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Strategic Secularism

Bible Advocacy in England

Matthew Engelke

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.

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Socialist Secularism

Religion, Modernity, and Muslim Women's Emancipation in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, 1945–1991

Pamela Ballinger and Kristen Ghodsee

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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The Problem of Secularism and Religious Regulation

Anthropological Perspectives

Emerson Giumbelli

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.

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The Anthropology of Secularity beyond Secularism

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.

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Muslim women, fragmented secularism and the construction of interconnected ‘publics’ in Italy

Ruba Salih

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.

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God's Voice in a Secular Society

A Christian Perspective

Trevor Wedman

I would like to begin by posing two theses which I hope to explain and discuss during the course of my talk. The first is that it is not secularism, but Manichaeism, a tendency to split the happenings of the world into good and evil, which I see

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Secularism, Liberalism and the Problem of Tolerance

The Case of the USA

Adam B. Seligman

The separation of church and state in the USA and the critical role of disestablishment in the political doctrines of that country is no indication of a secular polity. In fact, the separation of church and state as developed in 18th century American political thought was itself a religious doctrine and rested on the unique religious beliefs of certain Protestant Churches there. One consequence of this particular mode of accommodating religion has meant that the challenge of pluralism and difference in the United States of America is met, most often, by liberal indifference. Differences are trivialized, aethetisized and, more critically, privatized. They are shielded from public scrutiny and conceptualized as irrelevant to public concern. This is an increasingly inadequate response to the challenge of difference and the plurality of the human experience. Challenges to contemporary modes of accommodating religious and ethnic pluralism are necessitating the formulation of new sets of answers which are not based on such Protestant or post-Protestant assumptions.

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God's Voice in a Secular Society

A Muslim Perspective

Taniya Hussain

): Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law. However, in Britain the Queen

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Working in Between

Interdisciplinary and Multivalent Approaches to the Study of Religion

Hillary Kaell

territory that I have encountered since, including the (even more) deconstructive project of embracing secularism and non-religion within religious studies, which bears upon my current work. Discipline My academic training has proceeded in a messy

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The Making of a Fundamental Value

A History of the Concept of Separation of Church and State in the Netherlands

Mart Rutjes

of the separation of church and state therefore hopes to add to the further refinement of the historicization of “the secular” and “secularism,” categories in which the (concept of) the separation of church and state plays a central role. 5 Social