Menue phone

Working Paper Series

The Working Paper Series of the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences on "Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities" is intended to make research results and conceptual sketches available for scholarly discussion at an early stage.

Researchers from outside the research group who wish to contribute to these discussions are invited to submit their contributions for review (please send an e-mail to: multiple-secularities@uni-leipzig). This is especially the case for participants of conferences and workshops of the research group. The first publication of papers in the Working Paper Series shall not be an obstacle to later publication by other means. Working papers are reviewed by at least two peers from the research group prior to publication.

Use the search box below to search through all titles and abstracts and find papers that are relevant to you more quickly.


#27: Populism, Religion, and Secularity in Latin America and Europe: A Comparative Perspective

Roberto Blancarte

Much has been written in the past few decades about populism that most scholars approaching the subject feel obliged to begin by justifying their writing of yet another text. In this paper, the situation is somewhat different: whilst our analytical gaze is cast upon populism (and fascism, as a precursor or closely related social phenomenon), this is only indirectly the case. Our primary focus is, instead, on the relationship that populism has with religion and secularity. Or, more precisely, the relationships of diverse populisms with different religiosities and various secularities. While the religious and the secular are mentioned in numerous studies about populism, these topics have rarely been adequately elaborated. Even when they are discussed, they are treated only in a marginal way. The purpose of this work is, therefore, to highlight the complex and multi-faceted way that populisms in Europe and Latin America have related to religion and religiosity. A second, parallel objective of this work is to reflect on the particular relationships populism establishes with different understandings of the secular, specifically within the political sphere, i.e. ‘political secularity.’ Following the differentiation paradigm, another term one might see used for this is ‘laicity’ (laïcité in French, laicidad in Spanish). I understand this to refer specifically to the secularisation of the state and the areas of society which come under its control.

Download pdf

#26: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and Niklas Luhmann: Boundary Negotiations Between Religion and Science in the Abbasid Empire

Dietrich Jung

In the context of my involvement with the CASHSS Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities’ research programme, I chose Ghazali’s autobiography, and in particular his “crisis of indecision,” as an example of a pre-modern negotiation of the boundaries of religion at the micro level. The research programme suggests employing the analytical concept of secularity to investigate both non-Western and pre-modern forms of secularity, in terms of conceptual distinctions and institutional differentiations between religious and non-religious social spheres. In this essay, I would like to propose a method of pursuing these goals from my own theoretical perspective. More specifically, I will argue that in Ghazali’s reflections on spiritual religiosity, theology, philosophy and science, we can discern the individual engagement of a prominent Muslim thinker with emerging communicative realms. In the Modern Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann, these realms are taken to represent functionally differentiated subsystems of modern society.

Download pdf

#24: Sagas and Secularity: The (Re)Construction of Secular Literature in 20th-century Iceland

Haraldur Hreinsson

The study of secularity in Iceland has so far largely been restricted to institutional differentiation, alongside legal aspects of the relationship between the state and the country’s national church. This paper approaches the formation of secularity in the country from a different angle. Adopting a research perspective shaped by both cultural history and sociology of culture, it investigates the role of the Icelandic sagas, and the medieval culture which spawned them, in the development of secularity in Iceland. Instead of looking at the processes through which Christian religion came to be separated from other spheres of society, it probes the discourses legitimising such a separation. It pays special attention to the reception and understanding of the sagas and the medieval culture which produced them, and further asks how they provided a background against which a secular culture could be imagined, both in the past and for the present.

Download pdf

#25: Hindu Politics in Service of Secularism

Vanya Vaidehi Bhargav

This paper explores the political thought during the 1920s of Lala Lajpat Rai (1865–1928), a prominent anti-colonial nationalist. It outlines the historical context under which a secular politics became vital for Rai, and elaborates the intricate internal texture of his complex, often fluid vision of secularism. The second half of the paper explores the theoretical implications of Rai’s dynamic position. It illustrates how Lajpat Rai simultaneously articulated both a Hindu communal politics and a vision of secularism. By so doing, this paper challenges the long-drawn strict dichotomy between Hindu politics or Hindu ‘communalism’ and Indian secularism. Yet, the paper also pushes back against revisionist scholarship which, in challenging assumptions of strict mutual exclusivity between Indian secularism and Hindu communalism, has tended to overlook and undermine meaningful distinctions that still exist between these categories. This paper insists on the need to retain and respect the analytical distinctions between the two categories, even while recognising that they do not always exist in relation to each other as a strict dichotomy. Unearthing a hitherto-hidden Indian secularism articulated by this ‘Hindu communal’ politician, the paper will briefly explore the ways in which Rai’s complex position overlaps with, and is distinct from, Western variants of secularism, India’s constitutional secularism, and the Gandhian-Nehruvian vision, the latter of which became hegemonic till the 1970s. The paper ends by, very briefly, comparing Lajpat Rai’s position with Hindutva nationalism – a major influence on the contemporary Hindu right – and by reflecting on the relationship between the Hindu right and secularism.

Download pdf

#23: Religion, Culture, and the Secular: The Case of Islam

Gudrun Krämer

Why jump into a sea, where everything is seemingly fleeting, floating, and fluid? There is not a single concept that offers solid ground to stand on: ‘religion’ is problematic, ‘culture’ elusive, ‘secularity’ contested, and ‘Islam’ one big question mark. ‘Identity’, to name that which looms so large in modern contexts, fares no better. Yet jump we must if we are to do more than critique conceptualisations that we consider flawed, and instead provide what is expected of academics: critical reflection that does justice to the subject at hand, while at the same time speaking to wider intellectual, moral, and political concerns. This paper contributes to the debate on multiple secularities by discussing conceptualisations of religion and culture and their relevance to articulations of secularity ‘in Islam’. Written from the perspective of historically grounded Islamic studies, with a focus on the period up to 1500, this paper nonetheless addresses current concerns, for while the secular and hints at secularity can be identified in pre-modern Muslim majority contexts, they only emerged as themes of theoretically informed debate in the modern period.

Download pdf

#22: Preliminary Findings and Outlook of the CASHSS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities”

Christoph Kleine and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

In its initial research project description, the Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences (CASHSS) took a position on the longstanding academic and public debates on secularism, secularisation, and secularity. In doing so, The CASHSS took up the concept of Multiple Secularities and developed it further. Based on the hypothesis that distinguishing and differentiating practices are not an exclusive sign of Western modernity, we decided to systematically explore regions beyond the ‘Western world’, and in doing so expand our research remit beyond that on which Taylor had focused. We focused on regions that have been culturally shaped by Islam (the MENA region, Indonesia, India), as well as on Asia, which necessarily involved some overlap. These regional contexts differed historically and still do so today in terms of their propensity for conflict over boundary demarcation and the way in which relationships are established between the religious and the non-religious. What they have in common is that the application of the term ‘religion’ to the respective socio-cultural traditions is highly controversial. Exploring these regions brought different religious traditions as well as experiences of the confrontation with the Western world into focus, suggesting the prospect of instructive comparisons.

Download pdf

#21: The City as Secular Space and Religious Territory Accommodating Religious Activism in Urban India

Ursula Rao

For many bureaucrats, temples are nuisances, traffic obstructions, acts of landgrabbing, or means of political assertion that contribute to inter-religious tensions. By contrast, builders, trustees or worshippers defend temples as spaces of divine manifestation, as responding to religious needs and providing space for religious festivals and community activity. In this article, I use the case study of the establishment of a controversial goddess temple in Bhopal to shed light on a fundamental rift between two ideal-type approaches to the city – as a secular place and as religious territory.

Download pdf

#20: Tea for Interreligious Harmony? Cause Marketing as a New Field of Experimentation with Visual Secularity in India

Nadja-Christina Schneider

This working paper is part of a larger research project on emerging visualities and imaginaries of living together in plurality and on equal terms. Against the background of growing majoritarianism in India and the normalization of violence against religious minorities and marginalized communities, the search for new visual forms and aesthetic means to counter increasing divisiveness and conflict has acquired exceptional urgency. It is a search pursued by many and in multiple directions, occasionally even in the realm of marketing and advertising which is the focus of this article. The larger project considers documentaries, fictional films and transmedia interventions in order to understand how different actors seek to create new visualities that are markedly different from earlier form(at)s used to visually mediate the normative project of political secularism for many decades, but nevertheless draw on the idea that secularity is a mode of living together and socially interacting in plural societies.

Download pdf

#19: Religions, Charity, and Non-State Welfare in Contemporary China

André Laliberté

This paper is part of broader research on social welfare, understood in its broadest sense as social security, education, and health care, which the state has taken over gradually from religions as it has established its authority and thereby the ontological and the teleological legitimacy of secularity as a pillar of modernity. The paper explores the Chinese Communist Party’s evolving attitude towards religious affairs and philanthropy.

Download pdf

#18: Kurdish Alevism: Creating New Ways of Practising the Religion

Ahmet Kerim Gültekin

This paper will examine the transformation dynamics of social change in Kurdish Alevi communities, while mostly focusing on the increasing sociopolitical and religious role of talips. Until the end of the 20th century, the socio-religious structure of Kurdish Alevis was dominated by two hereditary social positions, much like a caste system: on the one hand, the members of the sacred lineages (ocaks), who embody the religious authority, and on the other hand, the talips who are subordinated to the sacred lineages. This socio-religious structure provided a framework for Kurdish Alevi socioreligious organisations.

Download pdf

#17: On Subjectivity and Secularity in Axial Age China

Heiner Roetz

The Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” deals with topics, at least some of which I have myself dealt with throughout my sinological and philosophical life. I came to Frankfurt in autumn 1968: fascinated by Frankfurt School, I started studying sociology, but to my surprise this did not mean studying Critical Theory. Instead, it meant going through quite a conventional education in the social sciences, and moreover, it meant studying economics and statistics. This was not quite what I expected and after a few semesters I changed my major to philosophy. In need of a second subject, I chose sinology because of some vague interest in foreign cultures, and also because of the news coming from China at that time. It was the time of the Cultural Revolution that exerted a certain fascination on the German student movement especially since its revolutionary rhetoric differed so remarkably from the ossified language of Eastern European Marxist orthodoxy. So, like many members of my generation, I began to develop an interest in revolutionary China that was definitely not shared by my philosophy teachers – they were skeptical, at least to some extent.

Download pdf

#16: Religion-based ‘Personal’ Law, Legal Pluralism and Secularity: A Field View of Adjudication of Muslim Personal Law in India

Suchandra Ghosh and Anindita Chakrabarti

In this paper, we show how this plural legal landscape is negotiated by litigants, especially women, and thereby illustrate the procedural interplay between civil and religious courts through this adjudication process. The ethnography of adjudication at the Darul-Qaza situated in a large Muslim neighbourhood in Kanpur and the institution’s intersections with the societal (We mean the tribunals that function at the neighbourhood or community level) secular courts show how Muslim personal law functions. In this paper, we identify both the links between the Darul-Qaza and civil courts, and the processes of evidence making and legal reasoning that are integral to this interlegality. We argue that the issue of personal law should be understood within the post-colonial legal structure of India and with a good understanding of the processes through which disputes in the delicate area of family, affect and kinship are addressed and resolved. The above case shows how resolution occurs in a family dispute when plural institutional mechanisms are at work. This paper explores the adjudication process at a Darul-Qaza to understand how religion-based family laws get constituted as litigants seek both religious counsel and civil authority.

Download pdf

#15: Secularism and its Enemies

Aziz Al-Azmeh

This Working Paper is intended to suggest a fairly simple contention concerning a number of interconnected propositions made in connection with the debates on modernity and secularism. None of these propositions is particularly novel, nor is this the first time that they have been put forward. The simple contention I wish to start with concerns Islamism, often brought out emblematically when secularism and modernity are discussed. Like other self-consciously retrogressive identitarian motifs, ideas, sensibilities, moods and inflections of politics that sustain differentialist culturalism and are sustained by it conceptually, Islamism has come to gain very considerable political and social traction over the past quarter of a century. This had until recently reached the extent that it, as a perceptual grid of social and cultural purchase relating to societies and countries that many associate with Islam, has become hegemonic in public discussions about society and politics and, until recently, hegemonic without serious challenge. It has also been crucial for triggering the latest round of antisecular discussions and polemics.

Download pdf

#14: Pathways, Contingencies, and the Secular in Iran’s First Revolution

Nader Sohrabi

Iran’s constitutional revolution of 1906 is arguably the most significant turn toward the secular in its modern history. I start this investigation by making a conceptual distinction between secularism and secularity. Here, secularism is defined as the ideologically-driven separation of religion and state according to an agenda, a blueprint, a model, that could be indigenously, or externally informed and is achieved with the assistance of the modern state and explicit political motivations. Secularity, on the other hand, is expressed in terms of a non-ideological separation that comes about unintentionally. In some accounts, this separation may take on evolutionary connotations in terms of the natural separation of functions as a result of the growing complexity of a natural organism or social system. What I have in mind here is a separation of functions that is agent-driven but the secularity that emerges is both unintentional and unideological. In other words, separation is attained not because actors consciously distinguish between the religious and the political at the conceptual level, or experience a wholesale shift in belief systems, but because some new contexts open novel avenues for pursuing goals or interests that are experienced by actors as more effective than previously undifferentiated ones, without necessarily effecting conscious change, or any change, in belief systems.

Download pdf

#13: Indonesian Secularities. On the Influence of the State-Islam Relationship on Legal and Political Developments

Muchamad Ali Safa'at

This working paper aims to analyse the relationship between state and religion (in this case, Islam) in political and legal developments in Indonesia from colonial times to the present, and to determine the model of Indonesian secularity within the multiple secularities approach. The legal and political developments relating to the relationship between the state and Islam in Indonesia are understood to be the products of societal debate as well as instruments for solving particular societal problems, guided by certain guiding ideas that shape Indonesian secularity.

Download pdf

#12: Drawing Lines in a Mandala. A Sketch of Boundaries Between Religion and Politics in Bhutan

Dagmar Schwerk

In the first half of the seventeenth century, three major Buddhist governments that combined a twofold religious and political structure under a Buddhist ruler were established in the Tibetan cultural area (Joint Twofold System of Governance). In 1625/26, Bhutan was united under the rule of a charismatic Tibetan Buddhist master, Tibet and Sikkim followed, both in 1642 – although with significant differences in their respective institutionalisation. The Working Paper presents findings of the specific and unique case example of pre-modern Bhutan to yield benefit for further interdisciplinary discourses about secularity, religion, and modernity in contemporary Bhutan – paying thereby tribute to the complexity of this field of research. Besides for Bhutan, this analytical framework can be adapted for further research about different pre-modern formations of the Joint Twofold System of Governance in the Tibetan cultural area as a whole.

Download pdf

#11: ‘Unbiased Scholars’ and ‘Superficial Intellectuals’: Was there a Public Culture between Europe and Inner Asia in the Long 19th Century?

Matthew W. King

This working paper explores what I consider to be a tenuous but persistent form of “public culture” extending between Inner Asia and Europe over the course of the eighteenth and, especially, nineteenth centuries. This “stranger relationality,” as Michael Warner would have it, was mediated by new forms and routes of Eurasianist textual circulation. In this late imperial period, spread along the frontiers of the Qing, Tsarist, and British empires, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Buryat monks read works by European and East Asian intellectuals on all manner of technical knowledge, and began writing not to fellow scholastics or local readers, but to a global community of “the knowledgeable” (Tib. mkhas pa; Mon. baγsi, nomčin). This paper introduces the social sites of my sources, the Buddhist monastic colleges that spanned the Sino-Russian frontiers, and provides a few examples of synthetic scholastic products that emerged in this previously unstudied form of Eurasianist public culture (c. 1750–1930s). I will also share some preliminary arguments about the ways that practices of secularity amongst the actors led directly to the creation of the modern public sphere, civil society, and ironically, revolutionary institutional forms and models of history that had violently erased scholastic culture from public life.

Download pdf

#10: Shifting Modes of Piety in Early Modern Iran and the Persephone Zone

Neguin Yavari

If any one thing marks early modern history, it is religious transformation. Confessional and pietist movements, both European firsts, are prominent examples of such catalysts for change. In large parts of the Islamic world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it was Sufi piety that carried the day. The historiographical record reveals strikingly new imaginaires and novel modes of connectivity to the past. The focus in this paper is on the manifold ways in which new forms of religiosity redefined the landscape of politics in the eastern Islamic world. It traces invocations of the past in Fakhr al-Dīn Kāshifī’s (d. 1532) "Rashaḥāt ‘ayn al-ḥayāt" ("Sprinklings from the Fountain of Life"), a sixteenth-century collected biography of Naqshbandī Sufi masters, to argue that the classificatory schema adopted by the author reveals a template of secularity that marks a significant departure from past manners of adherence.

Download pdf

#9: How (Not) to Take ‘Secularity’ Beyond the Modern West: Reflections from Islamic Sociology

Florian Zemmin

Debates about the usability of the concept of ‘secularity’ in academic research are not merely theoretical. Standpoints are also politically informed and arguments are sometimes emotionally charged. To some, merely using the term ‘secularity’ seems to inflict violence upon certain objects of research or even upon themselves. Others object to applying the concept beyond a particular arrangement of secularity, lest that defense-worthy arrangement be undermined. Taking a step back, however, the actual hermeneutical problem and historical question still seems rather clearly to be this: is it possible to uncouple the link between secularism as a political regime and secularity as an analytical concept with broader historical purchase? In this paper, I argue that the basic approach of Multiple Secularities is indeed the commendable way forward, but could be refined and improved, also by learning from the valid points of its critical alternatives. Thus, this paper aspires to shed light on two basic questions, namely, how to take ‘secularity’ beyond the modern West, and, as a logical prior, why take ‘secularity’ beyond the modern West in the first place?

Download pdf

#8: "Be a civilized citizen!" Corporate social responsibility and the new Chinese secular

Thomas David DuBois

Disagreement over the nature of religion in China - a civilization that has long confounded the vocabulary of religious and secular - is nothing new. With an imperial institution that eclipsed confessional structures, and bound Heaven and Earth in ritual cosmology, China was what John Lagerwey called a “religious state.” When native notions of religion were forced into European-derived categories, the result was either a clash of interests, particularly with Christian missionaries, or dreadful mistranslations, such as the still pervasive idea of “emperor worship.” Religion in the twentieth century was been punctuated by periods of intense persecution, but the more longstanding policy of the People’s Republic has been to allow organized religion to exist, and even thrive, albeit at the cost of being coopted or transformed into a museum piece, its teaching is reduced to moral platitudes. The ideological wave under Xi Jinping is something new. Combining nationalism, personal advancement, economic welfare, and an unprecedented level of surveillance of public and virtual spaces, this wave has made the state more ideologically pervasive than it has been in half a century. It has tamed the independent charitable organizations that grew up over the previous decade, but even this is just a symptom of the larger reorientation of ideology to public spaces to become what I call the “Chinese secular.”

Download pdf

#7 Modes of Religionization: A Constructivist Approach to Secularity

Markus Dreßler

This article discusses four concepts: religionization, religio-secularization, religio-secularism, and religion-making. These concepts are proposed as heuristic devices for the analysis of the processes through which social networks, practices, and discourses come to be understood as ‘religious’ or ‘religion.’ I use the term ‘religionization’ to describe situations where assemblages of knowledge (structures, practices, discourses) are being made sense of through the modern concept of religion. I use ‘religio-secularization’ to illustrate the connection between religionization and secularization in the modern context. I use ‘religio-secularism’ to denote the knowledge regime that legitimizes processes of religionization and secularization. Finally, the term ‘religion-making’ is proposed as a means of focusing on agency in processes of religionization.

Download pdf

#6 Mistaken Anti-modernity: Fardid After Fardid

Ali Mirsepassi

In this article, I undertake several lines of enquiry in the history of ideological and political movements centered on the “modernity” polemic at the transnational level. By analyzing these movements in juxtaposition, I explore the possibility of more diverse narratives of modernity and antimodernity than are assumed by conventional dichotomies in contemporary academic writings. The results of my enquiry challenge several pervasive “dogmas” of post-colonial theory: that orientalism is a purely modernist intellectual project, while anti-orientalism is by necessity its more “local” discursive counterpart in a dualism of East and West.

Download pdf

#5: The Secular Ground Bass of Pre-modern Japan Reconsidered. Reflections upon the Buddhist Trajectories towards Secularity

Christoph Kleine

As can be easily recognised, the title of this paper alludes to a famous statement by Robert N. Bellah. In his article “Values and Social Change in Modern Japan,” originally published in 1970, Bellah identified “worldly affirmativeness, the opposite of denial” as “the ground bass […] of the Japanese tradition.” This may, at first sight, seem to be consistent with my rather provocative notion of the ‘secular ground bass of pre-modern Japan.’ Is “worldly affirmativeness” not actually a key feature of ‘secularity,’ and of ‘modernity’ for that matter? However, Bellah’s argument runs in the very opposite direction. Contrary to what one might expect, worldly affirmativeness, in Bellah’s view, did not pave the way for secularity but, rather, prevented it. The reason is, says Bellah, that the alleged ground bass of worldly affirmativeness was responsible for the ‘failure’ of the early modern Japanese to actualise the moment of transcendence that had been recognised and strongly emphasised by medieval Buddhist thinkers already. I adopt a completely different approach. I aim to demonstrate that the medieval Japanese had already developed a set of epistemes with a longue durée, which turned out to be favourable for appropriating modern Western concepts of secularity in the 19th century, because they clearly distinguished between two social domains, which we – from a modern perspective – would label roughly as ‘religion’ on the one hand and ‘politics’ on the other. In other words, we find social structures and related systems of classification that come quite close to the ideal type of secularity as originally defined by Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Marian Burchardt, namely: “institutionally as well as symbolically embedded forms and arrangements for distinguishing between religion and other societal areas, practices and interpretations.”

Download pdf

#4: Healing and/or Salvation? The Relationship Between Religion and Medicine in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

C. Pierce Salguero

A wide variety of Buddhist writings originating on the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia were translated into Chinese between the mid-second and the early eleventh centuries C.E. As this material was read, digested, commented upon, and integrated into daily life, Chinese audiences came to be familiar with Buddhism’s basic teaching that overcoming all forms of suffering (Ch. ku 苦; Skt. duḥkha) is its core function. As one of the most obvious forms of suffering encountered in everyday human life, illness was a frequent topic of concern in these discourses. Of particular concern was the question of the relationship between the alleviation of the suffering of illness and the total, final salvation from suffering of all kinds (commonly referred to as Ch. niepan 涅槃; Skt. nirvāṇa; among other terms). This question appears and reappears across the genres of the Buddhist canon. From sūtras (loosely meaning “scriptures”), to disciplinary texts, ritual manuals, narratives, parables, philosophical treatises, and poetry, illness and healing are everywhere in Buddhist literature.

Download pdf

#3: The Islamicate Adab Tradition vs. the Islamic Shari‘a, from Pre-Colonial to Colonial

Armando Salvatore

The goal of this paper is to provide a bird’s eye view on what might qualify as ‘the mother of all distinctions’ within Islamicate history affecting the regulation of human conduct. It is a rather ‘soft’ distinction, whereby the ethical and literary tradition of adab works as an harmonious counterpoint, more than as a sheer alternative, to the normative discourse subsumed under the notion of shari‘a, the law originating from Divine will (shar‘). Adab does so, however, while clearly affirming a distinctive, non-divine (and in this sense ‘secular’) source of norms of human interaction. The paper is divided into two parts: the first delineates the traits of adab in pre-colonial times, while the second focuses on key transformations it underwent during the colonial era.

Download pdf

#2: Revisiting the Secular. Multiple Secularities and Pathways to Modernity

Monika Wohlrab Sahr; Marian Burchardt

For the last few decades, sociological debates about religion and secularisation have been characterised by confrontation between (often American) critics and (mostly European) defenders of secularisation theories. There has also been a remarkable rise in academic and public debates about the role of secularism in political regimes and in national as well as civilisational frameworks. These debates are shaped by the context of the changing position of the West in world politics, Islamist terror and the war on terror, struggles of religious minorities for recognition and influence, and the concomitant negotiations over the place of religion in the public sphere, as well as the emergence of post-national citizenship. Contributions from political theory, social anthropology and religious studies that emerged from this context have enriched the debate, but also contributed to fragmenting existing theories on the relationship between religion and modernity. Whereas scholars previously aimed to develop ‘general theories’ of secularisation that included deviations from the general model, newer approaches tend to highlight the specificity of Western European developments as opposed to those in the rest of the world, and sometimes even highlight their incomparability.

Download pdf

#1: Research Programme of the HCAS "Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities"

Christoph Kleine; Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

The project seeks to explore the boundaries that distinguish between the religious and non-religious, in modern as well as pre-modern societies. In doing so, we are aligning ourselves with current debates but we are approaching the debated issues from a basic theoretical perspective. At present, a general distinction can be drawn between three narratives: The first claims the dwindling presence and relevance of religion (“secularisation”); the second regards religion to be returning globally, consequently irritating the self-perception of modern societies (“return of religions”, “post-secular society”). According to the third, religion has always been present and has simply changed shape, meaning secularisation assumptions are misleading (“invisible religion”). There is also a theoretical-methodological conflict to be taken into consideration. Where the secularisation hypothesis considers its theories and methods to be universally applicable, the critics of this theory not only increasingly challenge the transferability of Western development paths, but also the transferability of the concepts used. This applies right down to the challenge of the religious/secular dual, which is understood to be an expression of Western experience and power of interpretation that forces other cultures into Western schematisations. In contrast, we are formulating an alternative position, in which we are trying to explore the boundaries between the religious and non-religious beyond normative concepts. We are particularly seeking such boundaries in regions that differ greatly from the so-called “West” in the “Modern World” in terms of culture and history: In various Asian regions and – partly overlapping with these – in the so-called “Islamic World”, but also in different epochs. This is linked to a plea for comparability across multifaceted regions and cultural contexts, and for investigating their entangled history.

Download pdf
page 1 from 1