This article uses the examples of socialist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to propose some new directions for rethinking scholarly understandings of “secularism” and the ways in which socialist secularizing projects were intricately intertwined with questions of gender equality. Current scholarly debates on the genealogy of secularism root its origins in the Catholic/Protestant West, and systematically ignore cases from the former communist world. This article takes two cases of Balkan states to explore the theoretical contours of what we call “socialist secularism.” Although Bulgaria and Yugoslavia’s experiences of socialist secularism differed in the degree of their coerciveness, this article examines the similarities in the conceptualization of the secularizing imperative and the rhetoric used to justify it, specifically the rhetoric of communist modernism and women’s liberation from religious backwardness.
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Religion, Modernity, and Muslim Women's Emancipation in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, 1945–1991
Pamela Ballinger and Kristen Ghodsee
The Muslim Presence in France and the United States
Its Consequences for Secularism
All too often, the question of Muslim minorities in Europe and America is discussedsolely in socioeconomic terms or with a simplistic focus on the Islamicreligion and its purported incompatibility with democracy. This article focusesinstead on the secularism of Western host societies as a major factor in the integrationof Muslim minorities. It compares French and American secularismand argues that while French-style secularism has contributed to present tensionsbetween French Muslims and the French state, American secularism hasfacilitated the integration of Muslims in the United States—even after 9/11.
The question of “civil religion” constitutes the impensé of French secularism,and this is necessarily so due to the term's ideological function. Using Jean-Jacques Rousseau's definition--revisited by sociologists--, this article considersthe relationship between secularism and civil religion at two periods. Duringthe period 1901-1908, two types of secularism opposed each other: the first,close to civil religion, was dominant until 1904; the second, which emerged in1905-1908 (the laws on the separation of Church and State) distanced itselffrom it. The second period is the beginning of the twenty-first century, whenelements of a “lay-Catholic” civil religion are thwarted, however, by severalfactors. In conclusion, the author offers several avenues of comparisonbetween American civil religion and French civil religion.
In the French polemics over the Islamic headscarf, the relationship betweensecularism and sexual equality has sometimes been made out to be an artificialone. The articulation between politics, religion, secularism, and women'srights is examined here over the longue durée. Since the beginning of the secularizationprocess during the French Revolution, a minority has championedan egalitarian conception of secularization. Rivalries between or convergencesof political and religious authorities have driven an ambivalent and not veryequal secularization, creating secular pacts that rely on gender pacts to thedetriment of equality. This dynamic reversed itself beginning in the 1960swith the battle for legal contraception and abortion, which shook one of thevery bases of French Catholicism to its foundation. The headscarf affairsrevealed the egalitarian effects of secularism and favored the elaboration ofthought about secularism in conjunction with sexual equality, which, whateverthe various interpretations of that thought may be, could prove to be anon-negligible benefit.
Bible Advocacy in England
This article focuses on the work of Bible 'advocacy' carried out by the Bible Society of England and Wales. It describes how the Society's first 'Campaign to Culture', held in Nottingham, highlighted the Bible as something that a secular public might recognize as a relevant and important source of ideas and issues, quite apart from its religious significance. As the author suggests, these campaigns can be seen as part of a strategic secularism—the process by which religious actors work to incorporate secular formations into religious agendas.
French Secularism in Debate
Old Wine in New Bottles
This article deals with two debates at two different moments in history: the recent 2004 debate on a law proposed by the Chirac government that aimed at forbidding any religious signs (including the Islamic headscarf) worn in an ostensible way at school; and the 1892 debate on native education in Algeria and the opportunity to have a Koran teacher at school. At stake in both debates were two conceptions of Republican laïcité (secularism), one assimilationist, the other more pragmatic.
The Problem of Secularism and Religious Regulation
This article raises questions about the study of secularism, from an anthropological perspective. It begins by discussing some general references in the literature on secularism and its counterpart in Latin languages, “laicity”. It then discusses the approach for defining secularism that privileges models and principles, and advocates for an analysis of the devices that produce forms of regulating the religious. The study of configurations of secularism is the outcome of a consideration of all these elements (models, principles, and devices), and has a strategic focus on ways of defining, delimiting, and managing the religious. Three cases are examined in order to illustrate this approach: France, the United States, and Brazil.
Ashley B. Lebner
This article begins by exploring why secular studies may be stagnating in anthropology. Contrary to recent arguments, I maintain that rather than widening the definition of secularism to address this, we should shift our focus, if only slightly. While secularism remains a worthy object, foregrounding it risks tying the field to issues of governance. I therefore suggest avoiding language that privileges it. Moreover, in returning to Talal Asad's 'secular', it becomes evident that care should be taken with the notion of 'secularism' to begin with, even if he did not emphasize this analytically. Conceiving of secularism as a transcendent political power, as Asad does, is not only a critique of a secularist narrative, but also a secularist truism itself that can potentially cloud ethnography if applied too readily. A way forward lies in carefully attending to secular concepts, as Asad suggests, and in exploring a version of secularity inspired by the work of Charles Taylor.
This contribution will focus on the debates and questions arising in Italy around public Islam, young Muslim women and secularism. These debates shed a new light on the nature of Italian secularism, ultimately helping to reposition the accusation towards Islam as a threat to the secular public sphere. The paper aims at suggesting that there is hardly anything that makes Islam in Italy exceptionally and uniquely alien to secularism. Rather than Muslim constituencies, in Italy it is the Catholic Church that is striving to re‐occupy a position in the public sphere that has been shrinking since the 1970s. On the other hand, rather than challenging the nature of secularism and liberalism in Italy, young Muslim women are contributing to their expansion and redefinition.
Kim Knibbe, Brenda Bartelink, Jelle Wiering, Karin B. Neutel, Marian Burchardt, and Joan Wallach Scott
Around Joan Wallach Scott’s Sex and Secularism Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017, hardback, 240 pages Comments by Kim Knibbe Joan Wallach Scott’s new book is an important intervention in debates that are taking place on many