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Italy, Islam and the Islamic World

Representations and Reflections, from 9/11 to the Arab Uprisings


Charles Burdett

The recent emergence and increasing visibility of Islam as Italy’s second religion is an issue of undeniable importance. It has generated an intense and often polarized debate that has involved all the cultural, political and religious institutions of the country and some of its most vocal and controversial cultural figures. This study examines some of the most significant voices that have made themselves heard in defining Italy’s relationship with Islam and with the Islamic world, in a period of remarkable geopolitical and cultural upheaval from 9/11 to the Arab Spring. It looks in detail at the nature of the arguments that writers, journalists and intellectuals have adduced regarding Islam and at the connections and disjunctions between opposing positions. It examines how events such as military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq or the protests in Tahrir Square have been represented within Italy and it analyses the rhetorical framework within which the issue of the emergence of Islam as an internal actor within Italian civil society has been articulated.


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Chapter 4. Literary Representations of Islam and Italy


Chapter 4 Literary Representations of Islam and Italy It should not be surprising to find that there are racial and ethnic frames by which the recognizably human is currently constituted. One critical operation of any democratic culture is to contest these frames, to allow a set of dissonant and overlapping frames to come into view, to take up the challenges of cultural translation. — judith butler Among the many works that have been written on the wider significance of 9/11 and ‘the war on terror’, Tzvetan Todorov’s The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations is one of the most clear-sighted in its expo- sition of the conceptual problems with which global culture is confronted and in its exploration of the range of issues that historical inquiry, cultural criticism, and literary and artistic representation can address.1 Todorov’s interest is in the ways in which societies, in a climate of accelerated economic change, cope with the pressures generated by greater cultural proximity and his text is, above all, concerned with the epistemological constructions that are deployed in order to make sense of the interactions, exchanges and/or conflicts between one culture and another. As is indicated by the title of his work, he is highly critical of interpretative frameworks which encour- age us to see the world as a series of macro-cultural entities that inevitably collide against one another: it is not simply the flawed reasoning behind such a model, or its dependence on the mode of thinking of the Cold War...

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