Mayanthi Fernando is the author of The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism (Duke University Press, 2014), which alternates between an analysis of Muslim French politics, ethics, and social life and the contradictions of French secularity (laïcité) that this new Muslim subjectivity reflects. It explores how Muslim French draw on both Islamic and secular-republican traditions as they create new modes of ethical and political engagement, reconfiguring those traditions to imagine a new France. It also examines how the institutions, political and legal practices, and dominant discourses that comprise French secularity govern--and profoundly disrupt--Muslim life. In so doing, it traces a series of long-standing tensions within laïcité, tensions not so much generated as precipitated by the presence of Muslim French. It argues, ultimately, that “the Muslim question” is actually a question about secularism.
Fernando's next project attends to the nexus of sex and religion in modern secularity, analyzing how the secular state’s project of regulating and transforming religious life is interwoven with its project of sexual normalization, i.e. the production of secular, sexually “normal” citizens. To that end, she is co-directing a Humanities Studio on Regulating Sex/Religion, funded by the University of California Humanities Research Institute.