The project aims to develop a conceptual framework that allows for a better understanding of contemporary and historical contestations over relationships between religion and secularity. Based on four pilot studies (USA, India, South Africa, the Netherlands), the project seeks to develop conceptual tools that enable us to trace such contestations in different social spheres in a comparative perspective through diverse disciplinary approaches.
In contemporary debates about religion and modernity, the place of religion in the public sphere, as well as about religion, secularity, and democracy, classical arguments about modernization and secularization have been increasingly questioned. Ideas of historical linearity, convergence and differentiation have been replaced by relativistic arguments. On one hand, these new ways of thinking have highlighted historical contingencies, have drawn attention to the role of social actors involved in these processes, and have sharpened our understanding of the normative implications of the classical secularization thesis. On the other hand, this critique sometimes conveys new normativities and the notion of flourishing religiosity as global standard. Moreover, the excessive emphasis on the distinctiveness of historical, cultural and geographical settings appears to inhibit comparative approaches that seek to uncover larger processes and structures.
Taking the critique of the classical secularization thesis into account, the project seeks to creatively engage with this situation and develop new conceptual pathways. Taking its cues from Eisenstadt’s notion of multiple modernities, it explores the dynamics and underlying forces of historical and contemporary debates and conflicts about the relation of religion and secularity. We assume that these dynamics are diverse both in the West and in other parts of the world. This diversity has been engendered by confluences between processes that are culturally specific and processes that can be seen as responses to the emergence of secularity in the West and its global diffusion. It is these intertwinements that are central to the project.
Relevant for the analysis are not only institutional and legal frameworks, but also diverse figurations of cultural meaning. It can be assumed that the dynamics of conflicts over secularity is driven by the defence and the questioning of such cultural figurations. As a result, their analysis is key to comparative explorations into the relationship between religion and secularity.
Institut für Kulturwissenschaften
Prof. Dr. Monika Wohlrab-Sahr