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The Ties that Bind: Multiculturalism and Secularism Reconsidered

26 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009  

Brenna Bhandar

University of Kent, Canterbury


The article examines contemporary controversies over the rights of Muslim women to wear various forms of the veil, in both France and the United Kingdom and argues that despite their apparent differences as political ideologies, both multiculturalism and secularism are deployed as techniques to govern difference. It traces a common philosophical lineage of these two ideologies, and their shared genealogical relationship to the subject of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought. Drawing on Marx and Hegel, it argues that at the core of secularism and multiculturalism there lies the germ of a subject and law formed through a concept of culture that was to a great degree indivisible from religion. While secularism ostensibly decouples culture from religion to produce a common political culture, and multiculturalism purports to accommodate a diverse range of cultural and religious practices, both fail to accommodate difference that stretches the bounds of a citizen-subject defined according to Anglo-European norms of culture, which implicitly includes Christianity.

Suggested Citation

Bhandar, Brenna, The Ties that Bind: Multiculturalism and Secularism Reconsidered. Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 36, Issue 3, pp. 301-326, September 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1486873 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2009.00469.x

Brenna Bhandar (Contact Author)

University of Kent, Canterbury ( email )

Keynes College
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP
United Kingdom

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