Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam By Fethi Benslama (tr. Robert Bononno) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. 272 pages.)

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Arshavez Mozafari

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Abstract

As a particular outgrowth of modernity, Islamism has garnered the attention
of a great many theorists. In Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of
Islam, Fethi Benslama, a psychoanalyst and professor, elaborates upon the
precise undergirding apparatus that sustains the logic of Islamism as a
recently conceived phenomenon. The book attempts to clearly define the
logical progression of Islamism since its point of conception. This point is
located in the colonial era, when “traditional” Islam was put under the
intense strain of a developed European modernity. The violent break, along
with all the baggage that was incapable of being properly allocated and
refined by “what Freud called the ‘cultural work’ (Kulturarbeit)” (p. ix),
produced an explosive cocktail that has and continues to haunt the project
of modernity. Through the use of a unique theoretical style called deconstructionist
psychoanalysis, Banslama’s project seeks to account for this
pervasive phenomenon.
“Islam has never been a major concern for me or my generation. It was
because Islam began to take an interest in us that I decided to take an interest
in it” (p. 1). This is the way Benslama begins the first section of his book.
It marks not only his secular disposition but also the aggressivity associated
with the burgeoning Islamist political movements. Islamism is strictly conceptualized
as a phenomenon that differs from fundamentalism. It has the
capacity to operate through the decomposition of traditionalism – one occurrence associated with this downfall is the “catastrophic collapse of [traditional]
language” (p. 4) ...

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