Past Event

Des empires sous la terre: Is There a Secularocene?

November 18, 2021
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
Online Event

Mohamad Amer Meziane, in conversation with Etienne Balibar, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, and Ann Stoler, moderated by Emmanuelle Saada


Why is secularization never connected to climate change? And why is climate change not connected to secularization? If modernity is the Anthropocene and if secularization is a defining feature of modernity’s birth, then it is natural to ask: did secularization engender climate change? 

In his first book Des empires sous la terre published in 2021, Mohamad Amer Meziane argues that secularization should be re-conceptualized not only as an imperial and racial but also as an ecological set of processes. It presupposes a critical understanding of what has been called ‘the secular’ as a name given to the result of the destruction of nature: the transformation of the earth itself by industrial and colonial powers. Meziane opens a new space in the study of both secularism and the Anthropocene, of religion and climate change by creating a philosophical bridge between the critique of Orientalism and the anthropology of secularism and Islam, respectively founded by Edward Said and Talal Asad, and the literature on the Anthropocene influenced by scholars such as Donna Haraway and Bruno Latour. This book offers a new, radical definition of secularization. Neither a supposed decline of religion nor a simple continuation of Christianity by other means, secularization should be seen as a transformation of the earth itself by virtue of its connection with fossil empires and capitalism.

Mohamad Amer Meziane is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public and the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. Through a particular focus on French colonialism in nineteenth century Algeria, his book deploys a new critique of Orientalism by examining two of its intertwined effects: the Hegelian idea of Christianity’s secularization in the modern world and the colonization of North Africa and the Arab world in the aftermath of the Expedition to Egypt. The argument is an intervention in the ongoing debates on Post-Orientalism in emerging fields such as the anthropologies of secularism and Islam as well as Critical Muslim studies/Islamophobia studies. His expertise on Hegel and Marx as well as his current research and teaching on Frantz Fanon situates his work at the intersection of Continental and African philosophy. His current publication and research projects focus on climate change and fossil-empires but also on socialism and decolonization. Mohamed Amer-Meziane also serves as a member of the editorial board of the journal Multitudes.

Etienne Balibar is Professor Emeritus of moral and political philosophy at Université de Paris X – Nanterre and Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He is a Visiting Professor at Columbia University. 

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is Professor of French and of Philosophy, and the Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University.

Ann Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and History at The New School for Social Research in New York City.

Emmanuelle Saada is Professor of French and of History.

Contact Information

Maison Francaise