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28 / 07 / 2004
Bruce Lawrence: “All religions have the potential to be fundamentalists but not all are"

The plenary session for "Globalization, Identity and Diversity" analyzed cultural identity in a global world.

Professor of comparative history at Duke University, Bruce Lawrence, spoke about religious fundamentalism and religious identity from a comparative perspective.. Lawrence explained that fundamentalism "is an ideology and a vision of the world that cannot be labeled and identified." Identity “asks to be defined." Lawrence believes that "religious fundamentalism and religious identity contrast."

According to the Duke University professor, religious fundamentalism “has always been religious and collective, it has never been individual. There are no fundamentalists without fundamentalism." In regards to religious identity Lawrence said that “it is a wider range, I mean, identity can include religion but not only religion."

Lawrence added that religious fundamentalisms "establish conceptual and territorial borders, they mark off people within them as happy with possibilities of salvation." However, the possibility, the border between banality and fundamentalism if blurry, explained Lawrence. “All religions have the potential to be fundamentalist but all are," Lawrence pointed out.

He also said that, “in fundamentalism revelation is more important than reason." In regards to new technologies, Lawrence said that fundamentalists "accept them but refuse modernity that is the Enlightenment's project."

Lawrence believes that “we have to analyze what Islam is now and with the passage of time after the Bush and Bin Laden's terror." “We have to analyze Islam by removing ourselves from the controversy the media created after 9-11," said Lawrence.

The professor and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Nezar Alsayyad, spoke about identity and cultural domination in areas such as architecture. According to Alsayyad, for many developing countries “the look of the modern world is more important than its conveniences." Alsayyad presented slides showing the way that some third world countries copy architecture and urban planning from the First World. Thus, "the world's cities are becoming more and more homogenized."

Alsayyad discussed three phases of urban planning. First off he discussed traditional communities, who, prior to colonization, built settlements n relation to the natural surroundings. Secondly, he mentioned the colonial based on master-servant during which the colonists imposed their model of settlements. Thirdly, Alsayyad referred to post colonialism when "the colonizing countries imposed their way of building thereby clashing with peoples' cultures."

“In Third World countries many leaders saw that a way of imitating the nation state was by creating social housing, building skyscrapers in the middle of the desert," added Alsayyad.

According to the professor, “in order to understand the phenomena of urbanism we have to understand the problem of national identity." Alsayyad explained that, “some architects rejected the Western model and began an architectural style based on invented histories in order to create a national culture."

Furthermore, Alsayyad discussed certain behaviors: "What I call medieval modernity refers to the appropriation of First World practices by Third World countries." The director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies said that right now Western Europe "is experiencing pointing to the "other" and celebrating collectively."

According to Alsayyad, "respect for the past must include the legacy of urban colonialism." He said, “Globalization is a process that is converting the world into a economic model interconnected by capitalism, and this feeds on the construction of difference."

Alsayyad sees culture “as the paradigm that explains difference as a way of seeing the other." Alsayyad added that with time, "colonizing identity is more inclusive while native identity is more exclusive especially in relation to ethnic origin and religion."