On February 21, 2012, five members of a Russian punk collective called Pussy Riot entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Singing “Mother of God, Chase Putin Out!,” and clad in brightly colored dresses, leggings, and balaclavas, the women danced, kneeled, and crossed themselves in front of the Cathedral’s high altar. Within less than a minute they were apprehended by security guards and removed from the sanctuary. On March 3rd, the day before the controversial re-election of Vladimir Putin, three members of the band were arrested. They were charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” And in August they were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.Read the rest of Pussy Riot’s punk prayer.
Colin Jager is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); the editor of a volume for Romantic Circles on "Secularism, Cosmopolitanism, and Romanticism." He is the recipient of an ACLS Fellowship and has been the co-director of the "Mind and Culture" working group at the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis. Recent essays include “Shelley After Atheism,” (Studies in Romanticism, Winter 2010); “Literary Enchantment and Literary Opposition from Hume to Scott,” Secular Faiths, ed. Vincent Lloyd and Elliot Ratzman (Cascade Books, 2010); “This Detail, This History: Charles Taylor’s Romanticism,” Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age, ed. Michael Warner, Jonathan VanAntwerpen, and Craig Calhoun (Harvard University Press, 2010); “The Demands of the Day,” Pedagogy, 10:1, (2010), and "After the Secular: The Subject of Romanticism," Public Culture 18.2 (2006).
Posts by Colin Jager:
It is hard not to be convinced by Akeel Bilgrami’s careful, patient, and generous exposition in “Secularism: Its Content and Context.” And indeed there is much with which I agree, especially the balance that Bilgrami strikes between a care for truth, on the one hand, and the idea of internal reasons, on the other. My remarks below are offered by way of exposition and clarification, but they are motivated by a spirit of interpretation: it seems to me that the paper operates in distinct tonal registers: a primary register of hope, a secondary register of tragedy, and an unacknowledged third register, which I will call prophetic.Read the rest of Hope, tragedy, and prophecy.
For once, practice actually lags behind theory. In their very interesting post on “Reconceiving the secular and the practice of the liberal arts,” Kahn, MacDonald, Oliver, and Speers find that the concerted academic revaluation of secularization and secularism has not trickled down to relatively elite private liberal arts colleges. In their account, these institutions remain committed, both explicitly and implicitly, to some version of a distinction between the secular and the religious: religious belief is fine, but it has no place in the classroom. This distinction, of course, is designed to protect the kinds of things that academic institutions hold dear: critical thought, intellectual freedom, tolerance, diversity. But, the authors wonder, might “uncritical assumptions about the secular” actually make these things harder, by “stripping some students and faculty of fundamental aspects of their identities—in particular, their religious identities”?Read the rest of Soul-making and careless steps.
What’s so bad about heteronomous thinking, anyway? Stathis Gourgouris has used the term in several posts here on The Immanent Frame. He says that Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age is an example of heteronomous thinking, and he also thinks that Saba Mahmood’s post on secularism and critique exemplifies it. Though Gourgouris doesn’t define “heteronomous thinking,” he seems to mean something like “thinking that depends at some crucial point on something outside itself.” He thinks this kind of thinking is pretty bad—though it’s less clear exactly why he thinks so. [...]Read the rest of Secular brooding, literary brooding.
Is critique secular? This is the question posed by Chris Nealon on this blog, and by the panel at Berkeley that he mentions in his post. For all its succinctness, this is a wonderful question. One reason that it’s such a good question, I think, is that it captures a certain background anxiety, one that won’t go away however we choose to answer the question. I speculate that this is because once we’ve felt the need to pose the question, we’ve acknowledged—however reluctantly—that there’s been some shift in what Charles Taylor calls “background conditions.”Read the rest of Closure at critique?.
Stories, at least good stories, are full of details that demand time and space in a narrative. They are worth it, though, because they make narratives more like real life: good stories are thick and messy rather than thin and sterile. They take surprising twists and turns, double back on themselves, try things out from another angle. [...]Read the rest of A story to tell.