In Comparing the incommensurate, Vincent Pecora builds on David Buckley’s recent inquiry about methods of comparison and the challenges that arise when these methods are inherently rooted in analyst “ethos.”
Posts Tagged ‘Rethinking secularism’
As I transition my SSRC research from Senegal to the Philippines, I am constantly ruminating over the question: why compare these two places? Developing some coherent answer to this inquiry is a crucial task for helping me build theory on the idea of After Secularization.
Since our previous dispatch from the IWM Summer School in Cortona, we have settled back into our real lives in London, New York, and Washington, DC, respectively. But the discussions inspired by the summer school have continued—over email and group chats—and we wanted to share with you one recent exchange that followed from our course on “Religion and Multiple Modernities,” taught by Dipesh Chakrabarty, Sudipta Kaviraj, and Charles Taylor. The course drew on examples from European and Indian history that prompted us to think about the relation between modernity (a concept that itself was called into question) and secularism.
In the newest issue of Theory, Culture & Society, British sociologist Gregor McLennan takes a closer look at the “postsecular turn” in contemporary social theory. He argues that this “turn”—if indeed it amounts to one—finds expression in three broad trends: genealogical critique, neo-vitalism, and postcolonial antihistoricism. He mainly discusses these trends with regard to the work of three scholars, each representing one of the trends: Talal Asad, William Connolly, and Dipesh Chakrabarty (though Rosi Braidotti and Judith Butler are also mentioned, as representatives of neo-vitalism and antihistoricism, respectively). While these theoretical developments go some way in critiquing the problematic linkages between secular epistemology and political arrangements, McLennan argues that they are each riddled with inconsistencies. Rather than staking out an antisecular position, these perspectives remain within secularism, contributing to the “secularization of secularism.”
Religion and the sex scandal are still closely linked, though the targets of public outrage have morphed: it is often religious authorities and bearers of traditional morality whose sexual desires and actions are publicized and condemned. With so many religious institutions and their authorities rocked by sex scandals in a litany of abuse and victimhood, it behooves us to ask what, precisely, is being exposed and denounced, and, conversely, what is being protected and perhaps even obscured. What aspects of “religion” are under fire in these scandals? What role does “spirituality” play in this discursive reconfiguration of sexuality and religion?
There is something very liberating about Jonathan Sheehan’s call for moving orthogonally into the mundanities of everyday research, even though a part of me is skeptical of ever proceeding without at least tacitly presupposing the very ideological commitments he suggests we shy away from. As my former graduate colleague, Sean Silver, notes in a wonderful essay “Locke’s Pineapple and the History of Taste“: “The problem with empiricism, the argument goes, is that it doesn’t know that it is an ideology.” Be that as it may, perhaps this willing suspension of disbelief (to dip into my literary critic’s toolkit) is just the type of maneuver that can gain some traction in our attempt to think critique immanently.
Following up on a recent interview with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on a special edition of the Charlie Rose Show, a Syrian embassy official contributed an op-ed piece in the Christian Science Monitor earlier this week extolling Syrian secularism as a model for the Middle East region. Buttressing the Syrian variety of secularism is the best defense against extremism in the region, the diplomat concludes.
In reflecting on the Notes from the Field contributions surrounding the topic of secularization, Jonathan Sheehan, in his recent post “Something more mundane,” reiterates his hope for the creation of “something else ‘after secularization’”. . . . In line with this, Sheehan suggests that a concept of secularization must not be taken as a “foundational first principal,” but rather that the uses of such an idea—if it does in deed prove to be useful—will manifest only as a result of dedicated research.
At last November’s AAR meeting in Montreal, a plenary session presided over by AAR President and SSRC Working Group Chair Mark Juergensmeyer featured a discussion between Craig Calhoun, José Casanova, Saba Mahmood, and Charles Taylor on the need to rethink the category of ‘secularism’ given religion’s enduring significance in the modern world. Watch the video