“Partitioning the Sensible” at Park 51: Rancière, Islamophobia, and Common Politics



Abstract: This paper uses Jacques Rancière's conception of the partition of the sensible to interrogate the aesthetic regimes and spatial coordinates that animated public debate about Park 51—the Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. Understanding conflicts over mosques as potential struggles over the conditions of membership in a community, I suggest that many of the arguments in favor of Park 51 reinforced a partition of the sensible in which Islamophobia could resonate. At stake in these debates—which turned on different understandings of the distance that separated the proposed center from the WTC site—is the relationship between American Muslims and the narratives of trauma constructed around the September 11th attacks. I conclude by exploring the projects proposed by Park 51 organizers as potential sites of everyday micropolitics that could subtly “jolt” existing orders in the interest of reconfiguring the “common sense” of a community.