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From Braudel to Derrida: Mohammed Arkoun's Rethinking of Islam and Religion

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Author: Carool Kersten
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Abstract

This article examines Mohammed Arkoun as one of the pioneers of a new Muslim intellectualism seeking new ways of engaging with Islam by combining intimate familiarity with the Islamic civilizational heritage (turath) and solid knowledge of recent achievements by the Western academe in the humanities and social sciences. It will show how his groundbreaking and agendasetting work in Islamic studies reflects a convergence of the spatiotemporal concerns of an intellectual historian inspired by the Annales School with an epistemological critique drawing on structuralist and poststructuralist ideas. Influenced by Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutics and the deconstructionist philosophy of Jacques Derrida, Arkoun evolved from a specialist in the intellectual history of medieval Islam into a generic critic of epistemologies, advocating a concept of so-called 'emerging reason' which transcends existing forms of religious reason, Enlightenment rationalism and the tele-techno-scientific reason of the postmodern globalizing world. This article concludes that Arkoun's proposals challenge the intellectual binary of the West versus Islam and the historical dichotomy between the northern and southern Mediterranean.

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