This article analyzes the discourse concerning the assimilation of Muslim minorities in the United States and suggests that calls for assimilation are solicitations for a form of self-renunciation and sacrifice. Yet such solicitations occur against the economic and political background of neoliberalism, in which all citizens are asked to make sacrifices for the sake of economic health. How does one read, then, the discourse of Muslim assimilation in light of the psychological, political, and economic realities of neoliberalism? The article explores the transformation of the so-called Jewish question into the contemporary concern with the “Muslim problem.” Drawing on Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s reflections on the affinities between capitalism and fascism (especially their reading of Odysseus), as well as Sigmund Freud’s reflections on narcissism and group psychology, the article analyzes the figure of the sacrificial victim in the context of neoliberalism’s authoritarian tendencies and argues that sacrificial figuration allows us to think past the polarizations (West/rest; Trump supporters/Muslims) of our contemporary historical moment.
Sacrificing Citizenship: On Muslims and Assimilation in a Neoliberal Frame
Zahid R. Chaudhary is associate professor of English at Princeton University. He is the author of Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India (2012) and is currently at work on two book projects, Impunity: Notes on a Global Tendency and On Evidence: The Psychic Life of Truth and Post-Facts.
Zahid R. Chaudhary; Sacrificing Citizenship: On Muslims and Assimilation in a Neoliberal Frame. Social Text 1 September 2019; 37 (3): 1–24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7585026
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