The Shifting Boundaries of Laïcité

  • Jennifer A. Selby
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


Having chronicled Petit Nanterre’s geography and religious demography in the previous chapter, I now turn to how the area’s residents live within, and at times rally against, France’s current religiopolitical assimilationist context. Given the area’s relatively religiously homogenous Sunni Muslim population of North African origin, one might have anticipated a common disparaging response to the fall 2004 laïque law banning conspicuous religious signs, particularly given the number of critics who argued it was anti-Muslim in tone and legislation (see Silverstein 2004a; Larabi Hendaz 2005; Bowen 2007; Winter 2008; Fernando 2010). To consider this socioreligious context analytically and on the ground, in this chapter I ask: How are secularism and laïcité (French secularism) conceptually related to “religion”? How has the French state sought to articulate the space of religion in the public sphere through specific laïque focused, government-mandated commissions and legislation? And, how have Muslim women in the banlieues been affected by these articulations?


Public School Muslim Woman Civil Religion French State Religious Sign 
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© Jennifer A. Selby 2012

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  • Jennifer A. Selby

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