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Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam

2009
Author:

Fethi Benslama
Translated by Robert Bononno

Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam

Unveils the psychoanalytic undercurrents of contemporary Islam

Fethi Benslama is a psychoanalyst who, although a secular thinker, identifies himself as a person of Muslim culture who rejects ready-made explanations for Islamic fundamentalism. In that spirit, Benslama demythifies both Islam and Western ideas of the religion by addressing the psychoanalytic root causes of the Muslim world’s clash with modernity and subsequent turn to fundamentalism.

This brilliant book opens new perspectives on the psychoanalytical understanding of religion, and on the political understanding of the forms of one of religion’s most salient current revivals. Fethi Benslama’s unflinching reading of ‘Islamism’ as a symptom of a crisis of Islam itself is a fine example of deconstructive psychoanalysis at its very best.

Geoffrey Bennington, Emory University

Fethi Benslama is a psychoanalyst who, although a secular thinker, identifies himself as a person of Muslim culture who rejects ready-made explanations for Islamic fundamentalism. In that spirit, Benslama demythifies both Islam and Western ideas of the religion by addressing the psychoanalytic root causes of the Muslim world’s clash with modernity and subsequent turn to fundamentalism.

Tracing this ideological strain to its origins, Benslama shows that contemporary Islam consists of a fairly recent hybridization of Arab nationalism, theocracy, and an attempt (both naïve and deadly) to ground science in faith. Combining textual analysis and Lacanian and Freudian psychoanalysis, he examines Islam’s foundation, providing fresh readings of the book of Genesis, the Koran, The Arabian Nights, and the work of medieval Islamic philosophers.

Refreshingly, Benslama writes without ideological bias and undoes the simplistic, Western view of Islam while refusing to romanticize terrorism or Muslim extremism. This is a penetrating work that reveals an alternate history of the Islamic religion and opens new possibilities for its future development.

Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam

Fethi Benslama is a psychoanalyst and professor of psychopathology at the University of Jussieu, Paris VII. He is the founding editor of Intersignes, a French-language journal of psychoanalysis and culture, and the author of many books on psychoanalysis and Islam, including La nuit brisée and Une fiction troublante.

Robert Bononno has translated more than a dozen books, including Albert Memmi’s Decolonization and the Decolonized (Minnesota, 2006). He has taught translation at New York University and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam

This brilliant book opens new perspectives on the psychoanalytical understanding of religion, and on the political understanding of the forms of one of religion’s most salient current revivals. Fethi Benslama’s unflinching reading of ‘Islamism’ as a symptom of a crisis of Islam itself is a fine example of deconstructive psychoanalysis at its very best.

Geoffrey Bennington, Emory University

A well-informed exploration of a complex historical and contemporary theme. Benslama succeeds in orienting us beyond the old pitfalls of psychoanalysis when used to explore large cultural and social phenomena. He establishes new grounds for a more informed discussion of neglected but important facets of religious consciousness in modern times.

Mohammed Bamyeh, University of Pittsburgh

Benslama’s text is a tour de force, reflecting not only a persona who has a masterful command of psychoanalysis but someone who has insight into a form of intellectual creativity that is lacking in much of today’s scholarship on Islam. The book as a whole represents the most comprehensive psychoanalytic evaluation of Islam and the phenomenon of Islamism to date. It is recommended for both specialists and non-specialists alike.

American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

For the scholars of religious phenomena, especially those utilizing psychoanalytical perspectives, this book is very important and will prove to be influential.

Contemporary Islam

Benslama’s effort to reread the primal fictions of Islam within the framework of psychoanalysis is commendable.

Reviews in Cultural Theory