The History and Politics of Secularism


This is the second conference in a series of four developed as part of the multiyear project titled “Public Religion, the Secular, and Democracy: An International Crossdisciplinary Project.” Funded by the Ford Foundation, the project is designed to deepen understanding of the varieties and politics of secularism and the public role of religion, focusing on France, India, Turkey, and the U.S.

The project and this conference seek to chart new pathways for moving past the stereotypes and polarizations now stalking this topic. A comparative and crossdisciplinary approach is intended to provide the space for fresh thinking and a global perspective on these issues. The project asks what new analytic terms and frameworks are needed to account for the shifting relations between religion and the secular? Going beyond tropes of culture wars and clashing civilizations, what new narratives can and should be told? In short, the conference aims to stimulate reflection on the shifting historical and contemporary alignments or divisions between religion and the secular; to facilitate comparative insight across national cases; and to explore the analytic and normative challenges that have newly arisen regarding religion, the secular, and democratic public life.