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Mohamed Amer Meziane, ‘Empires Beneath the Earth’

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Please note that this event has been rescheduled from 23 March 2023.

About the event

The term ‘secularisation’ is generally employed to describe the process by which Western societies emerged from the reign of heteronomy to enter the era of autonomy. From then on, so the story goes, human beings, informed by Reason, built a world free from dogma and superstition.

Mohamed Amer Meziane offers a different interpretation of the past, presenting the proclamation of a world without God as the product of the imperiality which haunted Europe and its colonies since the failure of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, to reunite Christians in the sixteenth century. The imperial world which developed presented itself, from the end of the eighteenth century, as the only world having overcome religion, and thus the only world capable of reconciling religious communities. This claim was founded on the racialisation of Islam and its reduction to a competing, unsecular and fanatical form of universalism. These processes opened the way for European expansion into Africa and Asia.

In conjunction with the racial dimension of secularisation, Mohamed Amer Meziane explores its ecological dimension. In the absence of a Kingdom of Heaven, the Earth itself became the only sacred realm, and the mastery and exploitation of its lands and resources were the principal sources of imperial legitimacy. Spurred on by imperial rivalries between Europeans, the scramble to acquire worldly resources gradually led to the destruction of the global ecosystem. The climate crisis finds its origins in the rise of imperial-secularism and the new dynamics of global power which Mohamed Amer Meziane names the ‘Secularocene’. His work exposes how the distance from Heaven has damaged the Earth.

This event is organised by Dr Charlotte Legg and Dr Sabrina Bouarour.

About the speaker

Mohamed Amer Meziane is a philosopher and performer. He is currently a senior invited researcher at the Freie Universität in Berlin, and will take up a post as Assistant Professor at the Center for Middle East Studies of Brown University in the Autumn of 2023. He has previously taught at Columbia University. His first book, Des empires sous la terre, was published by La Découverte in 2021. It is currently being translated into English for publication by Verso. His articles have appeared in a range of journals, including Political Theology and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. His current projects include an analysis of critiques of secularism in the Western canon and research into North African and African decolonial philosophy and literature.