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Secular Governmentality, Islamophobia and the Charter of Quebec Values

Mar 27, 2014, 2:30pm-4:30pm

The South Asia Research Group presents Secular Governmentality, Islamophobia and the Charter of Quebec Values, with Roshan Jahangeer and discussant Hülya Arik as part of the Diaspora Speaker Series, Thursday March 27, from 2:30 to 4:30 pm in Room 280N York Lanes.

Debate over the Charter of Quebec Values has raged since it was officially announced in September 2013 by the Government of Quebec. A parliamentary commission has been in place since January 2014 in order to hold public hearings into the proposed Charter — despite the fact that the minister behind the bill, Bernard Drainville, has said that the controversial proposal to ban public servants from wearing so-called "religious symbols" at work is not up for negotiation. Meanwhile, groups such as the Quebec Bar Association and the Quebec Human Rights Commission have publicly denounced the proposals in the Charter as being unconstitutional and illegal.

In this paper, I explore several links between the PQ's turn to French republicanism over the past decade and laws in France that have heavily influenced the development of the Charter in Québec. In particular, I discuss the genealogy of binaries central to the rise of the Charter logic: "religion/laïcité", "religious signs/symbols", "visible/discreet", and "conspicuous/ostentatious". How do we account for the civilizational rapprochement with French Republicanism that we are witnessing in Quebec? What factors account for who becomes a 'subject' and conversely, an 'object' of government intervention?

I explore these questions and the theoretical tools with which to understand them, including through Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality. I propose that current articulations of the Charter of Quebec Values reflect a logic of secular governmentality, which mobilizes gender, race and religion as central categories of difference. I also argue that secular governmentality is upheld by renewed forms of islamophobia that use the bodies of veiled Muslim women to mark out the borders between a civilized, secular 'us' and an uncivilized, religious 'them'. I discuss the theoretical implications of these arguments as they relate to the veiling debates that continue to take place across the Atlantic.

For more information e-mail sargyork@yorku.ca.


Location:280N York Lanes
Sponsor:York Centre for Asian Research
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