Faculty Affiliates

Mayanthi L Fernando
  • Title
    • Associate Professor
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Anthropology Department
  • Affiliations Humanities Division, Feminist Studies Department, History of Consciousness Department, Research Center for the Americas
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Office Location
    • Social Sciences 1, 309
  • Mail Stop Social Sciences 1 Faculty Services
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Courses ANTH 130T Religion and Politics in the Muslim World; ANTH 130O Postcolonial Britain and France; ANTH 197G Religion, Gender, Sexuality; ANTH 255 Anthropology of Secularism; ANTH 260 Anthropology of Freedom; ANTH 259 Regulating Religion/Sex; ANTH 200B Graduate Core Course II

Summary of Expertise

Areas of Research: secularism, Islam, religious minorities in France/Europe, political pluralism

Areas of Fieldwork: France, Western Europe

Research Interests

My first book, The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism (Duke University Press, 2014), alternates between an analysis of Muslim French politics, ethics, and social life and the contradictions of French secularity (laïcité) that this new Muslim subjectivity reflects and refracts. It explores how Muslim French draw on both Islamic and secular-republican traditions as they create new modes of ethical and political engagement, reconfiguring those traditions to imagine a future for France. It also examines how the institutions, political and legal practices, and dominant discourses that comprise French secularity regulate and govern--and profoundly disrupt--Muslim life. In so doing, it traces a series of long-standing tensions immanent to laïcité, tensions not so much generated as precipitated by the presence of Muslim French. It argues, ultimately, that “the Muslim question” is actually a question about secularism.

My next project attends to the nexus of sex and religion in the articulation of modern secularity, analyzing how the secular state’s project of regulating and transforming religious life is interwoven with its project of sexual normalization, i.e. the production of secular, sexually “normal” citizens. I am interested, in other words, in how proper religion and proper sexuality are mutually constituted (often in opposition to each other) by secular rule.

Biography, Education and Training

B.A., Harvard University
M.A., Ph.D., University of Chicago

Honors, Awards and Grants

2013 UCHRI Humanities Studio on Regulating Sex/Religion
2011 Hellman Fellows Program research grant
2010-2011 Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
2010-2011 U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program
2010-2011 UC President's Faculty Fellowship
2010 UC Center for New Racial Studies research grant

Teaching Interests

Teaching Specialties: anthropology of Islam, politics and secularism, religion and gender/sexuality, modernity and difference, postcolonial Britain and France, anthropology of freedom, anthropology of Western Europe, multiculturalism