Habermas and Religion—Craig Calhoun, Eduardo Mendieta, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, eds. (Polity, 2013)

There is no issue more urgent or more vexed than the place of religion in the public sphere. In this context, the work of Jürgen Habermas is of pivotal importance. The most influential theorist of the public sphere, a leading social and political theorist of recent decades, and today’s most prominent critical theorist, Habermas’s unique voice challenges both religious interlocutors and fellow critical theorists. In his recent work, Habermas does not abandon secularism, but rather explores its limits, arguing that religion can play a revitalizing role by bringing new sources of meaning and value into the contemporary public sphere. This volume gathers together a series of critical engagements with this recent work, including a reply from Habermas himself.

The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere—Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, eds. (Columbia University Press, 2011)

Each of the core essays in this small volume—by Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West, respectively—was originally presented as a talk at a symposium co-sponsored by the SSRC, the NYU Institute for Public Knowledge, and the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University. The book also includes edited transcripts of dialogues between Butler, Habermas, Taylor, and West, and concludes with an afterword by SSRC President Craig Calhoun.

Rethinking Religion and World Affairs—Timothy Samuel Shah, Alfred C. Stepan, and Monica Duffy Toft, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2012)

This volume seeks to remedy the problematic absence of religion from the study and conduct of international affairs, and to provide an invaluable resource for teaching and research on the topic. Written in language that balances accessibility with nuance, and drawing on the work of leading scholars and policy experts, this volume will be the first comprehensive and authoritative guide to the interconnections of religion and global politics that will be appropriate for both undergraduate- and graduate-level, as well as scholarly and professional, audiences.

Rethinking Secularism—Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2011)

In conjunction with the SSRC’s ongoing project on religion and international affairs, this volume aims to help reframe discussions of religion in the social sciences by drawing attention to the central issue of how “the secular” is constituted and understood, and how new understandings of these formations shape both analytic perspectives in the social sciences and various practical projects in politics and international affairs.

The Post-Secular in Question—Philip Gorski, David Kyuman Kim, John Torpey, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, eds. (NYU Press, 2012)

Are we living in a post-secular world? While many have assumed that we would simply grow more secular as society modernized, there is reason to believe that there has been a religious resurgence of global dimensions in recent decades. The Post-Secular in Question considers whether there has in fact been a significant and lasting increase in actual religious sentiment, adherence, and action in the world or whether its significance is in the eyes of the beholders—academics whose observations have been redirected toward patterns of religiosity that have been interpreted as indicators of a “post-secular society.”

Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age—Michael Warner, Jonathan VanAntwerpen, and Craig Calhoun, eds. (Harvard University Press, 2010)

Emerging from a 2008 conference organized by the SSRC and Yale University, Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age includes essays by a range of leading philosophers and social scientists, all of which engage critically and constructively with Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, resulting in a diverse set of reflections on the problematic of the secular.

See also: The Immanent Frame’s extended discussion of A Secular Age, which includes a series of responses to Varieties of Secularism.

What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a (not so) Secular Age—Courtney Bender and Ann Taves, eds. (Columbia University Press, 2012)

Following a conference co-sponsored by the SSRC and the School for Advanced Research aimed at exploring the variety of terms used by scholars and practitioners to demarcate the religious, the spiritual, and the secular, co-editors Courtney Bender and Ann Taves have collected a volume of diverse and distinctive essays that investigate a range of sites, both contemporary and historical, as well as domestic and global, highlighting the diversity of ways in which modern individuals and groups create value and meaning.



Frequencies (SSRC and Killing the Buddha, 2011-2012)

Produced in conjunction with the Social Science Research Council’s work on spirituality, political engagement, and public life and curated by Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern, Frequencies is an experiment in which a broad group of writers, scholars, and artists were each asked to produce a short essay on what comes to mind when they think of the word spirituality. The first one hundred responses will be released over one hundred days and will include essays on an extraordinary array of subjects, from John Cage to Beebe, Arkansas; Muhammad’s hair to The Dr. Oz Show. Accompanying the essays are artworks selected from over 350 images submitted in response to an open call.

The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere (SSRC, 2010)

This report surveys nearly 100 of the most influential blogs that contribute to an online discussion about religion in the public sphere and the academy. It places this religion blogosphere in the context of the blogosphere as a whole, maps out its contours, and presents the voices of some of the bloggers themselves. The purpose at hand is to foster a more self-reflective, collaborative, and mutually-aware religion blogosphere. Ideally, this report will spark discussion among religion bloggers that will take their work further, while also inviting new voices from outside existing networks to join in and take part.

The Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates (SSRC, 2007)

Recent studies of college students’ attitudes toward religion suggest that the academy is no longer the bastion of secularism it was once assumed to be. And these studies further reveal that the spiritual landscape on today’s college campuses is virtually unrecognizable from what we’ve seen in the past. Evangelicalism—often in the form of extra-denominational or parachurch campus groups—has eclipsed mainstream Protestantism. Catholicism and Judaism, too, are thriving, as are other faiths. To help make sense of these changes, the SSRC commissioned this series of essays from leading authorities in the field of religion and higher education.


Working papers

Mapping a Field: Why and How to Study Spirituality—Courtney Bender and Omar M. McRoberts (SSRC, October 2012)

What does “spirituality” mean in America today, and how can social scientists best investigate it? Bender and McRoberts identify new approaches to the study of American spirituality and emergent horizons for interdisciplinary scholarship. Rather than viewing spirituality in distinction or comparison to religion, they inquire into the processes through which contemporary uses of the categories religion and spirituality have taken on their current values, how they align with different types of political, cultural, and social action, and how they are articulated within public settings.

Secularism: Its Content and Context—Akeel Bilgrami (SSRC, October 2011)

Akeel Bilgrami questions the meaning of secularism and its justification and implementation. In dialogue with recent work by Charles Taylor, Bilgrami offers an alternative conceptualization of secularism, arguing that “secularism has its point and meaning, not in some decontextualized philosophical argument, but only in contexts that owe to specific historical trajectories, with specific political goals to be met.”

See also: The Immanent Frame’s ongoing discussion on Bilgrami’s conception of secularism.

The Emerging Strong Program in the Sociology of Religion—David Smilde and Matthew May (SSRC, February 2010)

Based on an extensive survey and rigorous quantitative analysis, David Smilde and Matthew May conclude that, over the last thirty years, sociologists have increasingly come to figure religion as an “independent variable having causal impact,” suggesting the emergence of a “strong program” in the sociology of religion. This dramatic transformation, they argue, calls for sustained critical reflection on the evolving state of the sub-discipline.

See also: The Immanent Frame’s extended discussion of the current state of affairs and emergent developments in the sociology of religion.

Religion and Knowledge in the Post-Secular Academy—John Schmalzbauer and Kathleen Mahoney (SSRC, February 2008)

Schmalzbauer and Mahoney render a socio-historical account of the “return of religion” in contemporary scholarship and higher education. Adapted from an article originally appearing in Contexts (Vol. 7, No. 1), this working paper, write the authors, “is a guided tour of the movement to reconnect religion and knowledge, a group portrait of the individuals and organizations behind the growing prominence of religious scholarship.”