Ware's impassioned condemnation of the idea of Islam noir is a reaction to its unfortunate consequences for the scholarly study of Africa and of Islam: the marginalization of Islam in the study of Africa and of Africa in the study of Islam. On the other hand, if we attempt to historicize the emergence of the paradigm of Islam noir in terms of European attitudes toward Africa and toward Islam in the early twentieth century, we can reach a more nuanced appreciation of the ambivalences in European racial (though perhaps not always unequivocally racist) thinking. Early twentieth-century French attitudes toward Africa and blackness were by no means univocally negative, although they also relied on racial dichotomization. The French avant-garde, and even the general public, celebrated blackness in the fields of art, music, and dance, while anthropologists were engaged in the quest for “authentic” African cosmologies. The Negritude movement among francophone African intellectuals incorporated the very dichotomies that had earlier informed the elaboration of the paradigm of Islam noir. The British, by way of contrast, did not elaborate a concept of Islam noir, and the comparison with the French case is instructive.
Robert Launay; Islam in Black and White. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2015; 35 (3): 641–647. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-3426481
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