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Is Critique Secular?


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Four leading thinkers confront the paradoxes and dilemmas attending the supposed stand-off between Islam and liberal democratic values

Table of Contents

Introduction Wendy Brown Free Speech, Blasphemy, and Secular Criticism Talal Asad Religious Reason and Secular Affect: An Incommensurable Divide? Saba Mahmood The Sensibility of Critique: Response to Asad and Mahmood Judith Butler Reply to Judith Butler Talal Asad Reply to Judith Butler Saba Mahmood

About the Author

Talal Asad was born in Saudi Arabia and educated in Britain. He now teaches anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also affiliated with the Program in Critical Theory. Among her many book titles are Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Empire and Identity (Princeton University Press, 2006), Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone Books, 2010), Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (Zone Books, 2015), and In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Anti-Democratic Politics in the West (Columbia University Press, 2019). Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the author of The Psychic Life of Power (1997), Antigone's Claim (2000), Giving an Account of Oneself (2005), Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012), and Senses of the Subject (2015). She works in the fields of feminist and queer theory, European philosophy, social theory, and ethics. Saba Mahmood (1962-2018) was a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work focused on questions of secularism, religion, gender, and embodiment. Her books include Politics of Piety: the Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (2004) and Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (2016).


"This conversation among Asad, Brown, Butler, and Mahmood offers an important snapshot of the rich debates on post-secularism and critiques of secularism. These essays provide succinct and accessible discussions of key issues in these debates." Annika Thiem, Villanova University "I can't imagine a set of more rigorous, humane and insightful interlocutors on this vital aspect of the public sphere." Jonathan Boyarin, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill "This original and provocative book is an invitation to go beyond political niceties and engage issues of religious difference with candor. Both scholarly and engaging, the book uplifts the level of public debate on the entanglement of religious and secular reasoning in the making of modern publics." Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University

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