Geneviève Zubrzycki

Geneviève Zubrzycki is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan and Director of the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia. She is the author of the award-winningThe Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and Beheading the Saint: Nationalism, Religion and Secularism in Quebec (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and editor of National Matters: Nationalism, Culture and Materiality (forthcoming, Stanford University Press). She is now completing a third monograph on the current revival of Jewish communities in Poland and non-Jewish Poles’ interest in all things Jewish.

Posts by Geneviève Zubrzycki:

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Beheading the Saint: An introduction

Beheading the SaintBeheading the Saint is about the shifting relationship between nationalism, religion, and secularism in a society which was, until the late 1960s, exemplary of what Charles Taylor calls the “neo-Durkheimian” link between national identity and religion, wherein “the sense of belonging to the group and confession are fused and the moral issues of the group’s history tend to be coded in religious categories” (2007, 458). I examine how the relationship between French Canadianness and Catholicism was configured in the nineteenth century, how it was reconfigured as Québécois and secular in the 1960s, and why and how that transition informs recent debates over secularism in Québec. The secularization of national identity during the Quiet Revolution remains the key to understanding the role and place of religion in the public sphere in today’s Québec.

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Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Building secularity via religious revival and the “patrimonialization” of religion

Image via Flickr user Quinn DombrowskiWhile crude secularization theories predicting the end of religion have, in response to strong criticism, been refined to be less ideologically driven, more empirically accurate, and theoretically more robust, in recent years, “secularism,” “secularity,” and “the secular” have in effect supplanted secularization altogether. Secularity is a principle in which the religious and secular spheres are distinct. Religion, in a secular society, is one option among many other ideational systems, identities, affiliations, and activities. Secularism, by contrast, is a political project that aims at instituting secularity—at creating a secular society by socially upholding, culturally enforcing, and legally securing the separation of the religious and secular domains. Building on that literature, my recent works on Poland and Québec focus on the process of becoming secular—on the aesthetic, bodily, social, and legal practices of enacting secular identifications and affiliations. In this approach, secularity is never fully achieved but always in process, and often itself infiltrated by religion. My first point, then, is that in places where religion was (or still is) an ethnonational marker, secularism only signifies in relation to specific national(ist) projects, and as such can only be understood by social scientists when triangulated with religion and nationalism.

How does this play out in the cases I’ve worked on?

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Friday, May 14th, 2010

Crossing the sacred secular

In her essay on Salazar v. Buono, Winni Sullivan ponders why crosses present such a difficulty for the modern, secular nation-state, and she questions the degree to which religious myths and symbols have been supplanted by those of nationalism.  “Has secularization failed?” she asks.  Sullivan posits that religious symbols’ ability to connect the universal and the particular is at the root of their success.  Yet the ambiguity of both the Mojave cross and the commentaries made by various judges in evaluating the case point to the layered religious and secular meanings of the symbol at that particular site and in U.S. society more generally.  Perhaps a more expansive definition of civil religion can trace how the same symbol moves across “religious” and “secular” contexts, depending on the site, event, or time in which it is deployed.  In Poland, for example, the cross is and is not religious, although it is always sacred.  Indeed, this ambiguity, the ability to pivot in different directions, may help account for the cross’s social force.

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