Vol. 36 No. 4 (2021)
By Sarah Bakker Kellogg
Since 9/11, political debate over immigration in Europe is often posed as a question of Islam’s distance from Europe’s putatively Judeo-Christian ethical tradition—and therefore a matter of neither explicitly racial nor religious animus. This article interrogates this claim from the perspective of Syriac Orthodox Christians living in the Netherlands, who, despite their conspicuous Christianity, are frequently told by both the state and their neighbors that their ethnoreligious difference is not meaningfully different from Muslim difference. Drawing on fieldwork in the Dutch subprovince of Twente, I analyze both everyday and bureaucratic moments of misrecognition as sites of racialization that illuminate a Dutch racial-religious imagination rooted in post-Calvinist theological anxieties over social reproduction. By showing how minoritized bodies are read as icons of invisible reproductive relations, I deploy the Orthodox Christian doctrine of the holy icon to theorize secular modern racialization as a process of ethical differentiation, classification, and control over reproductive power.
Europe; race; ethics; semiotics; immigration; Christianity; Islamophobia