Cécile Laborde

Cécile Laborde is Professor of Political Theory at University College London. She has published extensively in the areas of republicanism and toleration, theories of law and the state, and global justice. Her last book is Critical Republicanism. The Hijab Controversy in Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press 2008). She is the Director of UCL’s Religion and Political Theory Centre. She is currently writing a book for Harvard University Press, entitled Freedom of Religion without Religion.

Posts by Cécile Laborde:

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Three approaches to the study of religion

Is religion a valid category of scholarly inquiry? In this post, I briefly set out three distinct approaches to the study of religion: criticizing religion, upholding religion and disaggregating religion. Although I cannot make the full case here, I sketch a preliminary defense of the third approach, in the context of recent debates in political theory.

By “criticizing religion,” I mean not the critique of the beliefs or practices of self-described religious individuals or groups but rather the critique of the concept of religion as a scholarly category. According to a number of scholars (often influenced by Foucauldian or post-colonial thought), the category of religion is deeply implicated in the history and practice of western statism and imperialism. The only appropriate scholarly stance towards this object is one that is critical and skeptical.

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Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Protecting freedom of religion in the secular age

I want to start with a paradox. In the secular age, as Charles Taylor has amply illustrated, religious belief no longer structures our social imaginary. Instead, it has become one option, one possibility, among others: one of the ways in which we give meaning to our lives. The secular age, then, is characterised by the fact of pluralism—an irreducible pluralism of beliefs, values, commitments. Yet we secular moderns also give special primacy to freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is standardly presented as the archetypical liberal right. So the paradox is this: how (and why) do we protect freedom of religion in an age where religion is not special?

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