The Kazanistan Papers: Reading the Muslim Question in the John Rawls Archives
By Murad Idris, University of Virginia
In The Law of Peoples (1999), John Rawls invented a fictional Muslim state that he called Kazanistan. The genealogy of Kazanistan I offer here is the first examination of Islam in Rawls’s papers. It contributes to a critical body of work about the Muslim Question and how Euro-American thinkers construct Islam. In recent years, theorists have turned to Rawls’s papers. The archival turn, however, has neglected the last phase of Rawls’s career and his book-length attempt at thinking internationally. I address this oversight and critically examine Rawls on Islam and global politics. I historicize Rawls’s turn to Islam, Kazanistan’s late introduction, and its transformations across drafts. By examining “the Kazanistan papers,” I highlight the dissonance between Rawls’s philosophical discourse on Islam and the contemporaneous geopolitics recorded in his archives. This disjuncture, I suggest, is characteristic of the logics of liberal deflection from empire and liberal “inflection” into the Muslim Question.