Prior to this year’s AAR annual meeting in Chicago I wrote about an effort to carve out a space within the AAR that attends more fully to secularisms, secularities and non-religion. We held a exploratory session on “Irreligion, Secularism and Social Change” in furtherance of that cause, and it was a smashing success. Over 90 people were in attendance to see three interesting and provocative papers by Daniel Silliman, Petra Klug and Jordan Miller that covered a variety of approaches to the secular and social change. Jonathan van Antwerpen of the Social Sciences Research Council also did a marvelous job tying them together despite their divergence. Now we are onto next steps, which means a proposal for the actual group. The full proposal text can be found at the Immanent Frame, and if you skip on over there you’ll see that we are also requesting letters of support. If you are a member of the AAR and you like what you see, please do send us a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters have to be received by the end of the day tomorrow.
Secularism and Secularity
Proposal for a new program unit of the American Academy of Religion
Per Smith (Boston University)
Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Social Science Research Council)
Steering Committee Members:
Joseph Blankholm (Columbia University)
Mayanthi Fernando (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Jonathon Kahn (Vassar College)
Kathryn Lofton (Yale University)
Robert Yelle (University of Memphis)
The shifting boundaries of religion in late modernity have increasingly pointed up the problematic relationship between “the religious” and “the secular.” In the wake of a contested and frequently maligned “secularization thesis,” a new set of questions have appeared that draw our scholarly attention to secularism, secularity, and the secular—questions around the changing role of religion in law, politics, and public life, around the metamorphosis of personal identities, practices, and affiliations (figured as religious, spiritual, secular, or otherwise), and around a broader set of historical transformations that have conditioned and been imbricated in these and other changes.
In the course of pursuing answers to such questions contemporary scholars are confronted with, and challenged by, the ways in which diverse modes of secularism and multiple forms of secular practice are entangled with—and variously seek to disentangle themselves from—religion and the religious. These entanglements can take shape as contestations or conversions, appropriations or accommodations, while also pointing toward the different ways in which the religious and the secular depend upon and indeed constitute one another. Exploring the interplay of “religious” and “secular” identities, communities, and institutions, for example, is an important part of more fully understanding a widely noted rise in religious disaffiliation within the United States…
Do read the entire proposal and if you support it remember to send your letter to email@example.com.