Tariq Ramadan.

Islamophobia as a Form of Racism in World-Historical Perspective

The challenge for our topic is to answer how it was possible that a religious difference in the pre-modern/colonial world turned into a racial/ethnic difference in the modern/colonial world. In the heterarchical conceptualization of the world-system used here, Islamophobia would be the subalternization and inferiorization of Islam produced by the Christian-centric religious hierarchy of the world-system since the end of the 15th century. The year 1492 is a crucial foundational year for the understanding of the present system. In this year, the Christian Spanish monarchy re-conquered Islamic Spain expelling Jews and Arabs from the Spanish peninsula while simultaneously "discovering" the Americas and colonizing indigenous peoples. These "internal" and "external" conquests of territories and people not only created an international division of labor of core and periphery, but also constituted the internal and external imagined boundaries of Europe related to the global racial/ethnic hierarchy of the worldsystem, privileging populations of European origin over the rest. Jews and Arabs became the subaltern internal "others" within Europe, while indigenous people became the external "others" of Europe (Mignolo 2000).

The first marker of "otherness" in the "European/Euro-American Christian-Centric Capitalist/Patriarchal World-System" was around religious identity. …

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