Middle East Studies

Lecture | Mohamed Amer Meziane | The Inconvertible: Or, How to Think About Race in Middle East Studies

Meziane The Inconvertible Or How to Talk About Race in Middle East Studies

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room 353, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer 
Registration Required 
*This event is currently at capacity. Given that in-person attendance can be unpredictable, please feel free to register and show up on the day of the event. Standby attendees can often be admitted.

About the Event

This talk goes back to the Expedition of Egypt and the colonization of Algeria as matrixes of how European colonialism operated in what is now called "North Africa" and the "Middle East." Legally defined via their alleged "religion," Jewish or Muslim Algerians were racialized by a secularized empire. After 1870, the signifier of "Islam" became the racial name par excellence – literally a name for race – once Muslims were declared to be inconvertible but colonizable. This led to the foundation of an apartheid state in North Africa which predates the apartheid system in South Africa. In this talk, Professor Meziane will argue that, notwithstanding their past and present political power, the dominant critiques of race and colonialism since Fanon have not been able to fully make sense of the theologico-political layers of racism. It is precisely when it racializes what politically counts as “religion” and not only skin color that racism is not seen as such, thus operating by virtue of its very denial. How does a historical analysis of the theologico-political history of race destabilize the dominant assumptions of postcolonial and decolonial studies? How does it help us think about historical beginnings such as 1492 anew, and thus reconceptualize the very idea of "colonial modernity?" 

About the Speaker 
Mohamed Amer Meziane holds a PhD in Philosophy and Intellectual History from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. He recently joined Brown University as an Assistant Professor of French and Middle East Studies, after teaching for four years at Columbia University. He is the author of The States of the Earth: An Ecological and Racial History of Secularization which won the Albertine Prize for non-fiction in 2023. His second book is titled: At the Edge of the Worlds: Towards a Metaphysical Anthropology. He is currently working on two book manuscripts: the former examines how Orientalism shaped the intertwined histories of (anti)-metaphysics and human sciences from the 19th century on, the latter on North African philosophies of decolonization.