The "Questioning Religion"
The Religion and Internationalism Project is proud to announce the “Questioning Religion” symposium series. For each “symposium,” we will be inviting two major scholars in areas related to the Project for intensive engagement with faculty and graduate students. A focused question, on the cutting-edge of current debates, will be posed to the guests, who will be asked to relate their key scholarly contributions to the question posed to the symposium. The format is intended to facilitate engagement by all the symposium participants – making the events more of a real conversation among everyone in the room than is usually the case in the conventional “speaker-followed-by-question-and-answer” format.
All Graduate Students, Postdocs
and Faculty Welcome
April 17 (rescheduled from March)
"Who's Afraid of Religious Passion?"
Speakers are Amy Hollywood, Harvard Divinity School, and Michael Warner, English and American Studies, Yale University
A number of scholars in recent years have critiqued and attempted to unsettle the conventional association of religion with unreason and secularity with reason, which remains so widespread in popular and academic discourse. There are several different ways in which such associations have been recast. One way has been to explore the ways in which transgressive and ecstatic experience, formerly associated with “religion,” has been valorized by a range of “secular” creative forms. This way, with a longstanding genealogy in European romanticism, is associated with the historical avant-garde and has been elaborately theorized by key post-structuralist thinkers. More recently, the idea of “sensible ecstasy” (Amy Hollywood) has highlighted the multiple meanings of the “sensible,” the gender dimension of which has further subtended the received dichotomies, as well as the appeal of mysticism in a post-dogmatic age. A very different way has focused on the power/knowledge, even power-mad dimension of secular “reason,” and highlighted the sober, ethical subjectivity-constituting dimension of religious practice. A title like “Religious Reason and Secular Affect” (Saba Mahmood) indicates the direction in which this line of thinking moves – particularly its re-shuffling of familiar associations inherited from the Enlightenment and Reformation. Finally, radically reframing the traditional opposition, Michael Warner has sought to sharpen the “the agony of the choice between orgasm and religion,” while foregrounding the way that “ecstatic religions can legitimate self-transgression.” Despite many overlapping intents of these different stances – above all, the focus on the constitutive dimension of gender and sexuality – they valorize quite different paths to resisting modern constructions of both “secularity” and “religion.” These differences are not only academic-theoretical. Rather, they deeply affect the evaluation of many of today’s key political/cultural/social/class struggles around the globe. In short: how might we engage the interplay of reason and affect in today’s secularizing-and-anti-secularizing world?
"'Religious Radicalisms' and Modernity: Allies or Enemies?"
(rescheduled from postponement in the fall semester)
5:30 - 7:30pm
Pembroke Hall 202
Hent deVries, Humanities Center and Department of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University, and Nathaniel Berman, Cogut Center for the Humanities, lead this symposium. Once upon a time, there was a widely embraced narrative that portrayed modernity, secularization, and the privatization of religion as intrinsically linked and as extending their twin sway in an inevitable and salutary historical trajectory. Every element of this narrative, often associated both with intra-European processes initiated by the Reformation and the Enlightenment and with the modalities of colonial domination, has come under challenge from a large variety of perspectives in the past several decades. Despite these critiques, however, some of its basic tenets, especially the link between secularity and progress, continually resurface in both academic debate and public responses to world events. In this symposium, participants will critically examine one of the key foundation-stones of this narrative, and ask whether “religious radicalisms,” in all their fantasmatic diversity, have ever simply been the adversary of “modernity,” or whether the latter has always been constituted in dialectical relationship to the “religious Other.”
A copy of the flyer.
Religion and Internationalism Project Background
For the past several decades, and most evidently since 2001, public and academic debate has been increasingly preoccupied by a putative “return of religion.” A domain of human experience once thought to have been subordinated by “secularization,” religion is now often proclaimed to pose the single greatest challenge to the construction of a liberal international legal and political order – and perhaps slightly less often, as the greatest hope for the preservation and improvement of that order. Fierce debates on the proper role of religion have moved to the very center of public discussion in countries around the globe. In the academy, inquiries into the contingent and contested meanings of the key terms in this debate – such as “religion,” “secularization,” and “the international” – have occupied scholars in disciplines ranging from sociology, political science, and international relations to law, religious studies, philosophy, and literature. High-profile controversies have brought these issues into focus around the world, particularly in those areas in which the boundaries both between religion and secularity and between European and non-European cultures have been the subject of intense contestation – of which the debates about the legal, political, and cultural identity of countries like Turkey, India, and France provide some of the clearest and most urgent examples.
To address these issues, we embarked in 2010 on a long-term research project, including colloquia open to faculty and graduate students, periodic public lectures, and, ultimately, a series of conferences. The colloquia have begun building the broad scholarly network required to address this global and interdisciplinary topic. The colloquia bring together faculty and graduate students from a variety of disciplines, as well as invited speakers from outside Brown.
Our investigations are guided by the axiom that none of the key terms in this debate – “religion,” “secularization,” and “the international” – refers to an ahistorical or uncontroversial essence, but rather, has each been continually subject to theoretical and practical contestation and reconfiguration. Our inquiries are also informed by the hypothesis that the genealogies of these three terms lie at the deepest levels of the construction of the modern West – as well as the modern construction of much of the rest of the world through the processes of colonialism, anti-colonialism, and, more recently, “globalization.” We are concerned not simply with the endurance, return or end of religion on the international scene, but rather with the role of religion and secularization in the modern construction of international society, and vice versa.
In the course of our explorations, we will examine not only the contingency and contestability of the three terms that form the title of our project, but also the very meaning of modernity as it has been articulated across a wide range of disciplines. We will, therefore, be inclined to refuse the conundrum of whether religion is a problem or a resource for a modern world order, favoring instead the articulation of alternative notions of what such an order might entail and how the construction of these alternative orders are deeply associated with divergent constructions of our three key terms. The distinctiveness of our approach to these inquiries stems in part from the disciplinary range we bring to this project. Our inquiries into alternative constructions of the religious/secular/international order range from rethinking legal structures to reconstructing theologies to reimagining cultural and political orders.
Cogut Center for the Humanities
Nukhet A. Sandal
Thomas A. Lewis
Related HMAN Courses in 2012-13
N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)
Nationalism, Colonialism, Religion, and International Law
This seminar explores the internationalism of the past century in terms of its relationship to separatist nationalism, anti-colonialism, and religious radicalism. It takes as its point of departure the dramatic political, cultural, and intellectual transformations that followed in the wake of World War I. A guiding hypothesis of the seminar is that internationalism cannot be understood apart from its complex relationship to "identity" broadly conceived – identity of local/transnational groups as well as the identity of internationalists themselves. Readings will be drawn from law, cultural studies, politics, and postcolonial theory. Enrollment limited to 20 graduate students. Advanced juniors/seniors by permission only.
Law and Religion
In an arguably “post-secular” age, conflicts over the relationship between religion and law have again moved to the forefront of international debate. In our multicultural and globalized world, such conflicts often provoke contestation over the very possibility of universal definitions of either “religion” or “law,” let alone their proper relationship. Our interdisciplinary inquiries on these questions will include concrete legal disputes in domestic and international courts; theoretical debates over the construction of “religion” in fields such as anthropology, religious studies, and philosophy; and historiographical controversies about the relationship between “secularization” and sovereignty, particularly in light of the legacy of colonialism.