The idea of the Muslim world: History and critique

Drawing from provocations to think differently about the idea of the Muslim world and the Muslim country, this forum seeks to explicate the various ways in which these terms have been taken up in scholarship and political discourse more broadly. How have they been used to explain the political action of Muslims beyond the imperial context, that is, beyond their deployment as historically specific solutions to particular political problems? How has the notion of a “Muslim world” been utilized to mark civilizational and racial difference both historically and in the present? In what ways has the political calculus of the modern nation-state drawn upon idealized or demonized notions of “Muslim countries” and “Muslim actors” to enact its policies? What does it mean to take up these questions in the political present concomitant with a global rise in authoritarian rhetoric, racism, white nationalism, and Islamophobia?

These are but a few examples of questions this forum will engage. The responses draw from various fields of expertise and touch upon these larger themes concerning the racialization of Islam and Muslims, the construction of the “Muslim world” historically, and its relevance for political discourse surrounding the “Muslim country” in light of its contemporary iterations.