Refractions of the secular: localisations of emancipation in the contemporary world

Susanne Brandtstädter (University of Cologne)
Lorenzo Cañás Bottos (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
Wills M
Start time:
20 September, 2006 at 17:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel explores the religious and 'cultural' challenge to secularism's monopoly on human emancipation. It will ask how non-secular discourses and practices have become refractions of the secular promise of a right to politics and responsive justice.

Long abstract:

This panel will focus on the refractions of the secular promise of subjectification and of a universal right to politics under a global formation of secularism. It will ask how practices and discourses, originally defined as outside of and opposed to modernity, have come to contest secularism's monopoly on emancipation of the subject, through the appropriation of some of its core ideas and resources. <br/>In the contemporary world the appeal of secularism as a project of emancipation seems to have exhausted itself. At the very moment that secularism attained universal reality via the global triumph of capitalism, its narrative of universal emancipation was being challenged from spaces it defines as beyond itself: resistive spaces of non-domesticated culture and public uncivil religion. The refusal to accept the secular separation of domains has increasingly relativised secularism's universalist narrative. Anthropologists, too, have critiqued secular universalism as a myth and highlighted its repressive and Western nature. What seems obscured behind these oppositions, however, is how the right to politics and self-realisation, at the heart of the secular project, has itself been universally appropriated and is now used against secularism proper. The panel suggests analysing alternative projects of subjectification and of (cultural/religious) emancipation as refractions of the secular. It will ask how the secular promise of equal liberty has survived in anti-secular guises and has come to drive the efflorescence of public religion and the cultural particular in post-modernity. We invite papers that look at these exchanges between the secular and its other, and that highlight (from a variety of temporal, cultural and geographical settings) the diversity of perspectives and resources from which challenges to the secular monopoly on emancipation are being constructed.