This introductory essay points to the long patterns as well as the telling diversity of relationships revealed in genealogies of the race/religion/war triad. Our key observation is that race, religion, and war come together as a meaningful constellation precisely because they together underpin one dominant strategy of the power that we call the political, while at the same time we recognize that the relationships among race, religion, and war are simultaneously too compressed, historically transient, and reversible to take the form of a simple functionalism; indeed, at any particular moment their articulation is historically specific and subject to rearticulation. From the religious crucibles for the formation of race in the conquest of the Americas to the pastoral Christian origins of modern racial governmentality; from the colonial wars of high imperialism and the third-world proxy wars for the purportedly secular rivalry of the Cold War to the contemporary conditions of Muslim migrant and refugee communities—these multiple overlapping genealogies, we argue, are necessary reference points for an adequate analysis of our political present. As one way to think across these genealogies, we highlight the intersection of two ostensibly parallel scholarly trajectories: race as political theology and race as political ontology. Both of these trajectories point toward the condensed relationships among our three terms, illuminating in the process the deep structure of our present.
This special issue queries long-standing entanglements among the respective epistemologies of race, religion, and war as they organize modern strategies of knowledge and power. We shorthand these entanglements the race/religion/war triad. This issue’s exploration of these entanglements finds its proximate cause in the racialization of Islam that has resurfaced with the contemporary US-led War on Terror, as well as in that war’s various cognates in places like London, Paris, Istanbul, Mali, Chechnya, Palestine, Syria, Darfur, Kashmir, and the Uigher regions of China. In these dispersed sites, the contemporary dispensation of power has animated a logic of permanent warfare that underwrites both the international intensification of Islamophobia and the emergence and deployment of an expanding set of security apparatuses whose categorical, geographic, and historical permeability define warfare as radically open-ended.
Rather than organize our inquiry around the hegemonic figure of post-9/11, however, this special issue investigates the long patterns as well as the telling diversity of relationships revealed in genealogies of the race/religion/war triad. Our key observation is that race, religion, and war come together as a meaningful constellation precisely because they together underpin one dominant strategy of the power that we call the political. At the same time, the relationships among race, religion, and war are too intimate, too compressed, and yet too historically transient and reversible to take the form of a simple functionalism; indeed, at any particular moment their articulation is historically specific and subject to rearticulation.
From the religious crucibles for the formation of race in the conquest of the Americas to the pastoral Christian origins of modern racial govern-mentality; from the colonial wars of high imperialism and the third-world proxy wars for the purportedly secular rivalry of the Cold War to the contemporary conditions of Muslim migrant and refugee communities—these multiple overlapping genealogies, we argue, are in fact all necessary reference points for an adequate analysis of our political present. While it is not our goal in this introduction to assemble these genealogies into a hierarchy of importance, or one that determines relevance, we do seek to provide some frameworks that bring together distinct yet mutually relevant strands of contemporary scholarship to elucidate trajectories that have led the race/religion/war triad to coalesce anew under the sign of the War on Terror. Our approach aims to raise the following questions: What is the relationship of the race/religion/war triad to the modern history of the militarized state? How have certain forms of war making produced some kinds of race making or religion formation, while perhaps unmaking others? Does racial modernity emerge, in some meaningful sense, from the secularization of religious war? Do the roots of governmentality in pastoral religious power have meaningful contemporary political implications for contemporary race making and war making? Why has the medieval (here a placeholder for pre-Westphalian modernity) resurfaced as a political reference point in the post-9/11 moment? How are the religious and racial dimensions of modern colonialism and settler colonialism coarticulated? How might we better understand the relationship between colonial and color-line racisms, on the one hand, and religiously inflected modes of racism such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, on the other? How do discourses of racial and religious tolerance interact with liberal and neoliberal practices of freedom as a strategy of power?
Race: Conjunctural Accounts between Political Theology and Political Ontology
As one way to think across these questions, we begin by highlighting the intersection of two ostensibly parallel scholarly trajectories: race as political theology and race as political ontology. Both of these trajectories point toward the condensed relationships among race, religion, and war, illuminating in the process the deep structure of our present.
In his influential formulation, Carl Schmitt suggested that “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.”1 While Schmitt’s focus here was on the significance of the political sovereign, whose ability to suspend the law was modeled on God’s miracles, race inevitably also constellates around this same theology. If, as Schmitt argues in The Concept of the Political, the political is characterized by a friend/enemy matrix, then what makes the sovereign decision an expressly political act is precisely its status as a warlike response to a perceived theological enemy. It is not that politics literally leads to war in every instance but that, as Schmitt puts it, “what ultimately matters [for any politics] is the possibility of the extreme case taking place, the real war, and the decision whether this situation has arrived or not.”2 Put another way, the secularized miracle (the exception) that interests Schmitt as the covert basis of the modern state is none other than the secular analog to a declaration of holy war. If, as Gil Anidjar has suggested, the Jew and the Arab/Muslim represent the West’s originary theological enemies, then the anti-Semitic enmity of the Nazi state becomes, rather than anomalous, exemplary of the mode of the political that Schmitt describes.3
In 1932, when Schmitt published his expanded version of The Concept of the Political, he did not yet reference the aggressive sovereign exception as an act of war per se. As a conservative jurist, Schmitt celebrated in Nomos of the Earth (1950) what he called the “ius publicum Europaeum” for its reservation of war as a form of rule-bound conflict between sovereign equals. In these later writings, however, Schmitt also began to dismantle his own dualisms. In Nomos, for example, Schmitt acknowledges the origins of that European legal order in the quite different form of asymmetrical bellicosity associated with the conquest and ongoing pacification of the New World. In colonial war, racial enemies are subjected to the holy war of a civilizing mission that treats them as potential combatants, and as political threats precisely because they are not yet sovereign equals. In The Theory of the Partisan (1963), Schmitt extends warfare’s friend/enemy matrix to a broad political frame that moves well beyond situations that presuppose a sovereign, external opponent. Here war can become a means of engaging with partisan or irregular enemies who stand accused of possible political enmity or, in the extreme case, represent candidates for the instigation of civil war. Schmitt suggests that, in acts of aggressive engagements between the sovereign and the partisan, both sides adopt what he calls a politics of riskiness in which one wagers on the ultimate political meaning of the hostilities.4 In the context of political theology, we might say that the sovereign’s wager seeks to register its politics of preemptive counterinsurgency as defensive holy war by presciently racializing its theological enemy. Race, from this perspective, is coextensive with the act of exception that makes the political theology of sovereignty visible.
Schmitt’s accounts of politics as “war by other means” converge with Michel Foucault’s famed inversion of Carl von Clausewitz, to say that “politics is the continuation of war by other means.”5 Here, Foucault concludes that what makes biopower a species of politics is its assimilation of the paradigm of race war on behalf of the modern state. While he does not directly explore the possible religious origins of the paradigm of race war that interests him, the traces are certainly there. As black theology scholar J. Kameron Carter observes, if one reads Foucault’s “Society Must Be Defended” lectures closely, it turns out that the antisovereign counterhistories of race war that Foucault desediments in Europe actually find their origins in a theopolitics of ancient, biblical Israel’s holy struggles against apostate sovereigns, from pharaoh through Rome.6 To what extent, then, is the very concept of race grounded in a practice of secularized holy war along the lines of the Schmittian concept of the political? Could Foucault’s intriguing references to the biblical theopolitics of Judaic revolt that he discusses early in the “Society Must Be Defended” lectures be more emphatically linked to the biological anti-Semitism that he addresses in the final lecture on the warlike biopolitics of the racial state?7 Does the race/religion/war triad find its deepest imbrication in a dominant political theology of race war?
In addition to Carter, numerous thinkers have begun to explore race from the perspective of its long imbrication in a militant political theology. Tomaž Mastnak, for example, has argued that the Crusades represented an entirely new strategy of power in Christendom, a means of building the “peace of God” among Christians by directing outward a holy war against a contaminating enemy, sometimes even an unclean pagan race.8 Mastnak has been joined by a number of medievalists and early modernists who point to the theological conceptions of race that circulated centuries prior to the emergence of biopolitical racism.9 Meanwhile, the Iberian histories connecting the formerly Jewish conversos and formerly Muslim Moriscos with the emplacement of Indians and Africans in the sistema de castas of first-wave imperialism and slavery in the New World may very well have inaugurated the modern conceptions of both race and religion under the sign of permanent war.10 It is in the conjuncture of the Reconquista and the conquest of the New World, in the context of what Irene Silverblatt observes to be a strikingly modern bureaucratic structure of the Inquisition, that we find torture and forensic violence emerging as strategies for identifying politico-theological enemies of a New World colonial modernity fundamentally organized by racial slavery.11 In this special issue, these concerns are addressed both by David Theo Goldberg, who suggests that the modern militarized state depends upon the rise of a racial thinking that he would consider secularized religiosity, and Ann Pellegrini, who is interested less in state power than in the perpetuation of medieval pastoral power as a way of continually reproducing the management of racialized populations.
The danger of the political theological approach to the race/religion/war triad is that it gestures toward a transhistorical narrative or, at the very least, a unitary grand history of Western modernity that is always in danger of reproducing precisely the neoconservative ideologies that shaped the immediate post-9/11 world. The long genealogies central to a political theological approach to our topic must themselves be acknowledged as active elements in the contemporary discourses of war making. Without this sort of recognition, our critical analyses can be hastily redirected into a singular narrative telos, with staggering results. Exemplifying this danger is Samuel P. Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, a position arguably subtended by its own unstated political theology of race war that declares enmities between quasi-racialized world populations whose irreducibility is suggestive of a secularized divine sanction—and one that the United States is ordained to manage.12 Similarly problematic is the invocation of the twenty-first century as a neomedieval environment. In the post-9/11 discourse of neomedievalism that Bruce Holsinger has thoughtfully explored, we find assertions of the medieval mind-set of Islamic religious fundamentalisms in a world that is sometimes characterized as a new Middle Ages born of a post-Westphalian globe that proliferates non-state-based political actors.13 This becomes yet another excuse for secularized holy war. Consider, for instance, John Rapley’s essay in Foreign Affairs, where he claims that in these new Middle Ages states need to prepare for the violence associated with the “reactivation of ‘traditional’ political actors such as ethnic communities and religious brotherhoods.”14 For writers like Rapley the post-Westphalian globe in which nation, state, and territory are inexorably sundered is also post-Clausewitzian, one in which war no longer consists in a proper confrontation between sovereign powers but instead in a broad and malicious dispersion of militarized encounters and violent conflicts whose consideration should help us understand our newest enemy.15
The structure and mode of address of neomedievalism are illuminated by the opening second-person narrative that launches Rapley’s essay. “You,” the reader, “enter the ghetto through a warren of decrepit alleys” that turn out to be a gang-run favela in Kingston, a “statelet” that Rapley also terms a “gangsters’ paradise.” Here the privileged reader of Foreign Affairs encounters the threat of the neomedieval moment through its own fanciful reactivation of the world of medieval Jewry—self-governing, dangerous, unassimilated by Christendom—now reborn as a gangster-run black slum in Jamaica that itself alerts us to a world replete with politico-religious enemies of Westphalian civilization such as Al-Qaeda. Rapley’s argument could of course be critiqued as so much warmed-over Enlightenment orientalism, but its efficacy also derives from its strategic deployment of the medieval as a key moment in the articulation of religion, race, and war. The appeal of the Middle Ages derives not only from the descriptive value of the medieval’s overlapping jurisdictions, extremes of wealth and poverty, and patterns of privatized violence but also from the relevance of the implied political theological element, namely, the duty of liberal civilization to take on a post-Clausewitzian crusading mission, to find the will to wage secularized holy war against nonstate actors whose medieval mind-set reveals them to be humanity’s theopolitical enemies.
To hold a space open for critical analysis, it becomes crucial to stress the contingent alignments of specific forms of war making with the making and unmaking of race. An open question animating the critical study of race, religion, and war, and one that the contributors to this special issue seek to address, is whether and how such embodied differentials are themselves genealogically contoured. At its most abstract level, while a political theology of race has informed the various moments and scenes of modernity, the particular wars, racisms, and religiosities whose practices are articulated at any particular conjuncture are ever shifting. Anticommunist counterinsurgency and third-world proxy wars, for example, treated America’s enemy as secularized religious fanatics, at once godless communists and totalitarian dogmatists. They produced the Cold War as a certain kind of globalized race war drawing heavily on forms of racialized orientalism while providing a screen with which domestic counterinsurgencies could disavow the racializing character of their attacks on antiracist movements. Along the same lines, we could say that the intensification of Islamophobia today does not indicate the truth of a neomedievalism of our age, contrary to popularized US formulations of the Islamic State, but rather the relationship of a certain kind of religiously inflected race making (the positing of the Islamofascist, the neomedieval fundamentalist) that works to obscure how racial targeting through enhanced militarization and securitization is constituted precisely of contradictions inhering in a Westphalian peace. From this vantage, then, the neomedieval might just be another name for the violent expression of the wish fulfillment of the postracial.16
Religion and the Position of the Unthought
Like treatments of the political theology of race, contemporary scholarship on the political ontology of race presents related if distinct critical risks. Mapping the specific modes and techniques of warfare animated and underwritten by antiblackness as a governing ontological modality, what Frank B. Wilderson III calls the “position of the unthought,” reveals distinctive relationships to religion.17 For instance, Karen Fields and Barbara Fields have investigated the history of antiblackness by treating its sublimated religious optic, one that aims to faithfully produce the truth of the body through acts of violence, a process they call “racecraft.”18 Coined in direct analogy to witchcraft, racecraft is white supremacy’s abiding faith in the truth of the racial body to bespeak itself, and to do so as a consequence of the managed precision of the rational application of state-sanctioned violence. This deep structure incites the body’s confession of its essential truth. The applied violence of inquisition and confession is given license through the evaluation of a difference externalized, written onto the flesh. That which is to be confessed, refashioned, and rehabilitated via prolonged cruel and degrading treatment meted out in the everyday apparatus of race making is that which is said to reside in the soul. While this violent hermeneutic of race making materializes in particular ways through the practices of white supremacy, it traces back to the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic truth procedures of the early modern Inquisition, which, as both Liisa H. Malkki and Arjun Appadurai have shown, also apply to such recent forms of racecraft as the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi.19 The application of violence is, in this sense, part of a subterranean effort to extract the truth of a race war.
Here another critical detour through Foucault may be generative, if only to allow us to give surface to its limits. Foucault’s methodological ruminations on the body throughout investigations of carcerality, sexuality, and warfare have profoundly impacted much recent scholarship. Via the biopolitical, Foucault incisively theorizes a form of state racism whose strategies of power materialize in the capillaries of society’s broad plane. The concluding passages in the “Society Must Be Defended” lectures evince a racialized enemy production internal to the state, one whose horizon of genocide manifests for Foucault in Nazism’s orders of state violence. In pushing this argument further, Giorgio Agamben transposes Foucault’s genealogy of state racism into a paradigm of modernity by investigating the topos of sovereign power’s contortions of space; zones of abandonment and indiscriminate killing enfold onto the normative fashioning of political geography, and the Nazi Reich and the concentration camp come to serve as both paradigm and example for the inside-out entanglement of genocidal violence and liberal rights.
Yet, as numerous scholars have observed, such accounts of the Nazi concentration camp as the telos and apex of Euro-American modernity inevitably bracket the forms, practices, and histories of racial and religiously inflected colonial violence that return and manifest within Europe. The norm/exception paradigm stutters in the face of the foundational and persistent structure of racial and religious violence that organizes settler liberalism and transatlantic slavery as projects of evisceration. “Agamben is not wrong so much as he is late,” writes Wilderson.20 It is not Auschwitz as the blueprint of an exception in Enlightenment jurisprudence gone dreadfully awry, but the religiously inflected infrastructure of trans-Atlantic slavery’s lineage of torture, encampment, and captivity that remains racial modernity’s past-present. In tracking a genealogy of race in the Americas, when one accounts for the carceral technologies that contour its contemporary ideological, material, and juridical fabrics, the “scope of the normal order” of Euro-American modernity reveals for Alexander G. Weheliye how “blackness is the state of exception.”21
Thus, while Foucault and Agamben provide a threadbare historical fabric to connect practices of colonial governmentality to racial and religious violence, for Aimé Césaire and his student Frantz Fanon, the ligaments are clearer. In focusing on the technology of the body from the position of the colonized, by the early 1950s Césaire understood “Hitlerism” to crystallize precisely the emergence of a European humanism constituted through the hierarchical valuation of colonial life-forms’ differential racial and religious embodiment. Césaire offers his own elaboration of the “boomerang effect” at work: “The colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends to objectively transform himself into an animal. It is this result, this boomerang effect of colonization that I wanted to point out.”22 Césaire’s formulation of a kind of Agambenian “wolfman” as the norm converted from civilization’s practice of brutalization in the colonies reveals the inoperability of Euro-American liberal modernity’s wartime distinctions. The terror wrought in the colonies troubles those jurisprudential truth claims distinguishing the civilian and the combatant.
Fanon’s concept of black phobogenesis takes the troubling inhering in this distinction a step further. Forged at the intersection of an inquiry into race, religion, and war in the French-Algerian context, in Black Skin, White Masks Fanon names coloniality’s production of an antirelational objecthood.23 For the white gaze, black phobogenesis frames the black man as all biology, all body, all phallus and sexual torment, an “object among other objects.”24 The white gaze is terrifying in its capacity to fix and dissect the black body precisely as it engenders fear, revulsion, and desire concomitantly. There is no Euro-American psychopathology, argues Fanon, without black phobogenesis. One Fanonian legacy crucial to the formulation of a political ontology of race disrupts the political romance of an abstracted site—civil society—wherein civilians accrue certain secularized protections and privileges and are thus seen to garner their status as such. From the position of the slave, following Wilderson, civil society has never been a spatial and legal domain distinct from the theater of war. In fashioning modern liberal democracy, genealogies of black suffering reveal the a priori fragility of civil society’s protective armature. A political ontology of race registers the normative subject of civil society, in Wilderson’s conceptualization, following Steve Martinot and Jared Sexton, as simply “the species that does not magnetize bullets.”25 Black precarity, so this argument runs, has persisted precisely as the precondition of civil society, with black flesh serving as what Wilderson calls an object of gratuitous (as opposed to historically contingent) sexual desire, violence, and torture. Following this line of thought, antiblackness names the structured speciation of life itself, whose normalized rhythms of gratuitous violence makes the antiblack world go round.
Yet, genealogical approaches to the interface of race, religion, and war invite us to ask where and how such rhythms are interceded, redirected, and broken and toward what ends. As with the transhistorical elaboration of political theology, the ontologizing of race brackets conjunctural and contingent analyses that would enable us to see how, for example, the figuration of an ontological antirelationality—the production of the Negro as lodged in a “zone of non-being,” an object among objects—also relies on a relational racio-religious framework.26 One need go no further than Fanon’s conceptualization of black phobogenesis as related to Europe’s phobic response to the Jew. Fanon writes that “the Jew is attacked in his religious identity, his history, his race, and his relations with his ancestors and descendants; every time a Jew is sterilized, the bloodline is cut; every time a Jew is persecuted, it is the whole race that is persecuted through him. But the black man is attacked in his corporeality. It is his tangible personality that is lynched. It is his actual being that is dangerous.”27 Here Fanon reckons with the racialization of Jewish difference as a matter of plumbing the meaning of acts and behaviors that convert social, historical, and religious practice into signatures warranting destruction. The racialization of the religious difference of the Jew, one lodged in the interior of the subject, relies upon a social evaluation of acts that are read in an intra-European historical context. Blackness for Fanon is both anterior and externalized, overdetermined and surfaced on the body, speciated and subjected to the cruel optics of white supremacy. But might it not also be that Fanon’s but might as well be an also, that there is more than simple opposition between black corporeality and Jewish interiority, black nonontology and Jewish praxis? As Aamir Mufti has demonstrated, in the nineteenth century, European governance of Jewish difference as secularized racial difference offered a manner through which to fashion together liberal modalities of racial management in South Asia alongside legitimacy narratives for ongoing structures of plantation slavery in the Caribbean.28 Similarly, the ontologization of antiblackness may foreshorten our capacity to discern the contingent and shifting political deployments of good black/bad black binaries that serve, much along the lines discussed by Mahmood Mamdani regarding the good Muslim/bad Muslim distinction (both during and after the Cold War), to convert the political other as well as the colonial subordinate into a full-fledged political enemy.29
A related line of argument stresses the ethical and conjunctural modes of relationality suturing race and religion without reifying civil society as its primary locus. For Ella Shohat and Michael Rothberg, a genealogical approach to Fanon’s insight registers the historical entanglement of the intra-European and the extra-European contexts, the intellectual, ideological, and material traffic in colonial racisms that of necessity trouble the inclination to ontologize either the Shoah or antiblackness. While underscoring the historical limits of Fanon’s thinking—there has been a long-standing Eurocentric tradition of biologizing Jewish difference that Fanon elides, and the persistent masculinist gendering of race poses significant analytical limitations—Shohat and Rothberg nevertheless suggest how crucial Fanon’s thinking is for understanding the circuits of race, religion, and war in their global transit.30
Further, in Fanon’s centering of the body as a technology through which the racial and religious dimensions of warfare circuit, these debates invite a critical accounting of, among other things, the religious vectors of the US State’s carceral archipelago. The prison regime’s embodied violence, dramatized in the journalistic accounts of sites like Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and in cinematic portrayals of torture and black sites, brings to bear different genealogical accounts of the body’s production and liquidation in the nexus of race, religion, and war. Rendering the present in this way invites an investigation of the articulation of spectacularized representations of the prison regime’s hyperbolic expression of state violence and the embodied intercessionary violence of white supremacy. As Sohail Daulatzai powerfully reminds us, the expansion and narrative legitimation of law and order as the governing modality of Cold War racial rule were predicated on rendering criminal the internationalist visions of Muslim anticolonialism. Rife in this short history are swift translations between criminal and terrorist, terrorist and communist, communist and Muslim—with the matrix of surveillance, policing, and confinement materializing, especially after the late 1960s, at an ever-increasing tempo.31 And yet, as Ronald A. T. Judy theorized more than twenty years ago, the through line connecting the state-sanctioned investment in Muslim confinement and the long arc of Islam’s embodied narration demands to be traced through the routes of transatlantic slavery and read across the archive of African Arabic slave narratives.32 To render this texture is to catch a glimpse of the Muslim slave in the hold of racial/colonial modernity, a figure academic field formations and political vocabularies alike continue to struggle to elucidate and one around which this special issue might offer some clarity.
. . .
In the special issue’s opening essay, titled “Militarizing Race,” David Theo Goldberg invites reflection on the deep imbrication of the race/religion/war triad by pointing to a mutually constitutive formation of racial religiosities and religious racialities as they interdict each other across a genealogy of the militarization of modern society. He begins with the provocation that race enters modernity as the secularization of the religious, becoming a central technology of modern state constitution and reason (even in denial) that both displaces and assumes some of the resonances of the theological and religious it is taken to displace. Goldberg then considers how race was born, reproduced, and fashioned in war making, where perpetual war, not the Enlightenment’s perpetual peace, comes to mark the very being of modern statehood. As perpetual war becomes the modus operandi of state sovereignty—whose predilections cohere around racial distinction, exclusion, and elimination—the racial becomes the principal modality of explicit state delimitation, producing such discursive figures as the martial race, the muscular theonomy of everyday life, and the pervasive militarization of society it encodes. Goldberg goes on to suggest that, in the wake of the late modern (arguably neoliberal) displacement of racial authority from the public to private spheres, we have witnessed the surprising ease with which religious rearticulation has so assertively again taken hold of social expression and state practice. Echoing Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, he concludes by asking how one might begin to demilitarize the late modern imagination—where and how such a process of critique and self-critique might inflect upon contemporary practices of living the threat of heterogeneity.
In “African Americans, the Racial State, and the Cultus of War: Sacrifice and Citizenship,” Sylvester A. Johnson unfolds an especially condensed moment in the colonial framing of war as a means of race making. Johnson excavates the late nineteenth-century era of growing US military power as it extended racial governance over colonial polities well beyond its shores—in the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Here, however, Johnson is interested in the racial contradictions that this colonial expansion apparently posed for domestic forms of racial domination. The overcoming of these contradictions, suggests Johnson, was ultimately mediated by secularized mobilizations of the religious practice of sacrifice. Reflecting on the phenomenon of buffalo soldiers (following the US Civil War) to the First World War, Johnson considers how the integral role of black militarism permanently and fundamentally altered the relationship of African Americans to US empire by securing the allegiance of African Americans to the US racial state. Of central importance to Johnson’s analysis are the structures of US colonialism both internally (within US borders, especially targeting American Indians and US blacks) and externally (beyond US borders, particularly in the wake of the Spanish-American War of 1898). In attempting to explain why African Americans would be willing to die on behalf of an antiblack racial state, and in the service of racialized colonial domination over nonwhite peoples, Johnson draws upon human sacrifice as a key ritual of religious agency that operates at the heart of civil religion. Johnson here points to a different modality of political theology, one that assembles the production of peoplehood, reason of state, and the symbolic and social force of human sacrifice into a state religion’s transformative rituals of death.
In her contribution, “Sincerely Held; or, The Pastorate 2.0,” Ann Pellegrini draws on Foucault’s work in Security, Territory, and Population to consider how the liberal discourses of secularization encode contemporary religious freedom as a continuation of a pastoral Christian power that has strong racial implications. Beginning with such Supreme Court cases as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, where the notion of sincerely held religious belief becomes the legal principle for a corporate right to govern the relevant conduct of a relevant population (employees, hospital patients, students), Pellegrini suggests an unexpected continuation of the forms of the Christian pastorate that Foucault explored in his 1977–78 lectures on the history of governmentality. Pastoral power today, suggests Pellegrini, takes on a particular neoliberal cast, serving as a mechanism for the outsourcing and privatization of the state’s concern with the conduct of one and all, but along lines that are grounded in a racial-religious affect (sincerity) that works its aggression on subjects whose conduct requires the shepherding of corporate power.
In “We Deportees: Race, Religion, and War on Palestine’s No-Man’s-Land,” Emily Drumsta and Keith P. Feldman turn to a critical inflection point in the history of the long War on Terror: Israel’s 1992 deportation of over four hundred Palestinians to the no-man’s-land between Israel and Lebanon, and the camp that the deportees fashioned for the better part of one year to contest the legitimacy of Israeli colonialism and demand their return. The deportation—meant to incapacitate Islamic militant resistance to the US-brokered peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization—paradoxically provided the conditions of possibility for conversation and collaboration among attorneys, doctors, professors, university students, and imams that had heretofore been highly restricted and regulated by Israel’s carceral practices in the West Bank and Gaza. The deportees—those who in Agamben’s estimation had been literally abandoned in a zone of indistinction—engaged in a political practice of what John Collins calls “habitational resistance,” refusing their conversion into homines sacri by performing instead a mode of life that rendered multiple lines of transterritorial affiliation, self-assertion, and continuity.33 Drumsta and Feldman read selections from the deportees’ published archive—poetry, photobooks, autoethnographies—as technologies of mediation to be seen and heard not only by Anglophone media beyond the bounds of the prevailing Islamophobic and orientalist frames but also by Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The critical result illuminates the conjuncture of race, religion, and war as it rubs against the interface between settler colonial dispossession and the hegemony of the Westphalian trinity of nation, state, and territory.
The final contribution to our special issue, Junaid Rana’s “The Racial Infrastructure of the Terror-Industrial Complex,” offers a timely contribution toward an ethnography of American empire that suggests how global structures and practices of race, religion, and war are imbricated in local relationships between Muslim populations and agents of state power. In particular, Rana historicizes the relationship between the anti-Muslim racism operationalized in New York City policing and security apparatus—the antiterrorism logics of which are at least a few decades in the making—and daily interactions with Pakistani communities in Brooklyn. In crafting an anthropology of racial becoming that draws on the work of Fanon, Rana theorizes a dense and flexible mix of cultural forms and social institutions that forge Muslim raciality as at once that which need not speak its name—a racism without a racial group—and also a domain in which both historicity and futurity are radically delimited. What Rana calls racial infrastructure signals the collective social practices that give form and meaning to a mode of becoming at once permanent and curtailed, locked into a temporality of preemption. In this ethnographic through-line, Rana seizes on the microphysics of power that organize interactions between police and immigrant communities, cracking open the potentiality at this particular ground zero for geographies of incommensurability that cannot but exceed the terror-industrial complex’s baleful terms of reference.
Taken together, the essays that make up this special issue presuppose quite different frames of political or religious reference, histories of racialization, and genealogies of power. Some focus on the sovereign logic of the Westphalian state, others on the colonality of power, some on civilizational othering, still others on the religious underpinnings of governmental rationality. Our purpose in this issue is not to adjudicate among these frameworks but to explore what happens when they are brought into dialogue with one another as different ways of historicizing the powerful contemporary coarticulations of race, religion, and war. Indeed, we aim to address, if even in a partial and incomplete way, a pressing need across a variety of scholarly domains to thicken a transversal critical vocabulary adequate to our political present. Moving across the porous spaces of area studies models for organizing inquiry, and engaging transnational American studies, Latin American studies, postcolonial studies, black studies, and Middle East studies, enables us to recenter religion as an organizing category for the comparative study of race and ethnicity. Too frequently, ethnic studies scholarship has mobilized narrow forms of culturalism to conflate religious practice and ethnic difference, as opposed to analyzing the operations of power that not only produce the grids of intelligibility that distinguish religion and race but also circulate among them. In forging the conversation in this direction, this special issue recalibrates an understanding of racialization for religious studies, a field that in general, when it has taken up race at all, has relied upon a narrow positivist conception of race, or has dislocated race from the logics of hierarchical differentiation by stripping away its entanglement in modernity’s violences. Finally, this issue aims to proffer these diverse but entangled genealogies of race, religion, and war as the basis for a political countermemory adequate to our baleful present. This special issues aims to recalibrate our perspective on racial/colonial modernity’s ongoing catastrophe by acknowledging how its various forms of warfare have been concerned equally with (a) the possession of bodies by state and capital—their capacitation and incapacitation, their incorporation and their warehousing; and (b) the possessions of the soul by the spirit, the inhabitation by an alterity and an exteriority we might call mystical, otherworldly, ghostly. In light of the way our present political moment has become possessed by race, religion, and war, we offer these critical histories of our becoming in the pages to follow.
This special issue grows directly out of the “Race, Religion, War” symposium held at the University of California, Berkeley, in October 2012. Institutional sponsors for the symposium included UC Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies, Program in Critical Theory, Institute for International Studies, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Muslim Identities and Cultures Working Group, and Center for Race and Gender.
Rapley presents this as a new situation, though it is in fact entirely consistent with the asymmetrical model of war/politics that Schmitt elaborated in Theory of the Partisan, which itself was informed by the much earlier context of third-world anticolonial guerrilla wars during the Cold War.
Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 41. Foucault notably had his own very brief take on the boomerang effect of colonialism: “It should never be forgotten that while colonization, with its techniques and its political and juridical weapons, obviously transported European models to other continents, it also had a considerable boomerang effect on the mechanisms of power in the West, and on the apparatuses, institutions, and techniques of power” (“Society Must Be Defended,” 103). See also Graham, “Foucault’s Boomerang.”
Building on Fanon, Nelson Maldonado-Torres elaborates how racism is another name for the naturalization as coloniality’s antirelationality, what he calls colonial modernity’s “non-ethic of war” (Against War, 225).
Ibid., 141–42; emphasis added.
Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, 15–19.