Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, History, University of Ottawa

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Chicago
Un Espoir en Devenir: The Mosquée de Paris and the Creation of French Islams

My dissertation will investigate the role the Mosquee de Paris, for decades the most potent visual symbol of Islam in France, has played in the creation of French Islams from 1916-1982. From its inception, the Mosquee has represented a vision of loyalist French Islam that is compatible with republican values, especially laicite, or secularism. Its physical space was supposed to reflect North African architectural styles and thus encourage traditional religious practices, but at the same time it was supposed to be accessible to a French audience. The discourse on Islam in France has often been strongly linked to practices and aesthetics, and this project will pay particular attention to the architectural and aesthetic elements of the Mosquee and other sites in Muslim Paris while tracing out the different kinds of Islam that have developed. I hypothesize that the French Islam of the Mosquee and the practices associated with it, and alternative Islams which emerged as Muslim immigration increased, correspond to different visions of the ideal relationship between Muslim immigrants and the secular French republic. Debates which questioned the practices associated with the Mosquee and other Muslim sites were as much about race, culture and class as they were about religion. These factors were implicit in the designations "Islam" and "Muslim" in France. A close investigation of the Mosquee's development could potentially leave us with a very different understanding of lacite's historical trajectory and of the question of a "Muslim exception" in French secularism.