The Secularism and Secularity Unit explores a broad a set of questions associated with the secular, including its complex entanglements with religion and spirituality. This inquiry entails the study of political secularism and its role in the construction of religion, as well as the study of secular people, who can be described with a variety of labels including atheist, agnostic, humanist, and freethinker. It also includes an ongoing reappraisal of the historical transformations named by “secularization,” which signal the emergence of the modern and presuppose a break from the premodern. The group fosters new directions in secular studies by encouraging theoretically informed research that makes empirical contributions and engages with the subfield’s rapidly growing interdisciplinary literature.
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Secularism and Secularity Unit
Call for Proposals
We welcome all types of proposals–including but not limited to individual papers, prearranged papers panels, roundtables, keyword sessions, and other creative and experimental formats.
Itineraries of Secular Technocracy
We would like to explore how prominent business technocrats who prominently claim a secular identity are transforming, changing, colonizing, and dominating various political, online, bodily, topographical, and atmospheric spaces. From Peter Thiel’s rise to prominence as a GOP mega donor, to Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter, and the various tech billionaires racing to win the race to outer space - what do their ideologies, politics, and projects indicate about the state of contemporary secularism? What cultural contradictions do their projects respond to and/or manage? How do they map onto and/or refigure liberal and neoliberal capitalist projects of technocratic mastery? How should we historicize them?
To mark the 30th anniversary of Talal Asad’s Genealogies of Religion and the 20th anniversary of his Formations of the Secular, we invite scholars of religion to critically reflect on the impact of these influential works on the study of religion, to reengage with them in light of subsequent works addressing the secular or post-secular, or to delineate new lines of inquiry in studies of the secular.
Secularism and Nationalism in India
Over the last decades, the ethos of nationalism in India has transformed. Indian secularism has been viewed as a means of holding together the diverse religious and ethnic groups in India in a way that allows for diversity and pluralism in the public square. However, the rise of Hindu nationalisms under the leadership of Modi have changed the civil landscape dramatically. What is the relationship between these religious nationalisms and the distinct form of Indian secularism that developed after colonialism? Are there resources in such a secularism for combating the anti-democratic forces that threaten ethnic and religious minorities?
Reproduction, Regulation, and Public/Private Zones
To mark the 25th anniversary of Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner’s influential essay “Sex in Public,” we invite submissions that zones of public/private intimacy are being deconstructed, refigured, and challenged in the context of ongoing struggles for reproductive justice. A major historical thread within literature on secularism has been concerned with differentiations of “public” and “private” spheres of governance, as well as how these distinctions implicate projects of popular democracy and collective liberation. What happens to our theoretical frameworks, and the praxes that emerge from them, when they are contextualized withing ongoing attacks on sexual and reproductive autonomy? How should scholars of religion understand–and organize in response to–projects to control, surveil, and criminalize our reproductive lives? We encourage submissions that are anchored in intersectional feminist analysis and that bridge theory and practice. Creative and experimental session formats are also especially welcome.
Decolonizing the Secular
We are interested in papers or panels that develop critical frameworks for decolonizing the secular, whether in discourse, community, organizing, or history. What are ways that decolonial theory can provide critical views on conceptions of the secular or secular communities? What can decolonial approaches to religions in the Americas illuminate about the theory and manifestations of the secular in this hemisphere?
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Noreen Khawaja, Yale University1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Drake Konow, University of Texas, Austin1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
Elayne Oliphant, New York University1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Mona Oraby, Howard University1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Leigh E. Schmidt, Washington University, Saint Louis1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Eric Stephen, Harvard University1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028