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Navid Kermani

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Edited By Helga Druxes, Karolin Machtans and Alexandar Mihailovic

Navid Kermani – author, journalist and academic – is one of the most prominent public intellectuals in Germany today. Kermani has been at the forefront of recent debates about Islam and its role in Germany’s political, social and cultural life. Instead of emphasizing the differences between ethnic affiliations and religious beliefs, Kermani questions the Western notion of a clear dividing line between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, highlighting instead their affinities. In addition to his political essays, Kermani’s travel journalism introduces western audiences to diverse Muslim societies in the world and his fiction provides accessible meditations on first love, contemporary music, death and friendship. This is the first volume of criticism in English dedicated to Kermani’s varied work. The book features an extensive interview with the author, a reproduction in German and English of Kermani’s famous 2014 Bundestag speech and a collection of critical essays on Kermani’s writing. The essays, by major scholars in the field, cover issues such as gender, religion, cosmopolitanism, mystical experiences, and the power of the liberal arts in a time of neoliberal distraction.
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Elke Segelcke - The Political Anthropology of Navid Kermani’s Travelogues

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ELKE SEGELCKE

The Political Anthropology of Navid Kermani’s Travelogues1

Kermani was hired by the German news magazine Der Spiegel in 2014 to write a three-part series of reports on Iraq, where he traveled shortly after the invasion of ISIL in September of the same year. The immediate task of this travelogue is to provide the German readership with much-needed facts about diverse forms of Islamic belief and its political instrumentalization in different regions of the Arab world. Kermani believes it is his special responsibility ‘sich in öffentliche Debatten einzumischen’ [to intervene in public debates], by giving voice to Iraqi experience and telling their ‘verschiedene, sich teilweise widersprechende Geschichten’ [diverse, sometimes partly contradictory stories],2 in order to capture their reality in its complexity and ambiguity.3 Bearing in mind a thousand-year-old literary tradition and centuries of cultural cross-pollination, in his three Iraq reports Kermani finds that people of all religious denominations fear ISIL’s terrorism. The threat to religious minorities represents nothing less than an attempt to dismantle ethnic and cultural pluralism in Iraq, despite its strong multicultural history. It is the goal of this chapter to examine the narrative strategies of political anthropology in Kermani’s 2014 travelogues ← 181 | 182 → from Iraq and to further clarify them in light of his literary essays and the account of a journey to Pakistan from his earlier collection of travel writing, Ausnahmezustand. Reisen in eine beunruhigte Welt [State of Emergency: Travels to a Troubling World] (2013).

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