EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionSex & Gender

Ireland’s Victory for Marriage Equality

The birth of a new political imagination?

The Irish electorate’s recent resounding “yes” to the question of marriage equality for LGBT people (62% of the electorate, approximately 1.2 million, voted in favour the proposal) briefly turned the international spotlight on Ireland for reasons other than its imploding economic and banking system. Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. This is a significant achievement in and of itself, made all the more remarkable by the fact that it occurred in a country that did not decriminalise (male) homosexual activity until 1993 (after it was compelled to by the European Court of Human Rights), and which only legalised divorce in 1995 by the narrowest of margins. The Irish and international media were quick to proclaim the referendum result a victory for the forces of social liberalisation that put Ireland at the “vanguard of social change” and a defeat for the Catholic Church and its once dominant hegemonic position in Irish society. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Reflections on the Recent Elections in Turkey

The disintegration of majoritarianism through elections and social protest

During the summer of 2010, as I was strolling in Lower Manhattan with my 75-year-old mother, we came upon Professor Andrew Arato at a café. At the time, he was gaining quite a bit of notoriety in my home country of Turkey with his substantive and significant support to the old-guard elites in their battle against constitutional amendments proposed by the moderately Islamist, procapitalist ruling party, AKP (Justice and Development Party). …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

Religion, Essentialism, and Violence

Cherry picking on the left

There has been a contentious theme circulating around the Left-wing blogosphere for quite a while now, sharpened by the atrocities of ISIS and the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. The theme usually begins with the accusation that Islam as a religion is soft on violence, a consequence of its vehement rejection of Enlightenment values. The argument continues: while Islam may not be unique among monotheisms in its endorsement of violent struggle against heretics, infidels, and Western liberal-democratic hegemony, the idea of jihad reveals that it is uniquely serious about it. …

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EssaysRaceRace/ismsThe Left

Charlie Hebdo and the Appeal for French Context

White & Black Analytics

The attacks on the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January 2015, during which fourteen people were killed, pose a specific problem for the white left. The call to contextualize Charlie Hebdo foregrounded a structurally white French context, in which people of colour and Muslims could be included only as loyal subjects of the Republic. The translations of France offered by French and Francophile leftists for their “Anglo-American” interlocutors, while revealing of the French dynamics of secularism, universalism, and coloniality, marginalised those “who could not be Charlie.” Instead, to use Barnor Hesse’s formulation, a “white analytics” was advanced that denied the centrality of the “black analytics” crucial for a complete understanding of both historical and contemporary French conflicts around race and religion (Hesse 2014). “Context,” therefore, stand in for racial neutrality: in reality, an impossibility. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Presidential Elections in Poland: Something Old, Something New

The victory of Andrzej Duda, the nationalist, right-wing Law and Justice party’s candidate, came as a shock to many. Yet, in fact, his success over President Bronisław Komorowski, a center-right conservative, supported by the ruling party, Civic Platform, should not have been a surprise. After all, Duda also won the first round (albeit by a margin of less than one percent), and while Komorowski ran a lackluster campaign, defending the accomplishments of the recent past, Duda ran a much more dynamic one, running as the candidate of change in a country with much discontent. …

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Learning Baltimore

A student asked me whether I had arranged the Baltimore riots to take place now, at the end of our semester. The news out of Baltimore too perfectly illustrates so much of the history I teach. I suspect I am not alone in this odd feeling of validation — at once reassuring yet terrifying — that the patterns identified by historians are also incredibly important to activists. They may have never taken our classes. They live the experience that most historians merely describe in our research and teaching. “Sometimes,” Tom Sugrue declared recently, “I wish my scholarship wasn’t so relevant.” …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/Publics

My Living Room as a Public Sphere

An Iranian experiment in free society

“I’m not certain that the ideal society should be religious. I start from the premise that the ideal society should be secular.” So spoke documentary filmmaker, Mehran Tamadon, in a conversation with the four conservative mullahs, advocates of the Islamic republic, he invited to be part of his new movie Iranian. The conversation consists of five men sitting in a living room in Iran, arguing about the ideal society: this is pretty much the plot.

Behind closed doors, the mullahs’ wives are relegated to the bedrooms as their children play in the garden; in the living room, the four clerics and the self-avowed atheist embark upon a fascinating experiment. …

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