In this innovative book, Jock Stirrat deconstructs the concept of 'fundamentalism'. He argues that a word first applied to the emergence of new movements in North American Protestantism, has now been co-opted as a form of shorthand for anything that we wish to construe as irrational, dangerous, or 'other'. Anything, that is, which we see as hostile to the rational, progressive, secular modernity of the West.
Stirrat examines a variety of different types of fundamentalism throughout the world. Looking at the variations of Islamic fundamentalisms in Palestine, Egypt and Afghanistan, Stirrat contrasts these transnational movements with the more nationalist and modernizing fundamentalisms associated with the countries of the Hindu and Buddhist world. He draws further comparisons with the emergence of a proselytizing Christian fundamentalism, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In conclusion, Stirrat argues that fundamentalism is, quite literally, a false category - the product of a very specific set of cultural categories which developed in post-Enlightenment Europe.
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Jock Stirrat is Senior Lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Sussex.
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