Decolonial approaches to laïcité as a mode to re-think contemporary Islamophobia

Nadia Kiwan* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Over the last decade, we have witnessed the reinforcement of laïcité as a mode of governance, which increasingly focuses on France’s Muslim citizens. However, rather than argue that the reinforcement of laïcité is a response to a series of Islamist terror attacks since 2015 this article will consider the historical formations of political secularism in modern France and argue that we should take more seriously the historical and conceptual relationship between laïcité and coloniality. The first part of the article will problematize three ideal-type conceptualizations of laïcité from a decolonial perspective. The second part of the article will consider the historical contexts, which have influenced contemporary understandings of laïcité by examining broader processes of colonization and secularization during the 19th century. This approach recognizes that the history of laïcité as a socio-political process predates its juridical expression in the law of 1905 which separated the state and the churches. Finally, in part three, I will outline some ways in which a decolonized conceptualization of laïcité can be an illuminating analytical tool in relation to Islamophobia and political conflicts surrounding the emergence of Muslim and anti-racist feminism via a discussion of the association Lallab.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-164
Number of pages18
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Issue number2
Early online date10 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the T&F Agreement

This work was supported by the Fondation Maison Sciences de l’Homme under the Directeurs d’études associés DEA 2022 programme.


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