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We Have Never Been Secular

posted by Ruth Braunstein

If you cannot attend the religion and media conference being hosted by the Columbia University Religion Graduate Students Association this weekend, fear not. On April 9, you can attend the New School for Social Research’s 2010 Sociology Graduate Student Conference, “We Have Never Been Secular: Re-Thinking the Sacred in the Modern World.” Details are below:

Friday, April 9th 2010
9:00-17:30
6 East 16th Street
Wolf Conference Room
9th Floor, Rooms 906-913
New York City

Two of the most salient signs of Western modernity, secularism and the rationalization of everyday life, are being increasingly called into question. The permanence of religious forms and practices in the political, social and cultural spheres, as well as the theological underpinnings of our conceptualizations of the state and society, have produced a rich body of debate that seeks to qualify secularism, illuminate its limits and recognize the fluid relation between the secular and the theological, between rationalization and ritual, between the mundane and the sacred.

The aim of this one-day conference is to contribute to this ongoing academic discussion by illuminating the persistence, permanence and centrality of the sacred and challenge the construction of the sacred as a deviation from modern, rational and secular life. For example, rather than asking why religiosity has disrupted the progression of secularism, we would like to explore continuities between the sacred and the political, including civic forms of religion, transcendental forms of political engagement as well as acts of resistance that are infused with the logic of sacrifice and religious beliefs. In so doing, we seek to contest those accounts that assume that there was a clear rupture between the secular and the sacred.

Based on a multi-disciplinary approach that seeks to deliver grounded and theoretical reflections, the different panels of the conference, “We Have Never Been Secular: Thinking the Sacred in the Modern World”, will analyze different historical trajectories and epistemological disruptions all in regards to the conceptualization of the sacred. Furthermore, concrete examples of social and political mobilizations informed by religious beliefs or practices will be presented and discussed. Finally, it will bring together scholars from different disciplinary fields to reflect on the general topic of the conference in an effort to think critically on the relation, tensions and particularities of the sacred and the secular as fields where politics, knowledge, and the social come into being.

This conference is free and open to the public. For more information or questions, e-mail us at: sacredconference@gmail.com

Find the full conference program and more information here.

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