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Title: From Gastarbeiter to Muslim : cosmopolitan literary responses to post-9/11 Islamophobia
Author: Twist, Joseph Dennis
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 5888
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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The label ‘Muslim’ is increasingly being used to exclude migrants and non-ethnic Germans from German society. Although this process began after 2000 when Germany’s citizenship laws changed from jus sanguinis to incorporate an element of jus soli and minority subjects could no longer be ‘othered’ by their passports alone, it intensified shortly afterwards due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (Spielhaus 2006). Specifically within the German context, the discovery that Mohamed Atta, one of the perpetrators of 9/11, had lived and studied in Hamburg, the foiled bomb plots of 2006 and 2007, and the 2011 Frankfurt Airport shooting all served to buttress this paradigmatic shift from national/ethnic difference to religious. Yet, rather than responding in kind to this identitarian entrenchment, the work of Zafer Şenocak, SAID, Feridun Zaimoglu and Navid Kermani (all minority writers of varying Muslim backgrounds) suggests new ways of thinking about community, identity and religiosity that are fluid, non-foundational and open to an undecided future, which can all be illuminated by Jean-Luc Nancy’s theories of the ‘inoperative community’ (2000 and 1991) and the deconstruction of monotheism (2008).For Nancy, the traditional understanding of community as the fusion of immanent individuals with a common identity must be resisted, as this disguises our actual ontological interrelatedness as ‘singular beings’ who are radically open to one another. This non-foundational approach regards the spacing of interconnected singular beings (their ‘being-in-common’) as the sense of the world, and rejects universalising ideologies that seek to confer sense upon the world from the outside, since these act to close down meaning and divide us up into polarised communities. In Nancy’s terms, whether these ideologies be political or religious, they are both defined by the monotheistic paradigm that operates through a separate ideal world that acts as our world’s guiding principle. This is why Nancy himself rejects the term cosmopolitanism, as its philosophical roots in the metaphysics of the Enlightenment stem from the ideal world of pure Reason. Nevertheless, just as the inoperative community can be understood as a non-foundational route to cosmopolitan solidarities, the deconstruction of monotheism too leaves space for a non-foundational religiosity that resists traditional identities and symbolism. Nancy proposes, borrowing from mysticism, a God not as ‘the “other world” [...], but the other of the world’ (2008, p. 10), that is to say, a religiosity that does not position God as the subject of the world and its organizing principle, but concerns itself instead with glimpsing the divine in the alterity in our world, which results from the very nothingness of its origins. These arguments, that I place at the forefront of post-9/11 debates surrounding cosmopolitanism and religion, can shed light on the literary writing of Şenocak, SAID, Zaimoglu and Kermani, who draw upon the immanentist tradition within Islamic mysticism in order to intimate a non-identitarian religiosity that figures in the alterity of the world and leaves open all possibilities for the future. In this regard, their fiction hints at an affective and worldly spirituality that can be found in love, sex, music and the natural world, which, whilst also serving to dispel stereotypical associations between Islam and sexual conservatism, hints at a post-monotheistic religiosity beyond identity and ideology. Thus, rather than creating a homogenous foundation through dialogue (the approach of the German state and often of interkultureller Germanistik), the non-foundational and cosmopolitan conceptualisations of the self, community and religiosity found in the writing of these authors both undermine the closed identities that are clashing violently across the globe at the start of the twenty-first century and also open up the space for us to imagine new ways of coexisting.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; PDS
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: German Literature ; Islam ; Cosmopolitanism ; Identity ; Jean-Luc Nancy ; Feridun Zaimoglu ; SAID ; Navid Kermani ; Zafer Senocak ; Sufism