A commentary on Saba Mahmood’s Religious Difference in a Secular Age, Modern’s essay delves into Mahmood’s attention to the life ways of the secular state, the decisions it makes in order to survive, and the different opinions and debates that it generates. Mahmood’s is a posthuman political critique of a self-organizing system. For rather than focus on the creativity of individuals within the secular age, Mahmood’s interest lies in the creative qualities of secularism, that is, secularism as a discursive formation that performs an amazing trick of making individuals meaningful to themselves.
Saba Mahmood’s Ethnography of the State
John Modern is a professor of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College. He is the author of Secularism in Antebellum America (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs (University of Illinois Press, 2001). “The Religion Machine; or, a Particular History of the Brain” is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. Modern is a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and will be an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in 2018–19.
John Modern; Saba Mahmood’s Ethnography of the State. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2018; 38 (2): 457–460. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-6982213
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