Islamophobia and Surveillance: Genealogies of a Global Order

ErRS* annual symposium

25th September 2015, Edge Hill University, UK

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The global order of State and inter-State surveillance has become an integral feature of contemporary human life. For a typical individual inhabiting State-controlled spaces, the apparatus of monitoring is inescapable— embedded in technologies and legal frameworks of movement, communication, and capital. Beyond these mechanisms and tools, States are enlisting an ever expanding circle of human agents of surveillance— both willing and unwilling— in education; communal organisations; commerce.

The structures and philosophy of surveillance are interwoven with those of State incarceration and killing—from extra-judicial killing to war. This triangle is not just a part of any so-called ‘War on Terror’; it cannot be reduced to the Drone icon or processes such as ‘extraordinary rendition’. Rather, the surveillance/control triangle is an integral and defining aspect of today’s State and global inter-State system.

Islamophobia did not invent State surveillance; nor is surveillance confined to the Islamic enemy. Nonetheless, the extent and shape of today’s surveillance order derives in large part from fear of Muslims and Islam. This symposium is concerned with the genealogies of this relationship in political thought and praxis. Why, when, and where did the Islamophobic surveillance imperative emerge? And how did it evolve into such a powerful element in apparatuses of global and local State power?

Scholars such as Arun Kundnani and Martin Thomas have examined aspects of the story of State surveillance and Islamophobia. But little attention has been devoted to uncovering the intellectual origins of this phenomenon in its full global and historical dimensions, which, arguably, cannot be limited to the recent past. ‘Islamophobia and Surveillance’ aims to remedy this neglect and start a new debate on this pressing issue.

The keynote lecture will be given by Gil Anidjar, Professor in the Departments of Religion and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University, and author of Blood: A Critique of Christianity (Columbia, 2014); Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (Stanford, 2008); The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy (Stanford, 2003); and, ‘Our Place in al-Andalus’: Kabbalah, Philosophy, Literature in Arab Jewish Letters (Stanford, 2002).

*The Ethnicity, Race, and Racism Seminar, Edge Hill University—an interdisciplinary hub that explores urgent contemporary questions of race, racism and ethnicity across time and space.