Conference on the "Post-secular"

Are We Post-secular?
Contesting Religion, Politics and Culture
in Comparative Contexts


 Lady Shri Ram College of the University of Delhi (LSR)

 LSR Auditorium, Lajpat Nagar IV, New Delhi
Sponsored by ICSSR

Fifth Annual IRNRD Conference
13-14 December 2012

During the last decade, intensive and widespread debates have been focusing on the novel so-called post-secular condition within contemporary societies. Some authors challenge the meaningfulness of such a conception; others present various versions of it, attaching it to different theories across a wide range of disciplines, like philosophy, theology, political and social theory, literary theory, international relations, and so on. Notwithstanding the debated nature of this concept, the idea of the ‘post-secular’ has made its mark on contemporary discourse. The Conference Are We Post-Secular? will serve as a forum for in-depth and innovative discussion of questions and quandaries regarding the ‘post-secular’. 

Does the ‘post-secular’ enlighten something specific about contemporary social and cultural developments, or is it merely a construction of theorists? How does the alleged post-secular condition relate to the equally-debated secular conditions that it claims to surpass? Do we need a unified definition of the ‘post-secular,’ or is it useful enough as an umbrella-concept for depicting various but analogous phenomena? How would the ‘post’ of the ‘post-secular’ relate to the ‘post’ of ‘post-modern’ and other processes of surpassing the conditions of late modernity: the post-colonial, the post-national, the post-liberal, and so on?

                                                     THURSDAY, 13 DECEMBER 2012
9:30 am Welcome
Peter Losonczi (Director, IRNRD& Research Associate, Higher Institute of Philosophy, Leuven)
Are We Postsecular? Religion & Politics in Comparative Contexts
Silika Mohapatra (LSR Dept of Philosophy)

Chair: Tom Bailey (John Cabot University, Rome)

10:00 Keynote 1: Graham Ward (Oxford University)
The Myth of Secularisation
In this paper I will explore the power of myth in the establishment of ideology and show how this was one of modernity's projects. I will show that secularisation is a geographically specific project – there are pockets both within countries and within Europe where secularisation never took root at all, and were resistant to secularisation. I will show that postsecularisation in these same countries is still buying into the myth, reifying it. But it is nevertheless a product of postmodernity, a critique of the project of modernity. Postsecularity goes to one of the roots of the modern critique – which was always a critique of religion.

10:40 Keynote 2: P.K. Datta (Delhi University)
The Long Post Secularity
The postsecular could actually be said to have started from the early twentieth century with the project to transform religion into culture. While this started with the needs of nationalist mobilisation and the imperative to make the nation into an object of devotion, it has in the age of post colonial globalisation been generalised beyond national borders. Among other things, this has given rise to notions of civilisational wars.In these conditions secularism becomes a very difficult concept to define. On the one hand, secularism is useful as a program that has been historically associated with the task of pacifying religious conflicts; on other hand, it is not aligned to its object, which is that of religion. This raises the problem of whether we are to regard secularism as a placeholder or as something far too ambiguous to perform the task that we assign to it. This paper will revisit some of the conundrums of secularism in our age.

11:20 Comments on lecture of Graham Ward by P.K. Datta
11:30 Comments on lecture of P.K. Datta by Graham Ward

11:40: Coffee Break

12:00-1:30pm Panel 1: Papers: Between Political Theology and Postsecularism
Chair: Uriel Abulov (Tel Aviv University)

12:00: Michael Hoelzl (University of Manchester)
How much theology is permitted?
Since Religion seems to be on the agenda again, I wish to raise the question of the theological content of those religions we are actually confronted with. My argument will be: whenever we talk about ‘religions’ we tacitly deny the fact that every religion has produced its own theology which is in competition with any secular political order. To solve this tension between secular and theological worldviews many suggestions have been made to accommodate theological and secular approaches to reality; ranging from political theology, public theology, civil religion and republican religion. In this paper I would like to show the tension between theological worldviews and secular political worldviews without offering a definite conclusion.

12:30: Ranjan Ghosh(North Bengal University)
Making Sense of the Secular
How do we make sense of the secular? How does this secular contribute to our understanding of life and socio-political realities? What meaning does it convey when it becomes our generative ‘sacred’? This presentation expatiates my notion of the secular thrown against the idiolect of secularism and religion. It argues out the complicated dynamics of perspectivizing the secular as sacred. What difference does that make to our understanding of the everyday, the cultural logic of existence and the negotiations and articulation conducted and performed in an associative democracy? How can we then move beyond secularism and religion to become ‘secular’?

1:00: Comments on lecture of M. Hoelzl by R. Ghosh
1:05:Comments on lecture of R. Ghosh by M. Hoelzl

1:10:  Discussion

1:30pm: Lunch (all participants and audience)

2:30pm: Panel 2: Paired Conversations: Are We Postsecular?
Chair: Kanchana Mahadevan (Mumbai University)

2:30: Rajeev Bhargava (CSDS) & Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin)
3:20: Gurpreet Mahajan (JNU) & Veit Bader (University of Amsterdam)

4:10:  Coffee Break

Chair: Sandra Wallenius-Korkalo (Lapland University)

4:30: Fundamentalism-Prophecy and Protest in an Age of Globalization
Torkel Brekke (Oslo University)

4:45-5:45: Fundamentalisms
Kanchana Mahadevan (Mumbai University)
Hilal Ahmed (CSDS)
Andrej Zwitter (University of Groningen)
Michael Hoelz (University of Manchester)

5:45: Perspectives on Religious Fundamentalism
Sandra Wallenius-Korkalo (Lapland University)



6:30-7:30: Sufi Qawwali at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah (Nizamuddin West, Delhi)

7:45pm: DINNER atKareem’s

9:00pm: Transport from Kareem’s to Accommodation


                                                         FRIDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2012

9:30 am Welcome & Opening Remarks
Aakash Singh Rathore (Director, IRNRD)

Chair: Tania Hadad (American University of Beirut)

10:00 Keynote 3: Ranabir Samaddar (Calcutta Research Group)                               
The Religious Nature of Our Political Rites
Many of our political rites draw from religious roots. The notion of sacredness is involved in the way the concept of legitimacy functions in politics. From this aspect the issue is not whether we are becoming post-secular, but whether we want to acknowledge and analyse the theology-secularism bind. Politics in its secularised form is still caught in this bind. The word "post" in the title of the conference therefore raises question: post to what and towards what?

10:40 Keynote 4: David Rasmussen (Boston College)                
Rawls, Religion and the Clash of Civilizations
In this essay I deal with two conceptions of the political; one that entails a clash of civilizations associated with an Schmittian critique of liberalism and a second that envisions the political as an emerging domain in relationship to the idea of overlapping consensus. The discovery of the emerging domain of the political which can be associated with the later work of John Rawls, separates the comprehensive from the political in a way that breaks the link between modernization and secularization. In so doing Rawls accommodates the rise of religion that has become a major issue in the twenty-first century. I follow Rawls’ development from the last part of A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism arguing that finding a way to accommodate a pluralism of comprehensive doctrines kept the liberal project which began with Hobbes attempt to overcome the war of all against all alive. At the same time his orientation toward comprehensive doctrines and therefore religion was simultaneously liberating and constraining. In the end, although the liberal project under Rawls presents an alternative to the war of all against all a trace of the clash of civilizations remains.

11:20 Comments on lecture of R. Samaddar by D. Rasmussen
11:30 Comments on lecture of D. Rasmussen by R. Samaddar

11:40: Coffee Break

12:00-1:30pm Panel 3: Papers: Postsecularism and Its Discontents
Chair: Devrim Kabasakal (Izmir University)

12:00: Walter VanHerck (University of Antwerp)
Diagnosis (and therapy?) of the postsecular disease.
In their bookAll Things Shining. Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (New York: Free Press, 2011) Dreyfus and Kelly give a diagnosis and even a therapy for the loss of meaning that afflicts the postsecular age. In this talk I will review their assessment and confront it with “a second opinion”, namely the analysis offered by Olivier Roy in hisHoly Ignorance. When Religion and Culture Part Ways (London: Hurst, 2010).

12:30: Sudarshan Padmanabhan (IIT Chennai)
Imagining India – The Interplay of the Cosmopolitan and the Vernacular
The dialectical relationship between the cosmopolitan and the vernacular has tremendously influenced the social, political, cultural and economic scaffolding of the post-colonial Indian democratic experiment. This article delineates the cosmopolitan and vernacular relationship along three trajectories; first, the historical evolution of the cosmopolitan and vernacular cultural traditions in India; second, the empowerment of vernacular linguistic and cultural traditions and assertion of vernacular identities in post-independence India; third, the implications of the cosmopolitan versus vernacular debate for questions of social justice, especially, neeti – nyaya. The article will also substantiate how the cosmopolitan versus vernacular debate morphs into a battle for grand narratives during the very process of vernacularization. This article also argues that contemporary cosmopolitanism has been a-historicized and hence does not possess the normative-theoretical framework to engage with the process of post-colonial institution building, especially in the context of diverse cultures that have multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multi-layered societies.

1:00: Comments on lecture of S. Padmanabhan by W. VanHerck
1:05:Comments on lecture of W. Van Herck by S. Padmanabhan

1:10:  Discussion

1:30pm: Lunch (all participants and audience)

2:30-4:40pm: Panel 4: Postsecularism &/or Liberalism
Chair: Andrej Zwitter (University of Groningen)

2:30: Sebastiano Maffettone (Luiss University, Rome)
What matters is Liberalism, not Secularism.
In the paper I will argue that secularism is connected to a primitive form of liberalism, based on the fear of religions. Mature liberalism, on the contrary, is based on respect for others.This respect includes respect for religious politics. Religious politics however must be within the boundaries of public reason. Public reason in its turn can change force, shape and content according to contexts and in particular considering the fact of religious politics. Minimal liberalism is the core of public reason so interpreted.

3:00: C.Upendra (IIT Indore) 
Post-secular or secular human?
The paper explains, while acknowledging the significance attached to postsecularity, postsecularism is as rightly argued by Habermas a sociological predicate. However, his ideas expressed in the “religion in the public sphere” are not fully acceptable where the gap can be filled by the Rawlsian conception of the distinct political – keeping in view all valued criticisms of Rawls. It is also stated in the paper that the postcolonial societies like India need to germinate political discourses of civility – where the resurgence of religion via the postsecular attribution does not at all undermine the secular humanistic concerns.

3:25: Tom Bailey (John Cabot University, Rome)
Postsecular Liberalism?
However sensitive to the presence of religions in modern societies, Habermas’s and Rawls’s influential theories of liberalism appeal primarily to grounds independent of religion – communicative reason in Habermas’s case and mutual respect in Rawls’s. However, neglected themes in their theories suggest that they are intended to rest equally on religious grounds, and are thus more distinctively ‘postsecular’. This paper will consider two such themes in particular. The first is that of the political transformation of religious into shareable notions, a peculiarly paradoxical task that both Habermas (with his notion of ‘translation’) and Rawls (with his notion of ‘conjecture’) attribute to citizens of modern liberal societies. The second theme is that of the religious origins of citizens’ shared political terms, origins that both Habermas (with his notion of solidarity as a ‘faith’) and Rawls (with his notion of the ‘faith’ involved in consensus) emphasize. The paper will attempt to determine the nature of these ‘postsecular’ themes and their critical implications for the primary ‘secular’ elements of Habermas’s and Rawls’s theories.

3:50:Vidhu Verma (JNU)
Habermas and Gandhi
Instead of relying on a descriptive account of a post-secular society Gandhi raised the normative issue of how secularism is bound inextricably with how we define religion and thus accepts the significance of the tradition it proposes to go beyond. As he rejected the post-enlightenment distinctive realities of the spiritual and temporal, he did not invoke the public and private as two separate spheres. Based on this understanding he maintained that it is not possible to retain religion as an ethical ideal while rejecting its presence in the political domain. To a large extent Habermas’ position may be seen in some degree compatible with Gandhi if we take the approach that both scholars minimize the dualistic framework of enlightenment philosophers by focusing on the character of practical rationality. They both favour a kind of reclamation of the public domain by technocrats of social power and recognise the relevance that religious ideas and moral values have in shaping the social fabric. Habermas’ notion of a post secular society is an attempt to look for political cultural resources instead of a rearticulated political ideology to revitalize the democracy project. Gandhi attempts to translate the likeness of human beings to the image of the divine into the equal dignity of all human beings which then offers a way of reorienting society’s values towards social transformation. In Hind Swaraj he argues that adoption of either modernity or tradition has to enhance both the spiritual and material well being of the individual and society.An exploration of these approaches, I submit constitutes a useful contribution to the understanding of the limits of post-secularism to reclaiming the political.

4:20: Discussion

4:40: Coffee Break

5:00-6:00pm: Panel 5: Postsecular Pluralism
Chair: Mohammed Hashas (Rome)

5:00: Tapio Nykanen (Lapland University)
The Political Theology of the Anti-immigration Movement in Finland
In the recent Finnish political scene, the most striking development has been the rise of the new, extreme political right. This ideology opposes multiculturalism, immigration and most often Islam. For example in the local elections of 2012 candidates from the extreme wing of the patriotic, anti-EU and anti-immigration party ‘True Finns’ had a huge success in several cities and municipalities. My aim is to empirically analyze the political theology behind this new extreme right: what does it believe and how extreme is it actually?

5:25: Asghar Ali Engineer (CSSS)
Politics of Religious Pluralism: Is Religion the Culprit?
Secularism played an important role in modernizing society and was one of modernity’s central pillars. This had become necessary insofar as the Church, with its dogmas and doctrines, was coming in the way of social and economic change.But in the course of time modernity and secularism became as intolerant as the religion represented by the Church. This also created a problem. On the one hand, there are atheists and rationalists as intolerant as believers; on the other, there are people of deep faith who are far from dogmatic. Often scholars maintain that the main ‘culprit’ is religion.Human beings cannot live without religion or some kind of ideology which gives human life meaning and direction, and whatever the nature of the ideology or thought or value system, it creates its own ‘other’. Some form of struggle inevitably starts between followers of one or the other ideology.

5:50: Final Remarks from TN Madan

5:55: Closing Remarks
Aakash Singh Rathore (Director, IRNRD)


*    *    *

07:30: DINNER (only invited participants)

3, Local shopping Center, Masjid Moth
Greater Kailash II

9:30pm: Transport from SPOONS to Accommodation

No comments:

Post a Comment