Beyond Secular Liberalism Islamic Activism in Lebanon

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Sarah Marusek



While many scholars have focused on questions of non- or post-secularity vis-à-vis the “modern nation state,” fewer have asked what kind of decolonial redemption is possible under global neoliberal capitalism today. This is precisely the question I seek to address in this article by analyzing the contemporary ideas and practices of the charities affiliated with what is collectively known as the Islamic resistance movement in Lebanon. Based on almost two and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork in Lebanon on the charities affiliated with the three main Shi'i activist movements loosely comprising the Islamic resistance movement—Hizbullah, al-Mabarrat Association, and Imam al-Sadr Foundation—I describe how all three are selectively resisting some aspects of secular liberalism while accepting others. However, by employing a decentered approach to my analysis, I also highlight how their negotiation with secular liberalism is on their own terms, thus ultimately presenting a challenge to Western hegemony. These charities employ multiple conceptions of rationality, including religious rationality and a range of liberal and even neoliberal economic principles; but by centering their project on faith, Islam, and resistance, these charities reproduce what I call “resistance subjectivities,” allowing the Islamic resistance movement to present unique challenges to Western secular modernity.

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