November 21, 2002 – Aamir Mufti: “Towards a Geneaology of Postcolonial Secularism”

Thursday, November 21 | 4pm | Oakes Mural Room

Aamir Mufti has emerged in recent years as one of the most interesting voices in colonial and postcolonial literary and cultural studies. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and taught previously at the University of Michigan. His research interests are wide-ranging— Marxism and aesthetics, minority cultures in Europe and elsewhere, exile and displacement, human rights, refugees and the right to asylum, modernism and fascism, language conflicts, and the history of anthropology. Many of these concerns are often considered under the rubric “postcolonial.” Mufti prefers the term by which Edward Said characterized his own critical practice: secular criticism, whose referent is not only the religious/secular divide, but a range of belief systems, including the national. These concerns are elaborated in Mufti’s article, “Auerbach in Istanbul: Edward Said, Secular Criticism, and the Question of Minority Culture” (Critical Inquiry, Autumn, 1998), and in his introductory writing and editorial work in Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, co-edited with Anne McClintock and Ella Shohat (University of Minnesota, 1997). He has also written on blasphemy and literature, the post-literate public sphere, and the Urdu-language short story. His book, Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and Dilemas in Postcolonial Culture, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. His talk this fall comes out of this project, and suggests that the legacy of the Jewish question in Europe informs and shapes the contemporary, crisis of secularism in postcolonial societies.