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Kadish Workshop in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory: Murad Idris, University of Michigan

Friday, December 1, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Murad Idris is Associate Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Political Science and Associate Director of the Global Islamic Studies Center at the University of Michigan. He is the author of War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought (Oxford, 2019) and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory (Oxford, 2020). He is currently writing two books: a short book on Sayyid Qutb and a book titled Islam in Theory: Scripts of Unfreedom, Fanaticism, and Violence.


Paper Title and Abstract:

Violence, Colonialism, and Capitalism in an Islamist Key.

In recent decades, scholarly and public concern with “Islamic violence” has shown little sign of ending. In fact, jihad continues to name an archetype of violence in key texts of political philosophy and the history of political thought. After offering a brief sketch of this dominant construction, the paper inverts the script to interrogate how Islamists theorize violence more broadly. This inversion focuses on recovering Sayyid Qutb’s theorizations of colonial violence, capitalism, and Orientalism in the early 1950s. Recognizing Qutb’s use of an anticolonial and anticapitalist vocabulary challenges the scope of the anticolonial archive. Disciplinary refusals or inabilities to do so are symptomatic of broader problems about the place of critique, secularism, and empire. In fact, the issue is compounded when one looks beyond or, as it were, behind, well-known thinkers such as Qutb to broader discourses. Thus the paper turns to the weekly journal al-Da‘wa (The Call), which included Qutb among its regular contributors. Like Qutb, the journal’s articles theorized violence, colonialism, and capitalism as nodes of contemporary politics. The language with which the periodical’s articles diagnosed these structures was authorized by an Islamist key that blended multiple ideological and historical idioms together. Attention to how the journal’s articles theorized democratic hypocrisies and fictions, class structures, colonial interests, and the resurgence of a crusader spirit also shows that Qutb was embedded in a set of discourses to which he was only one participant. Finally, the paper draws out the implications of shifting the location of theory along these lines, in which the Muslim is not the source of critique, but the theorist of how crisis and critique are an entire geography of violence that is maintained through colonialism, capitalism, and Orientalism.


About the Workshop:

This course is a workshop for discussing works in progress in moral, political, and legal theory. The workshop creates a space for students to engage directly with philosophers, political theorists, and legal scholars working on normative questions toward the goal of fostering critical thinking about concepts of value and developing analytical thinking and writing skills. Another aim is to bring together people from different disciplines and perspectives who have strong normative interests or who speak to issues philosophers and theorists should know something about.

The theme for the Fall 2023 workshop is “Current Work on the History of Political, Legal, and Moral Philosophy.”


141 Law Building


Kadish Center for Morality, Law & Public Affairs

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