Contemporary debates about civility are shaped by the dominant liberal and secular narratives of a peaceful world of sovereign nation-states. For contemporary scholars and policy makers, the challenge is to insert meaningfully the political evolution of the Middle East in the dominant liberal-democratic discourse about the current international order without invoking ill-conceived notions of Islamic exceptionalism.
The analyses gathered in this book challenge conventional 'western' perspectives on civility as an expression of state-guaranteed free association in a non-violent space of discourse and behaviour. Considering the articulation of 'civil' and 'civilized' state-society relations in contemporary Middle Eastern polities, this book proposes both conceptual and empirical insights into the dynamics of the local, national and trans-national formation of civility and of the civil sphere. Bypassing traditional oppositions between the 'western' and 'Islamic' modernity, it provides an account of the communicative clusters of civility that represent the everyday formations of Islamic and secular subjects in settings organized by authoritarian-inclined state institutions and practices. It examines how the grassroots formation of 'new' religious and secular identities/subjectivities and their relations with the 'Other' underpin, as well as challenge and transform, the state-led processes of political ordering of a national and regional community.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Third World Quarterly.
About the Author: Frédéric Volpi is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Director of the Institute of Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies at the University of St Andrews. His research addresses the political construction of Islamism and democratic-authoritarian interactions in the Muslim world. His latest book is Political Islam Observed: Disciplinary Perspective (Columbia University Press, 2010).