As I said before, I am now part of an international research project called “Rethinking the Secular,” with participants from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, the United States, and Hungary. Here is our mission statement:
“Once, there was no ‘secular’… the secular as a domain had to be instituted or imagined.” With these words, John Milbank’s influential Theology and Social Theory (1990) launched the idea of the “secular” as a complex, unstable, contingent imaginative construction still steeped in religious languages, histories, and debates. Since then, a number of genealogies of secular modernity that trace its paradoxes and challenges back to much older theological debates have been added to the scholarly arsenal. This interdisciplinary working group will probe the question of how and why the “secular” was invented historically, as a basis for a critique of how this ideological construction influences contemporary cultural, social, and political debates. The work of the research group thus includes both historical studies of the secular and analysis of contemporary debates on secularity, both in a scholarly context and as applied to areas such as education and religion.
Our reading seminar will focus on the exposition of key theoretical readings in this broad field, in order to ensure that our methodological toolkit is well-informed, up-to-date, and critically assessed. The aim of the year as a whole is to use these seminars as a conduit for developing specific projects, and in our discussions, we hope to identify fruitful common areas for specific working groups, with further plans for seminars, publications, public dissemination, and grant capture emerging from this common core.
(NB. Anyone who would like to join us can send an enquiry to me in a private message.)