Nonreligion and the Secular at the AAR 2012
Today the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new report about “‘Nones’ on the Rise,” by which they mean the still steady trend of religious disaffiliation in the United States. In conjunction with this PBS has also announced the three part miniseries, “None of the Above: The Rise of the Religiously Unaffiliated,” to start airing on October 12th. These are exciting announcements for those of us who conduct research in the burgeoning field of “nonreligion,” a field that has been growing immensely in the last few years. So this is a perfect opportunity to promote one aspect of that growth, the inroads nonreligion and the secular have been making into the academic study of religion, here in the United States.
In advance of this year’s American Academy of Religion annual meeting I compiled a conference guide of all the sessions and individual papers that deal with some aspect of “the secular” (nonreligion, irreligion, secularism, unbelief, etc.). A PDF of the guide can be accessed through the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network where future guides like it, also covering other large conferences, will be published from here on out. On this guide you’ll find a plethora of presentations on secularism, atheism, the “post-secular,” skepticism and so on, but there is one session in this mix that I would like to shamelessly promote above all the rest:
Exploratory Sessions (A18-232)
Per Smith, Boston University, Presiding
Theme: Irreligion, Secularism and Social Change
Sunday – 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Scholars of religion from a variety of disciplines are increasingly focusing their attention on the relationship between the religious and the secular. So what would a sustained discussion of “the secular” look like within the American Academy of Religion; and moreover, how would such a discussion be relevant to religious studies? This exploratory session seeks to provide modest answers to those questions by example. On the heels of the year of the protestor, the session explores how “the secular” is implicated in and affected by social transformations. How did social change make the secular possible? How have the demands of 20th century social movements shaped emergent forms of secularism? How do contemporary social movements provide fertile soil for secular theologies of resistance? And how are contemporary irreligious identities evolving within a social context that considers them deviant?
Daniel Silliman, University of Heidelberg
The Possibility of Secularity and the Material History of Fiction
Petra Klug, University of Leipzig
The Dynamics of Standardisation and Deviance using the Way U.S. Society deals with Atheists as an Example
Jordan Miller, Salve Regina University
Occupying Absence: Political Resistance and Secular Theology
Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Social Science Research Council
This particular session was put together by a few of us in the hope that we might carve out a more permanent space for discussions at the AAR of how “the secular” relates to the religious. While of course I think everyone ought to be there :-), those who are interested in furthering such a discussion specifically should make sure to join us at this session. Please also help us by spreading the word to colleagues you think might be interested and don’t forget to share the conference guide with them, which I will link again below. Thanks!