Muslim Zion

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM
Room 207 (Hynes Convention Center)
Faisal Devji , Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom
In this paper I will argue that the religious nationalisms that gave rise to Pakistan and Israel, took shape in an international arena and cannot be studied as part of regional histories alone. It is not simply a coincidence, therefore, that the Jewish State and Islamic Republic share so much in the way of ideology and even politics, despite the narratives of exceptionality within which they have hitherto been mired. Indeed most of these accounts, which take a nineteenth century model of the nation state as their conceptual framework, are belied by the words and deeds of the Zionists and Muslim nationalists who created these twentieth century states. For Israel and Pakistan were both founded in the wake of a world war that destroyed the kind of nationality whose claims to autochthony were couched in the language of Romanticism. And so the task I have set myself is to describe the religious state not only as a modern political form, whose international dispersal prevents it from becoming a regional exception, but also as one that poses a challenge to nationalism itself, if only by questioning its attachment to the territory that makes a common history and culture possible.  Both established in the name of minorities and as a result of vast migrations, these religious states have had to reject the principle of territorially based community that gives meaning to majority nations. Pakistan and Israel, I will argue, have opened up new ways of structuring political communities whose consequences go far beyond the highly publicized travails of either one.
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