The unbearable anxiety of being: ideological fantasies of British Muslims beyond the politics of security

Ali, Nadya and Whitham, Ben (2018) The unbearable anxiety of being: ideological fantasies of British Muslims beyond the politics of security. Security Dialogue, 49 (5). pp. 400-417. ISSN 0967-0106

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Since the advent of the 'War on Terror' British Muslims have been designated as a source of anxiety by politicians, journalists and publics alike. Fears that began over terrorism have extended to the opening of Islamic faith schools, the meaning of clothing and halal slaughter. Critical scholarship that engages with these developments in the fields of politics and international relations tends to view them through paradigms of (in)security. Whilst these contributions have been helpful in understanding the construction of a Muslim 'problem', this article demonstrates how the array of issues incorporated by this problem exceeds the politics of security.

The article develops an original conceptual and analytic framework, drawing upon Slavoj Žižek's Lacanian theory of ideology, to argue that political and media ‘scandals’ about what an imagined 'Muslim community' gets up to are best understood as ideological fantasies. Through analysis of three case studies, we show that these fantasies are mobilised to suture traumatic gaps and conceal contradictions in wider social practices around sexual abuse, education, and food production. We show how the unremitting focus on myriad aspects of British Muslims’ imagined lives is symptomatic of what Žižek calls an ‘unbearable anxiety’. Islamophobic ideological fantasies summon a ‘conceptual Muslim’ figure as a means of preventing confrontation with the Lacanian ‘Real’: antagonistic and anxiety-inducing structures and practices underpinning British society, of which we do not speak.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2018 11:28
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2021 13:20

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