Eutopia Institute of Ideas ~ On Middle East, Diversity & Democracy

Developing and challenging new ideas on democracy, middle east, religion and transnational citizenship related to art and politics by multi-media works, (e-)print publishing and related e-magazines and by organizing public and professional meetings.

Eutopia concentrates on a variety of political and cultural issues, including the dialog between the Middle East and the West and developments linked to multiculturalism and the Muslim community in the Europe. Its global perspective is crucial.

For its activities Eutopia draws on an extensive network of freelancers, both at home and abroad, including philosophers, scientists, writers, journalists, artists etc. Eutopia’s good reputation is in fact partly based on its extensive network of contributors.

Eutopia is geared in particular – but not exclusively – towards dialog between North and South, as well as between Europe and the Islamic world. In addition, Eutopia aims to foster a concern for identity and intellectual development among young (migrant) individuals and to raise the quality of their input in European debates on social, cultural and political issues.

Eutopia concentrates on three core activities:
Eutopia E- Magazine: an international window on politics, culture and art.
Eutopia Live: lectures and workshops by and with artists and intellectuals; events and discussions about popular culture, film, literature and music.
Eutopia Academy: international exchange, conferences, networking and consultancy for cultural institutions.

Eutopia’s history and objectives
Eutopia, based in Amsterdam, was set up in 2002 by the sociologists Farhad Golyardi and Shervin Nekuee. Both Eutopia Magazine, of which so far twelve issues have appeared, and the Eutopia Live lectures and seminars have meanwhile found a niche of their own in Dutch cultural life. These activities are realized in collaboration with a great variety of local and nationwide institutions, including De Balie, De Unie, University of Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam, ISIM, Forum, Hivos, and the city of Amsterdam and the city of Rotterdam.

In general, Eutopia pursues closer collaboration with universities, governmental agencies and cultural institutions and foundations. Moreover, in the past few years, Eutopia has set up an extensive international network of scholars, authors, thinkers and artists in diaspora, many of whom are refugees. They provide major contributions to global intercultural dialogs and the formulation of new views about the dynamic of culture, identity and politics.

Eutopia aspires to develop into a more comprehensive interdisciplinary platform or institute that both nationally and internationally stimulates intercultural dialog in the areas of politics, science, culture and art. As such it fully follows in the prominent Dutch cultural tradition of politics and religious tolerance, which has spawned great thinkers such as Spinoza and Erasmus.

Eutopia is committed to promoting the debate on multicultural affairs in the Netherlands from a European and international perspective. What is the position of the Netherlands with respect to other European and immigration countries? Which social or cultural developments elsewhere have particular relevance for the Netherlands as an evolving multicultural society?

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George Orwell – Politics And The English Language

“Politics and the English Language” (1946) is an essay by George Orwell that criticised and ended the “ugly and inaccurate” written English of his time and examines the connection between political orthodoxies and the debasement of language.

The essay focuses on political language, which, according to Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. Orwell believed that the language used was necessarily vague or meaningless because it was intended to hide the truth rather than express it. This unclear prose was a “contagion” which had spread to those who did not intend to hide the truth, and it concealed a writer’s thoughts from himself and others. Orwell encourages concreteness and clarity instead of vagueness, and individuality over political conformity.


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‘Limits’ Of Imagining The Pandemic Present

Michel Foucault 1926 – 1984  Photo:

In 1984, Michel Foucault, the French historian (or) philosopher, associated with the  structuralist (or) post-structuralist movement, extensively commented [i] on the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ‘Was ist Aufklarung?’ (What is Enlightenment?). Thus, two hundred years hence, Foucault knocked at the limits of moments we live through. For him, Kant is responding in the Berlinische Monatsschrift (Berlin monthly, 1784- November), a late enlightenment mouthpiece, on what should be the attitude to present.

The moment we live in was, for Kant, neither a distinct era, not a transition, but rather a grand exit (Ausgang). For Kant majority of human beings, in the time he wrote in (1700s end or 1800s beginning as the case may be), carried on their everyday life with the church and monarchy setting the rhythms. The autonomy to break the rhythm or to think about the present, and thus make the exit, was difficult then, as it is now. For Foucault Kant was to work on the ‘limits’ of the rhythm and the everyday in order to ‘Ausgang’ and reflect on what he was part of.

With the coordinates of daily rhythms overwhelmingly set by the virus and its trajectories, it has become even tougher to separate ourselves from the contingent contexts we are thrown into everyday. The possibility of thinking separate from the frames we are set against, and reflecting on our ‘makes’, will determine not only how we reflect on the times we live in, but also the way we live out.

People across space and time have transformed to cyborgs – the sciences; technological artifacts; institutional orders; as well as disseminations of knowledge literally imbricate lived lives. Risk societies, urban informalities, everyday precarities, techno-social deployments, or surveillance and pastoral orders have scaled our skins and rewired our bodily rhythms. The cyborg identities in their everyday relationship with other cyborgs, with differential make-ups determine the truth orders that govern.
Foucault comes back to haunt the ‘pandemic orders in the making’ prompting an engagement with the limits. Nothing short of a critical ontology of the cyborgs we are, deployed and networked across space and time, by the political every day, can achieve this. Only this can translate into a possibility or impossibility to imagine the limits that are imposed on us by the political systems, exaggerated by the pandemic.

The possibility of knocking at the limits for instance, might come at best as a tragic reflection during the physical ejection of the urban migrant labourer in India from the metropolis. This is not quite an exit and neither does one see the space or time to reflect on the exploitative order that had appropriated him/her along with millions of others as urban cyborgs. A Lebanese Druze leader who has seen the end of a world war, been through a three month war, or the civil wars; still might only see at best an end of the world because the pandemic has only added on to the noise of everyday violence and earth shattering explosions. The fortified corona shelters that the bus bays have transformed into in a hyper vigilant South Korea or a health care regime that fell apart on the corporate altars in the United States also differentially reduce the space of reflection or eventual exit. A self righteous regime like the one in Brazil that would rather bank on military men than people of science; or the celebrations of self sufficiency (atmanirbhar in the Indian state context) when possibilities of social welfare gets precluded; also talk of the times that give no space for exit-thoughts or possibilities for reflection.

In order to critically reflect on the pandemic everyday and eventually for life to live itself out, there is no other way than exposing the conflicts and contradictions inherent to the orders people live in. There is no other way than to reflect on the ‘fixes’ put forward as part of the ‘presents’. Michel Foucault prompts us to knock at the limits once again. The task for the more privileged in places that still maintain social contracts with populations is to think with Foucauldian ‘dispositives’. These are the institutional, administrative, and knowledge structures that both maintain the systems in place and the homeostasis of the cyborg selves we all are. It is only by thinking through the links between practices, and institutional techniques deployed way before pandemics, but enhanced and perpetuated by the virus; that the cyborgs can get deconstructed across places readying for a political present that is yet to be lived into.

[i] What is Enlightenment? in Rabinow (P.), ed., The Foucault Reader, New York, Pantheon Books, 1984:32-50.

Mathew A Varghese, SIRP, Mahatma Gandhi University [Previously Researcher at University of Bergen/ UKZN]


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Ardhakathanak: A Commoner’s Discovery Of The Mughal Milieu

Ills.: Victoria and Albert Museum, London Mughal painting from 1615-1618

The Ardhakathanak by Banarasidas is often considered the first autobiography in Hindi. Completed in the year 1641, the book provides us with a commoner’s understanding of the Mughal world. Often subjected an imperial bias, the book is a wildly neglected source of history. The study attempts to highlight various societal norms and ethics as evidenced by the Ardhakathanak. It undertakes a thematic division in understanding medieval Indian society, focusing on merchant practices, societal norms and Jain religion. Various aspects of a middle class man’s life are unraveled through the course of this study, including education, business decisions, wealth, family, domesticity, religious assimilation, rationality and self-discovery.
The study also embarks on an analysis of the Varanasiya sect of Jain religion briefly. Finally, emerging trends of individuality are highlighted. The study culminates with a brief account of how underutilized this primary source remains despite obvious merits to it.

Keywords: Banarasidas, Ardhkathanak, autobiography, merchant practices, religious pursuits, cultural history.

1. Introduction
The development of the literary genre of autobiography is a fairly ancient one, with St. Augustine’s autobiographical work ‘Confessions’ written in 399 CE. However, the understanding of the term autobiography to be a form of ‘self life writing’ is a recent phenomenon. The Oxford English Dictionary credits Robert Southy to be the progenitor of autobiography in the year 1809. However we find a reference to autobiography or self-biography being used by William Taylor in the Monthly Review of 1797.[i]The motivations for committing one’s life to writing are often religious in nature, to record stages in an individual’s life by which they lose their own identity to celebrate God’s divine power.[ii] Today, these works have become a prominent source of history and are extensively researched to arrive at a deeper understanding of the period it was written in. The earliest known biographical work that was produced in India is the Harshacharita written by Banabhatta in the 7 th century CE. However, truly autobiographical accounts only appear in India with the advent of Mughals. Among these, Baburnama was the earliest, and records Babur’s life between 1483 to 1530.[iii] The autobiographies written during this period were meant to preserve a person’s family history and good deeds for posterity. Thus, the representation of the subject is in light of the reader’s judgement. Therefore, we may conclude that these writings often lack a humanizing touch that can relate the subject to the reader.

One such piece in the ocean of Mughal writings is Banarasidas’s Ardhakathanak. It was first discovered by Nagari Pracharini Sabha and published by Dr. Mataprasad Gupta in 1943.[iv]
Banarasidas was a Jain merchant who lived during the Mughal Era in India. The title of his autobiography translates to ‘half a tale’. The book was completed in the winter of 1641 in the imperial capital of Agra, when Banarasi was 55 years of age. In Jain philosophy, a full life is considered to be of one hundred and ten years. Thus, the title of Banarasi’s book ‘Half a Tale.’ Although, the tale began to be the story of half a life, Banarasi met his demise only two years after the completion of his book, implying that the story covered his entire life. Written in the language of the Indian heartland, Braj Bhasha. Ardhakathanak is considered to be the first autobiography in Hindi.[v] Much to the contrary to other Mughal works, Banarasidas’s tone throughout the book is that of unabashed candor. Over the course of the book, Banarasi establishes a rapport with the reader and slowly but surely becomes a friend. By the time, we reach Banarasi’s close of life, a feeling of a long and fruitful companionship lingers on with the reader. We know Banarasi’s secrets, sorrows and soaring moments. Unlike other autobiographical works of the contemporary period the emphasis is not on making a perfect man devoid of any flaws, fit to govern the territory of India, but to lay bare before the reader the heart and soul of subject, good or bad.

It is evident from the content of the book and style of writing that Banarasi did not expect his autobiography to be read nearly 400 years later. In fact, there was an understanding that it would only be read by limited audience of friends and kinsmen.[vi] In Banarasi’s own words, the only reason he ventured into the business of recording his life, is ‘let me tell you all my story’.
A Jain from the noble Shrimal family,
That prince among men, that man called Banarasi,
He thought to himself, let me tell my story to all [vii]

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Définir l’islamophobie et ses manifestations politiques après les attentats de « Charlie Hebdo »

Ills.: UK Human Rights Blog


Cet article examine les difficultés rencontrées par les définitions contemporaines de l’islamophobie, notamment celle de l’influent rapport Runnymede, face aux réactions des responsables politiques européens aux attentats de janvier 2015 à Paris. L’application de la méthode d’analyse du discours politique (ADP) à ces réactions souligne leur ambiguïté eu égard aux définitions contemporaines de l’islamophobie, et justifie de les affiner.

Mots clés
Islamophobie, rapport Runnymede, attentats de Charlie Hebdo, Union européenne, populisme.

Cet article est la version traduite et condensée de: Bogacki Mariusz, de Ruiter Jan Jaap et Sèze Romain, Defining Islamophobia and its socio-political applications in the light of Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Rozenberg Quartely, 2019. URL:

L’étude des réactions de peur ou d’hostilité à l’égard de l’islam et des musulmans a connu un tournant avec la publication du rapport Islamophobia : a challenge for us all (Runnymede Trust, 1997 et 2016), par la Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, créée par le Runnymede Trust (groupe de réflexion indépendant). Cette étude pionnière propose d’identifier les causes et manifestations de l’islamophobie, définie comme « une hostilité non fondée envers l’islam », une « crainte ou [une] haine de l’islam, et donc […] la peur ou l’aversion des musulmans ou de la plupart d’entre eux » (Runnymede Trust, 1997, 1), et les « conséquences d’une telle hostilité en matière de discriminations […] et d’exclusion des activités politiques et sociales » (idem, 4). Les auteurs opèrent cependant une distinction fondamentale entre « la peur phobique de l’islam [qui] caractérise des attitudes fermées, et les désaccords et critiques légitimes [qui] caractérisent des attitudes ouvertes » (idem, 4). Cette distinction repose sur huit clivages dans la façon d’appréhender l’islam et les musulmans : uniformité/diversité, séparation/interaction, infériorité/différence, adversité/partenariat, manipulation/sincérité, rejet/considération de la critique de l’Occident, justification/réprobation des discriminations, justification/réprobation de l’islamophobie (idem : 5).

Bien que ce rapport demeure une référence, il a commencé à être vigoureusement critiqué dix ans après sa publication, en particulier pour cette distinction entre « attitudes fermées » et « ouvertes ». Cette binarité tend à résumer l’attitude envers l’islam et les musulmans à de l’islamophilie ou à de l’islamophobie, tout en objectivant par effet de miroir des représentations symétriquement opposées de musulmans « bons ou mauvais », quoiqu’il en soit essentialisés, (Allen, 2010, 76). « L’islamophobie ne peut être déterminée et définie par le “type” de musulmans qui en sont victimes. Elle doit aller plus loin et tenir compte de la reconnaissance d’un “caractère musulman” réel ou perçu », car cette approche réduit l’islamophobie à un « phénomène à la fois trop simpliste et largement superficiel, défini davantage par les caractéristiques des victimes que par la motivation et les intentions des auteurs » (idem, 79-80). Or, cette approche néglige ce faisant l’existence d’un angle mort : il existe en effet des préjugés qui ne procèdent pas d’attitudes « fermées », mais qui sont la conséquence de différences de cultures, de représentations du monde et de valeurs. Les musulmans qui ne se laissent pas réduire à cette binarité sont ainsi exclus de ce traitement de l’islamophobie, et peuvent de ce fait devenir les victimes oubliées du phénomène.

Les analyses de Chris Allen invitent à considérer de nouveaux aspects des manifestations de l’islamophobie, toujours plus ambigus et complexes après le 11 Septembre, comme l’illustrent les débats contemporains sur  le niqab, le multiculturalisme et les processus d’intégration religieuse et culturelle en Europe. À sa suite, divers chercheurs ont alors souligné les limites du rapport Runnymede, et proposé des alternatives. Deepa Kumar (2012, 2) et Ibrahim Kalin (2011, 11) se concentrent davantage sur la dimension racialisante du phénomène. Tahir Abbas (2011, 65), Nathan Lean et John Esposito (2012, 13) en analysent les aspects phobiques. Mohamed Nimer (2011, 78), Hedvig Ekerwald (2011) et Tahir Abbas (2011) s’intéressent aux caractéristiques culturelles et religieuses de l’islamophobie. Même Chris Allen (2010, 190) a tenté de proposer une définition alternative qui, si exhaustive soit-elle, présente une longueur et des incohérences telles qu’elle s’avère peu opérationnelle. Jocelyne Césari (2011) est sans doute celle qui acte le plus précisément ces difficultés. Elle souligne que le terme « islamophobie » est contestable parce qu’il est souvent « appliqué de manière imprécise à des phénomènes divers, allant de la xénophobie à l’antiterrorisme. Il regroupe toutes sortes de discours et d’actes en suggérant qu’ils émanent tous d’un même noyau idéologique, issu d’une peur irrationnelle (phobie) de l’islam » (idem, 21). C’est donc l’ambiguïté du terme permise par sa généralité qui rend impossible son application aux phénomènes divers qui peuvent naître des préjugés à l’égard de l’islam, mêlant préjugés et idéologies politiques variées.

Ces débats ont justifié une actualisation du rapport Runnymede, vingt ans après sa publication en 1997, dans l’objectif « d’améliorer la précision et la qualité des débats, ainsi que des politiques publiques pour lutter contre l’islamophobie » (Elahi, Khan, 2017, 1). Sur la base des réactions au rapport Runnymede, le groupe de réflexion en propose deux nouvelles définitions. La première, abrégée, définit l’islamophobie comme un « racisme antimusulman ». La seconde, plus détaillée, la définit comme « toute distinction, exclusion, restriction ou préférence à l’égard des musulmans (ou perçus comme tels) qui a pour objet ou pour effet d’annuler ou de compromettre la reconnaissance, la jouissance ou l’exercice, sur un pied d’égalité, des droits de l’Homme et des libertés fondamentales dans les domaines politique, économique, social, culturel ou tout autre domaine de la vie publique » (ibid.). Certains contributeurs à ce rapport ont également questionné la pertinence du terme « islamophobie ».

Après avoir discuté de notions de « racisme antimusulman », « préjugés antimusulmans » et « discriminations antimusulmans », Shenaz Bunglawala conclut à la nécessité de conserver le terme « islamophobie » pour deux raisons. Premièrement, il ressort des contenus médiatiques (britanniques) que le terme « islam » a plus souvent une charge péjorative que le terme « musulman », « plaçant ainsi l’appartenance perçue à un groupe au cœur de ces stéréotypes » (Bunglawala, 2017, 70). Deuxièmement, « adopter une terminologie centrée sur la victime (i.e. sur le « musulman » et non sur « l’islam ») risquerait de mener la lutte contre l’islamophobie à manquer sa cible et à oublier de prendre en considération le contexte favorable à l’uniformisation des représentations sur l’islam et les musulmans ». À revers des autres contributeurs, Shenaz Bunglawala argue en faveur de la pertinence de la dichotomie opposant attitudes « ouvertes » et « fermées », notamment au regard de la définition de l’islamophobie comme « racisme antimusulman » : « à une époque où les termes “islam”, “islamique”, “islamiste extrémiste” et “islamiste” sont fréquemment chargés de connotations péjoratives, est-il si étonnant que “l’islamophobie” conserve son pouvoir de nommer l’objet de la haine ? » (idem, 72).

Il ressort de ces débats qu’il est nécessaire de se départir des prénotions sur les victimes a priori pour examiner la pertinence des définitions de l’« islamophobie » au regard des manifestations qu’elles recouvrent dans un contexte donné. Sachant qu’elles ont crû tout en se complexifiant après le 11 Septembre, dans quelle mesure la résurgence du djihadisme depuis le milieu des années 2000 en Europe et les réactions qu’elle suscite interrogent-elles la pertinence de ce terme ? Afin d’apporter des éléments de réponse à cette question, seront examinées les réactions des responsables politiques européens à des attentats djihadistes qui les ont récemment tous interpelés : ceux de janvier 2015 à Paris. Ces évènements ont en effet concouru à renforcer les discours et pratiques discriminantes à l’endroit des musulmans dans l’Union européenne (Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, 2016), tout particulièrement dans le contexte des débats sur la radicalisation où les populations musulmanes font facilement figure d’ennemi intérieur (Baker-Beall et al., 2015 ; Ragazzi, 2016). Les réactions des responsables politiques à ces attentats sont en effet propres à faire apparaître les ambiguïtés liées à l’appréhension contemporaine de l’islamophobie, donc à inviter à réviser sa définition d’une part, et à réfléchir à ses implications sur les plans politique, législatif et social d’autre part.

Après avoir décrit la méthodologie appliquée pour construire le corpus des discours et les analyser (1), seront présentés les résultats de l’analyse du discours politique (2), avant de conclure par des propositions visant à cerner plus pertinemment les discours discriminatoires à l’endroit de l’islam et des musulmans.

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The Initiative For Fair Open Access Publishing In South Asian Studies ~ The 2020 Manifesto

The 2020 Manifesto for Fair Open Access Publishing in South Asian Studies

Profiteering and restricted access have led to a crisis in academic publishing. The Fair Open Access movement is best promoted by mobilizing individual disciplines. With this manifesto, we, an open group of scholars of classical and modern South Asian Studies, declare our support for Fair Open Access publishing.

§1  As is well known, the impact of publications is very often contingent on factors independent of the quality of the research or the competence of the authors. This includes that the research is published in a renowned journal (or other publication medium), by a renowned editor, or – and this has become a major problem – by a prestigious publishing house.

§2  Most of the prestigious publication media are nowadays controlled by a small number of profiteering international publishers. These companies often sell their products at unjustifiably high prices. Much of the editorial work, on the other hand, is outsourced to researchers (or their co-workers, assistants, employees, secretaries etc.). Because they depend on the prestige capitalized on by the publishers, they generally do this without payment. This situation has led to a real crisis in academic publishing.

§3  The Open Access (OA) movement is a reaction to this development: the advance of digitization has made it easy to make the results of research freely available on the internet. OA publishing offers free access to research, regardless of an individual’s financial means or affiliation with a subscribing institution. In the OA model, the individual reader does not pay (except, of course, in the case of printed works). Instead, the publication costs are borne by universities, libraries, scholarly societies, professional associations or other scholarly institutions. While in the wake of this development a number of institutions have founded in-house publishing projects, some commercial publishers have started to offer OA as well.

§4  In order to compensate for the revenue losses resulting from the free availability of OA publications, however, some profiteering publishers have begun to calculate special fees – imposed on the authors or their institutions. Most often, these fees are unjustifiably high and overcompensate for the production costs. As a growing number of academic institutions nowadays demand that the publications of their employees be OA, they are willing to pay these fees. They even regularly schedule a special budget to finance the publishers.

§5  Ultimately, however, it is the tax payers who have to pay, often several times: funding for research and researchers, library budgets for subscription fees, acquisition of overpriced books, processing costs charged by the publishers for OA publications etc. The only reason this system functions is that researchers and their institutions are dependent on the prestige that profiteering publishers have capitalized on for commercial benefit.

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