Portrait of Dr Luca Mavelli

Dr Luca Mavelli

Reader in Politics and International Relations


 Luca joined the University of Kent as a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations in September 2012 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014. Prior to this, Luca was a lecturer at the University of Surrey (2012), an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sussex (2011), and held teaching positions at the University of Queensland, Australia and the University of Canterbury, New Zealand (2010). He received his PhD in International Politics from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 2009.

His research focuses on biopolitics, neoliberalism, migration, secularism and religion in international politics. He is the author of Europe’s Encounter with Islam: The Secular and the Postsecular (Routledge 2012). He has co-edited, with Fabio Petito, The Postsecular in International Relations (2012 Special Issue of the Review of International Studies) and Towards a Postsecular International Politics: New Forms of Community, Identity, and Power (Palgrave, 2014), and, with Erin K. Wilson, The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Question (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017). His article have appeared in the European Journal of International RelationsInternational Studies QuarterlyReview of International StudiesSecurity DialogueMillenniumInternational PoliticsCritical Studies on TerrorismJournal of Religion in Europe, and Teaching in Higher Education.  

Research interests

 Luca’s research places itself within the growing body of literature on religion in international politics, with a particular focus on secularization in its historical and theoretical dimensions and how it shapes contemporary international relations. 

His research has explored: Europe’s secular tradition and its role in Europe’s conflictual encounter with Islam; the relation between security and secularization in International Relations; the securitization of Islam as a mechanism of reproduction of secular subjectivity; and the concept of postsecularity, with a particular focus on the concepts of postsecular resistance and its relevance in the context of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. His current research focuses on the relation between secularization and violence.

Methodologically, Luca is particularly interested in Michel Foucault’s view of critical research as a ‘history of the present’ grounded in the assumption that ‘not everything is bad, but everything is dangerous’.  




 Luca is interested in supervising PhD students on topics related to his research interests and more broadly in the field of religion and international politics.  




  • Mavelli, L. (2019). Neoliberalism as Religion: Sacralization of the Market and Post-Truth Politics. International Political Sociology [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ips/olz021.
    In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, depictions of neoliberalism as religion, system of belief, and “kind of faith” have multiplied in an attempt to explain neoliberalism’s remarkable power and resilience. These accounts, however, have remained largely impressionistic. In this article, I interrogate the meanings, implications, and value of conceptualizing neoliberalism as religion and advance two main claims. First, the power of neoliberalism stems from being a rationality of government that continuously evokes religious meanings and significations. Neoliberalism displaces and redraws the boundary between secular and religious, and appropriates an aura of sacredness while concealing itself behind an authoritative secular rational façade. Second, one of the outcomes of the neoliberal “sacralization” of the market has been the emergence of so-called “post-truth politics.” The latter, I contend, can be conceptualized as a neoliberal “truth market” of news production, circulation, and consumption that is governed simultaneously by logics of commodification and belief. This analysis aims to contribute to existing debates on secularization, on neoliberalism’s resilience, and on post-truth politics by showing their interconnectedness through a critical approach that focuses on the disarticulation, rearticulation, and deployment of the categories of the secular/profane and sacred/religious in neoliberal regimes of power and knowledge.
  • Mavelli, L. (2019). Resilience beyond neoliberalism? Mystique of complexity, financial crises, and the reproduction of neoliberal life. Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/21693293.2019.1605661.
    The burgeoning debate on resilience in international relations has seen the emergence of two polarized views: resilience as a manifestation of neoliberal governmentality and resilience as the expression of a post-neoliberal shift. This article explores whether a post-neoliberal resilience may be possible by reflecting upon the ontology of complexity as unknowability at the heart of this view. It argues that this approach neglects how the discourse of complexity as unknowability is a neoliberal technology of government that is instrumental to advance neoliberal forms of resilience. The second half of the article discusses this argument with reference to the 2008 financial crisis. It shows how a resilience-as-post-neoliberal approach resonates with those dominant narratives which have shrouded the causes and mechanics of the crisis in a mystique of complexity, thus encouraging forms of cognitive and political disengagement. The article concludes that by celebrating local knowledge at the expense of an understanding of global dynamics, post-neoliberal resilience offers an impoverished notion of resistance compliant with the dictates of the neoliberal order.
  • Mavelli, L. (2018). Citizenship for Sale and The Neoliberal Political Economy of Belonging. International Studies Quarterly [Online] 62:482-493. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqy004.
    Recent research considers the proliferation of citizenship-by-investment schemes primarily as a manifestation of the commodification of citizenship and of states succumbing to the logic of the market. I argue that these schemes exceed mere processes of commodification. They are part of a neoliberal political economy of belonging which prompts states to include and exclude migrants according to their endowment of human, financial, economic, and emotional capital. Hence, I show how the growing mobility opportunities for wealthy and talented migrants, the opening of humanitarian corridors for particularly vulnerable refugees, and the hardening of borders for “ordinary” refugees and undocumented migrants are manifestations of the same neoliberal rationality of government. Conceptually, I challenge mainstream understandings of neoliberalism as a process of commodification characterized by the “retreat of the state” and “domination of the market.” I approach neoliberalism as a process of economization which disseminates the model of the market to all spheres of human activity, even where money is not at stake. Neoliberal economization turns states and individuals into entrepreneurial actors that attempt to maximize their value in economic and financial, as well as moral and emotional terms. This argument advances existing scholarship on the neoliberalization of citizenship by showing how this process encompasses the emergence of distinctively neoliberal forms of belonging.
  • Mavelli, L. (2017). Governing populations through the humanitarian government of refugees: Biopolitical care and racism in the European refugee crisis. Review of International Studies [Online] 43:809-832. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0260210517000110.
    The notion of humanitarian government has been increasingly employed to describe the simultaneous and conflicting deployment of humanitarianism and security in the government of ‘precarious lives’ such as refugees. This article argues that humanitarian government should also be understood as the biopolitical government of host populations through the humanitarian government of refugees. In particular, it explores how the biopolitical governmentality of the UK decision to suspend search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean in 2014, and the British rejection and German welcoming of Syrian refugees primarily concern the biological and emotional care of the British and German populations. To this end, the article analyzes how dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of refugees have been informed by a biopolitical racism that redraws the boundary between ‘valuable’ (to be included) and ‘not valuable’ (to be excluded) lives according to the refugees’ capacity to enhance the biological and emotional well-being of host populations. This discussion aims to contribute to three interrelated fields of research – namely, humanitarian government, biopolitical governmentality, and responses to the European refugee crisis – by exploring how biopolitics has shaped the British and German responses to the crisis and how it encompasses more meanings and rationalities than currently recognized by existing scholarship on humanitarian government.
  • Mavelli, L. (2016). Governing the resilience of neoliberalism through biopolitics. European Journal of International Relations [Online]:1-24. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354066116676321.
    Neoliberalism is widely regarded as the main culprit for the 2007/8 global financial crisis. However, despite this abysmal failure, neoliberalism has not merely survived the crisis, but actually ‘thrived’. How is it possible to account for the resilience of the neoliberalism? Existing scholarship has answered this question either by focusing on the distinctive qualities of neoliberalism (such as adaptability, internal coherence, and capacity to incorporate dissent) or on the biopolitical capacity of neoliberalism to produce resilient subjects. This article adopts a different perspective. Drawing on and partially challenging the perspective of Michel Foucault, I argue that neoliberalism and biopolitics should be considered two complementary governmental rationalities, and that biopolitical rationalities contribute to governing the uncertainties and risks stemming from the neoliberalization of life. Biopolitics, in other words, plays a key role in governing the resilience of neoliberalism. Through this conceptual lens, the article explores how biopolitical rationalities of care have been deployed to govern the neoliberal crisis of the Greek sovereign debt which threatened the stability of the European banking system and, I shall argue, the neoliberal life, wealth and well-being of the European population. The article discusses how biopolitical racism is an essential component of the biopolitical governance of neoliberalism. Biopolitical racism displaces the sources of risk, dispossession, and inequality from the neoliberal regime to ‘inferior’ populations, whose lack of compliance with neoliberal dictates is converted into a threat to our neoliberal survival. This threat deserves punishment and authorizes further dynamics of neoliberal dispossession.
  • Mavelli, L. (2015). Governing Uncertainty in a Secular Age: Rationalities of Violence, Theodicy and Torture. Security Dialogue [Online] 47:117-132. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0967010615613489.
    This article explores the problem of governing uncertainty in a secular age by focusing on the theological notion of ‘theodicy’ as the underlying rationale for the use of torture in the so-called ‘war on terror’. With God’s departure from the world, the problem of uncertainty acquires new salience as human beings can no longer explain tragic events as part of a transcendent order and must find immanent causes for the ‘evils’ that surround them. Taking a cue from Max Weber, I discuss how the problem of theodicy – how to reconcile the existence of God with the presence of evil in the world – does not disappear in the secular age but is mobilized through a Foucauldian biopolitical logic. Secular theodicy governs uncertainty through the production of economies of knowledge that rationalize processes of criminalization and securitization of entire groups and justify the use of violence. This process is particularly striking when analysing the use of torture in the so-called ‘war on terror’. Through a comparison with medieval practices and focusing on the cases of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the article shows how secular torture is the product of a biopolitical theodicy aimed at governing uncertainty through the construction of the tortured as immanent evils who threaten our ‘good life’ and ‘deserve’ their treatment. Secular theodicy turns torture into an extreme form of governmentality of uncertainty in which the disciplining of conduct becomes the construction of subjectivities based on essentialist, stereotypical and racist – and for these very reasons, reassuring – economies of knowledge.
  • Mavelli, L. (2014). Widening participation, the instrumentalization of knowledge and the reproduction of inequality. Teaching in Higher Education [Online] 19:860-869. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2014.934352.
    According to Michel Foucault, modernity is predicated on the emergence of an instrumental idea of knowledge, which does not affect the constitution of the individual as a subject. This article aims to explore this thesis in the context of British Higher Education through a problematization of widening participation policies, and how they have been increasingly constructed in economic-instrumental terms. This approach suggests two main considerations within the framework of Foucault's argument. First, widening participation initiatives have contributed to reinforce an idea of knowledge as an instrumental set of notions external to the subject rather than a process of transformation of the self. Second, widening participation initiatives have been dominated by a neoliberal approach to the problem of inequality which has turned students into seemingly equal consumers of knowledge. However, it will be argued, this approach contributes to reproduce in different ways the inequality gap between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Toros, H. and Mavelli, L. (2014). Collective evil and individual pathology: The depoliticization of violence against Afghan civilians. International Politics [Online] 51:508-524. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/ip.2014.23.
    This article explores how the violence against Afghan civilians carried out by the Taliban and US ‘rogue’ soldiers has been accounted for as the product of, respectively, collective evil and individual pathology. These two seemingly contending explanations, it is argued, are part of the same strategy of depoliticization, which aims to provide support and legitimacy for the US-led war in Afghanistan. The article discusses how the genealogy of the discourse of collective evil surrounding the Taliban can be traced to an Orientalist political theodicy, which frames the Taliban as ‘children of a lesser God’ – that is, as fanatical puppets at the mercy of a violent God – and how the discourse of individual pathology surrounding the unsanctioned violence of US soldiers is instrumental to exempt military and civilian leadership from collusion and responsibility. The article challenges this latter narrative of individual blame by discussing how killing, torture and desecration of bodies are at the heart of warfare. Hence, it is concluded, the language of collective evil and individual pathology are part of the same strategy of depoliticization, which aims to silence political contestation and conceal the dehumanizing aspect of war, its structural production of violence, and the complex and dispersed nature of responsibility.
  • Toros, H. and Mavelli, L. (2013). Terrorism, Organised Crime and the Biopolitics of Violence. Critical Studies on Terrorism [Online] 6:73-91. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17539153.2013.765701.
    Despite the lack of consensus on a broadly accepted definition of terrorism, a vast majority of scholars agree that terrorist violence is intrinsically political in contrast to organised crime, which is viewed as mainly profit-driven. This article critically examines this widely accepted distinction and contends that it rests on a narrow definition of the “political”, which circumscribes political violence to organisations seeking to overthrow the government, change the political system or alter the boundaries of a state. Drawing on a Foucauldian biopolitical understanding of the political, we argue that the pursuit of economic goals for criminal organisations cannot be disentangled from practices of governmentality which, through the production of disciplinary and regulatory norms, contribute to the construction of distinctive subjectivities and political orders. In order to advance this argument, we focus on the case of the Neapolitan Camorra as a biopolitical actor and contend that its use of violence aimed at the creation of “docile bodies” able and willing to sustain its system and reproduce its order not only challenges the distinction between “political” terrorism and “profit-driven” organised crime, but also has implications for the study of terrorism. In particular, the analysis carried out in this article suggests the need to investigate biopolitical practices beyond a narrow focus on the state by exploring the largely neglected biopolitics of violence of non-state armed groups and examining whether this focus may open new paths for the transformation of conflicts marked by terrorist violence.
  • Mavelli, L. (2013). Between Normalisation and Exception: The Securitisation of Islam and the Construction of the Secular Subject. Millennium: Journal of International Studies [Online] 41:159-181. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0305829812463655.
    In recent political and scholarly debates, the notion of ‘securitisation of Islam’ has acquired increasing relevance, yet very little attempt has been made to investigate the theoretical implications of the securitisation of Muslim subjects carried out by secular regimes for thinking security. This article aims to partially fill this gap by exploring the securitisation of Muslim minorities in Western societies as a process of construction and reproduction of secular modes of subjectivity. To this end, the article outlines the contours of an approach to securitisation which draws on both the Copenhagen and the Paris schools of security studies, as well as on a gender/body perspective which focuses on the subjectivities that securitisation aims to produce. Following some illustrations of the securitisation of Islam in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7, an exploration of a Western notion of subjectivity revolving around the securitisation of Christianity and the construction of Islam as a threatening deviation from this historical trajectory, and an analysis of the securitisation of the headscarf and the burqa in France, the article concludes that securitisation rests on both logics of political normalisation and exception which warrant an exploration of the discursive sediments which make them possible
  • Mavelli, L. (2012). Postsecular resistance, the body, and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Review of International Studies [Online] 38:1057-1078. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0260210512000472.
    At the heart of the notion of the postsecular is an implied and largely under-theorised idea of resistance against the pathologies of modern secular formations. This is most notably exemplified by Jürgen Habermas's highly influential approach which argues that these pathologies can be resisted through a cooperative cognitive effort of secular and religious consciousnesses. This article contends that this understanding overlooks more embodied forms of resistance to the effect that it curtails our capacity to conceptualise postsecular resistance in international relations. Following a contextualisation of Habermas's approach in the broader Kantian tradition to which it belongs, the article develops a contending Foucauldian reading of the body as a locus of resistance and uses this framework to analyse some of the events leading to the 2011 Egyptian revolution. The focus is on the publication of images and videos of police abuses by Egyptian bloggers and independent media as a practice of resistance to the widespread and systematic use of torture. The emotional response to these images, it will be argued, contributed to unite Egyptians despite longstanding fractures, most notably that between secularists and Islamists, thus turning the body from an ‘inscribed surface of events’ into a postsecular locus of resistance. The article concludes by highlighting the main implications of this analysis for future research agendas on the postsecular in international relations.
  • Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. (2012). The postsecular in international relations: an overview. Review of International Studies [Online] 38:931-942. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S026021051200040X.
    Over the last few years the notion of postsecularity has gained increasing relevance in the social sciences. This term has been employed in two interconnected but different ways. First, in a more descriptive fashion, it has been used to explain the return or resilience of religious traditions in modern life. This has resulted, on the one hand, in the attempt to develop conceptual frameworks that could account for this unexpected feature of modernity beyond the paradigmatic assumptions of the secularisation theory; and, on the other hand, in a plea for new models of politics able to include religious views. In a second and possibly more innovative meaning, the postsecular has emerged as a form of radical theorizing and critique prompted by the idea that values such as democracy, freedom, equality, inclusion and justice may not necessarily be best pursued within an exclusively immanent secular framework. Quite the opposite, the secular may well be a potential site of isolation, domination, violence and exclusion.
  • Mavelli, L. (2012). Security and secularization in International Relations. European Journal of International Relations [Online] 18:177-199. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354066110396592.
    What is the relationship between security and secularization in International Relations? The widespread acceptance of secularism as the paradigmatic framework that underlies the study of world politics has left this question largely unexplored. Yet, the recent challenges to the secularization thesis and the growing attention that is being devoted to questions of religion and secularism in international politics increasingly suggest the importance of undertaking this investigation. This article takes up this task in three main steps. First, it will explore how the limits of a widely accepted but nonetheless problematic account of the emergence of the modern Westphalian nation-state contribute to a dominant underlying assumption in security studies that implicitly associates security with secularization. Second, it will articulate a competing genealogy of security and secularization which suggests that rather than solving the problem of religious insecurity, secularization makes the question of fear and the politics of exceptionalism central to the state-centric project of modernity and its related vision of security. Finally, the article will examine how these elements inform and, most of all, constrain attempts to move beyond the traditional state-centric framework of security. The focus will be on three such attempts: human security, the securitization theory and Ken Booth’s critical theory of security.
  • Mavelli, L. (2008). Appropriation and Redemption in Contemporary Western Discourses on Islam in Europe. St Antony’s International Review [Online] 3:74-93. Available at: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/stair/stair/2008/00000003/00000002/art00008.
    The aim of this paper is to sketch a line of interpretation of certain political-philosophical discourses on 'Islam in Europe' through the interrelated concepts of appropriation and redemption. Muslim presence in Europe is generally perceived as 'problematic.' A specific vocabulary, including terms like 'liberal dilemma,' 'defense of freedom,' 'Muslim exceptionalism,' and 'specification of acceptable boundaries,' characterizes an academic production which has been particularly stimulated by the emergence of 'crises' (the 'Rushdie Affair,' l’affaire du foulard, the French ban on headscarves in schools, and the publication of the 'Danish cartoons,' just to mention those that have hit the front pages of newspapers worldwide). Albeit in different ways, this scholarship has displayed a certain agreement on the existence of a distinctive European tradition of liberal-secular humanism and on the idea that cultural and religious pluralism should be assessed against the necessity of preserving this tradition. The scope of this essay is to articulate a reflection on the assumptions (and ensuing implications) of this interpretive framework and thus contribute to fill a gap in the burgeoning and variegated literature on Islam in Europe
  • Mavelli, L. (2008). Political Church, Procedural Europe and the Creation of the Islamic Other. Journal of Religion in Europe [Online] 1:273-301. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/187489208X336542.
    Taking the cue from the controversial speech of Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Re-gensburg in 2006, this paper explores the connection between the apparently divergent posi-tions taken by the Catholic Church and the European secular establishment on the question of European identity and Islam. The argument is advanced that the proceduralism of the Europe-an secular establishment contributes to breed its nemesis, a conservative politicised church, but also converges with it in identifying Islam as ‘the Other.’ It is thus asked whether a criti-cal valorisation of Europe’s emotional attachments may not actually strengthen its capacity to embrace the ‘difference’ represented by Islam.


  • Mavelli, L. (2012). Europe’s Encounter With Islam: The Secular and the Postsecular. [Online]. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415693295/.
    In the last few years, the Muslim presence in Europe has been increasingly perceived as ‘problematic’. Events such as the French ban on headscarves in public schools, the publication of the so-called ‘Danish cartoons’, and the speech of Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg have hit the front pages of newspapers the world over, and prompted a number of scholarly debates on Muslims’ capacity to comply with the seemingly neutral and pluralistic rules of European secularity.
    Luca Mavelli argues that this perspective has prevented an in-depth reflection on the limits of Europe’s secular tradition and its role in Europe’s conflictual encounter with Islam. Through an original reading of Michel Foucault’s spiritual notion of knowledge and an engagement with key thinkers, from Thomas Aquinas to Jurgën Habermas, Mavelli articulates a contending genealogy of European secularity. While not denying the latter’s achievements in terms of pluralism and autonomy, he suggests that Europe’s secular tradition has also contributed to forms of isolation, which translate into Europe’s incapacity to perceive its encounter with Islam as an opportunity rather than a threat.
    Drawing on this theoretical perspective, Mavelli offers a contending account of some of the most important recent controversies surrounding Islam in Europe and investigates the ‘postsecular’ as a normative model to engage with the tensions at the heart of European secularity. Finally, he advances the possibility of a Europe willing to reconsider its established secular narratives which may identify in the encounter with Islam an opportunity to flourish and cultivate its democratic qualities and postnational commitments.

Book section

  • Wilson, E. and Mavelli, L. (2017). Religion and the Global Migration Crisis: Secularism, Security and Solidarity in Question. In: Mavelli, L. and Wilson, E. K. eds. The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Question. London: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 1-22.
  • Wilson, E. and Mavelli, L. (2016). Taking Responsibility: Sociodicy, Solidarity, and Religious-Sensitive Policymaking in the Global Politics of Migration. In: Saunders, J. B., Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. and Snyder, S. eds. Intersections of Religion and Migration: Issues at the Global Crossroads. New York: Palgrave, pp. 261-284. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58629-2_11.
    Wilson and Mavelli argue that a deeply embedded yet under-theorized relationship between the politics of migration and religion lies at the heart of contemporary migration debates. While processes of secularization emphasize the bounded nature of political communities, many of the more progressive religious outlooks which have come to (re)populate the public sphere advocate an ethos of justice and solidarity that transcends national boundaries. This contributes to a contestation over the ways in which responsibility is assigned, conceptualized, assumed, and abjured in contemporary migration politics. Adopting a postsecular lens, Wilson and Mavelli explore the dynamics of this contestation in relation to numerous contemporary examples, including responses to the Mediterranean migration crisis, UNHCR engagement with faith-based actors, and pro-refugee protest movements in Australia.
  • Mavelli, L. (2016). The Governmentality of Terrorism: Uncertainty, Risk Management, and Surveillance. In: Jackson, R. ed. Routledge Handbook of Critical Terrorism Studies. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 237-247. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/9780415743761.
    This chapter analyses terrorism as a form of biopolitical governmentality made possible by the crisis of uncertainty of the modern condition. It argues that precautionary risk management has been a key tool for the implementation of governmental practices and explores surveillance as a specific instantiation of the logic of risk management. At the heart of this development, it is suggested, lies an underlying tension between universalism and particularism whereby, although we may be all equal in the face of the terrorist threat, we are not equal when it comes to counter-terrorism measures. Precautionary risk management rests on practices of identification, measurement and attribution of risk to different social, ethnic and religious groups that ultimately (re)produce hierarchies, exclusion, inequalities, and logics of class. The multiplication, fragmentation, and heterogeneous reproduction of sovereign power that comes with this process performs a disciplinary function geared towards the production of docile subjects compliant with the neoliberal biopolitical order, and the parallel production of ‘threatening others’ which justifies the adoption of exceptional measures and universal practices of surveillance.
  • Mavelli, L. and Wilson, E. (2016). Postsecularism and International Relations. In: Haynes, J. ed. Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 251-269.
  • Mavelli, L. (2015). Europe’s identity crisis, Islam in Europe, and the crisis of European secularity. In: Tottoli, R. ed. Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 185-197. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/products/9780415691321.
    This chapter explores the connection between the crisis of European identity and the growing presence of Muslims in Europe and contends that this crisis may be conceptualised as one of secularity. In order to advance this argument, the chapter first provides a set of empirical illustrations of the relationship between Europe’s identity crisis and Islam in Europe. It then focuses on an often heard and seemingly contradictory discourse which celebrates Islamic spiritual vigour as opposed to Europe’s moral decay and at the same time condemns the Islamic incapacity to synthesize reason and faith, thus placing Islam outside the civilizational boundaries of Europe. Through the articulation of a genealogy that runs through Descartes, Kant, Durkheim and Weber, the chapter suggests that this discourse is symptomatic of the crisis of a secular identity that, struggling to establish itself as a self-sufficient foundation of knowledge and morality, projects its contradictions onto the Muslim ‘Other’. The chapter concludes by discussing the possibility of moving beyond the fragilities and limits of Europe’s secular tradition by embracing a postsecular language of identity and solidarity that, cutting across the categories of the secular and the religious, may help us conceive new forms of encounter between Europe and its Muslim population.
  • Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. (2014). Towards a Postsecular International Politics. In: Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. eds. Towards a Postsecular International Politics: New Forms of Community, Identity, and Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-28. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Postsecular-International-Politics-Religion-Relations/dp/1137341777/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409675000&sr=8-1&keywords=towards+a+postsecular+international+politics.
    The thriving debate on religion in international politics has recently seen the emergence of the postsecular as a new object of study. This is an attempt to move beyond the secular/religious divide, a foundational dimension of Western modernity, to account for a momentous transformation of the international system which affects existing forms of political community, identity, and power. At the heart of this transformation is the progressive blurring of the boundary between the secular and the religious; the clash of secular and postsecular formations; the emergence of new forms of political community characterized by a reconsideration of traditional secular and religious sources of authority, legitimacy, and power; and the emergence of new identities which challenge existing secular and religious formations by drawing on postsecular imaginaries.
  • Mavelli, L. (2014). Secularism, Postsecularism, and States of Exception in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and Its Aftermath. In: Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. eds. Towards a Postsecular International Politics: New Forms of Community, Identity, and Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 171-198. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Postsecular-International-Politics-Religion-Relations/dp/1137341777/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409675000&sr=8-1&keywords=towards+a+postsecular+international+politics.
    This chapter analyses the power of and resistance to secularism before, during and after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and advances three main arguments. First, the long-standing polarization between secularists and Islamists in Egypt should be accounted for as an expression of the state’s sovereign power to define the space and roles that religion may have in society in order to divide the opposition among competing secularist and Islamist currents. Second, the 2011 revolution was characterized by postsecular forms of opposition to the regime which saw the convergence of secularist and Islamist forces in the name of a common idea of justice. Third the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution has seen the restoration of the power of secularism and thus an exacerbation of the secularist/Islamist polarization.
  • Mavelli, L. (2008). Immanence and Transcendence in the Political Thought of William Connolly. In: Finlayson, A. ed. Democracy and Pluralism The Political Thought of William E. Connolly. London: Routledge, pp. 144-164. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415473507/.

Edited book

  • Mavelli, L. (2016). The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Question. Mavelli, L. and Wilson, E. K. eds. London, UK: Rowman and Littlefield.
    The current refugee crisis sweeping Europe, and much of the world, closely intersects with largely neglected questions of religion. Moving beyond discussions of religious differences, what can we learn about the interaction between religion and migration? Do faith-based organisations play a role within the refugee regime? How do religious traditions and perspectives challenge and inform current practices and policies towards refugees? This volume gathers together expertise from academics and practitioners, as well as migrant voices, in order to investigate these interconnections. It shows that reconsidering our understanding and approaches to both could generate creative alternative responses to the growing global migration crisis. Beginning with a discussion of the secular/religious divide - and how it shapes dominant policy practices and counter approaches to displacement and migration - the book then goes on to explore and deconstruct the dominant discourse of the Muslim refugee as a threat to the secular/Christian West. The discussion continues with an exploration of Christian and Islamic traditions of hospitality, showing how they challenge current practices of securitization of migration, and concludes with an investigation of the largely unexplored relation between gender, religion and migration. Bringing together leading and emerging voices from across academia and practice, in the fields of International Relations, migration studies, philosophy, religious studies and gender studies, this volume offers a unique take on one of the most pressing global problems of our time.
  • Mavelli, L. (2014). Towards a Postsecular International Politics: New Forms of Community, Identity, and Power. [Online]. Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Postsecular-International-Politics-Religion-Relations/dp/1137341777/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409675000&sr=8-1&keywords=towards+a+postsecular+international+politics.
    This volume explores the postsecular as a momentous transformation of the international system which affects existing forms of political community, identity, and power. It encompasses a set of theoretical investigations of the postsecular, an analysis of four case studies (Europe, Russia, the United States, and Egypt), and an examination of the role and strategies of transnational actors in a postsecular world. Written by world-renowned and emerging leading scholars, these essays offer a lively engagement with the formidable challenges of the postsecular transformation of international politics.

Edited journal

  • Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. (2012). The Postsecular in International Relations (2012 Special issue of the Review of International Studies) Mavelli, L. and Petito, F. eds. [Review of International Studies]. Available at: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?jid=RIS&volumeId=38&seriesId=0&issueId=05.


  • Wilson, E. and Mavelli, L. (2014). Faith and the Asylum Crisis: The Role of Religion in Responding to Displacement (Policy Paper). British Council / Sustainable Society.
    This briefing paper is a distillation of the main points and recommendations that arose during two two-day workshops held in Washington DC in May 2014 and Brussels in June 2014. The workshops,
    funded by the British Council USA Bridging Voices program, assembled scholars, policymakers and practitioners focused on issues of asylum, refuge and protection in contemporary global politics and the current and potential future roles of faith and faith actors across the US and Europe.


  • Mavelli, L. and Norton, A. (2015). Luca Mavelli and Anne Norton review each other’s books on discourses on islam, the west and post-secularism. European Political Science [Online] 14:196-202. Available at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1057/eps.2015.11.
    Most of the literature on the idea of a clash of civilization between the West and Islam has either rejected or embraced this thesis by focusing on the alleged compatibility or incompatibility of Islam with Western liberal and secular values. In On the Muslim Question, Anne Norton advances a more original perspective: The controversies surrounding Islam in the West and the idea of a clash of civilization are not a product of Islam’s democratic deficit, problematic idea of equality or lack of secularity, but the expression of tensions, contradictions and anxieties at the core of Western civilization.
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