Talk by Hagen Steinhauer at the conference The Power(s) of Language. Negotiating Voice and Recognition (BTWSD#4)
In the wake of the 2020 terrorist attacks, the term islamo-gauchisme gained salience in French mass media discourse. Members of the government, specifically the ministers of national education and research, used it not only to condemn fundamentalist and Djihadist ideologies, but also to accuse certain academic disciplines of intellectual complicity with Islamism. Islamo-gauchisme thus equates alleged leftist support for Islamist fundamentalism with critical research projects like postcolonial studies or intersectional feminism.
Islamo-gauchisme combines the denial of structural racism and Islamophobia with a delegitimization of critique and the notion of an endangered white majority threatened from outside as well as from within. Thus, it should be understood as part of the far-right’s larger strategy to push back against left-wing emancipatory politics and to implement their agenda in the centre of political discourse.
I argue that we are witnessing a broader authoritarian shift which consolidates ethno-nationally encoded identity politics of the menaced majority: far-right narratives of Islamization and the grand remplacement have become an integral part of public discourse. The mainstreaming of these ideologies has already had effects on legislation: A new law on separatism led to the dissolution of activist groups and NGOs speaking up against Islamophobia. Islam in general was further stigmatized and critique of institutional Islamophobia dismissed as racisme imaginaire. In my presentation I will examine the history of the term islamo-gauchisme to identify its underlying argumentation and its influence on current debates around séparatisme and wokisme. The discursive function of all of these buzzwords, I argue, is to deny the existence of structural discrimination in order to uphold racialized and gendered hierarchies. France is witnessing the rise of an authoritarian identity politics aimed at delegitimizing claims for equal recognition and rights of minorities.