The politics of secularism and the emergence of new religiosities

The politics of secularism and the emergence of new religiosities

Rupa Viswanath (CeMIS)
Dan Smyer Yu 
Axel Schneider (CeMEAS)
Matthias Koenig 


Inter-institutional collaborative project
The CeMIS-CeMEAS Transregional Research Network

Pilot Project A (Years 1-2):

Areas: India, China, Europe

Secular governance is globally represented as the quintessential harbinger of the new, the means by which societies attain freedom from the alleged intolerance of "tradition.” Our research begins with the observation that secular projects in fact variously redefine, criminalize and by other means incorporate into new forms of legal-administrative regulation a host of religious practices and institutions. We will identify the most significant of these means in India, China and Europe, collectively mapping, first, the concrete and often violent means by which secularization is enforced by state and non-state agents, and second, the new forms that religiosity takes under regimes of secularism: new languages and practices of religion, new categories of religious and non-religious authority which bring about distinctive relations with citizen-subjects, and new forms of religious and secular personhood.

In short we will comparatively analyse secular governance and the production of religion in the three regions of inquiry by attending to the justificatory discourses and counter-discourses used by regulatory powers and religious actors, the forms of coercion and punishment imposed, and the relationships among surveilled practices and institutions and both formal and local politics.  In so doing this project will reconceptualize the processes of defining and implementing, as well as resisting and subverting what has become known as secular modernity outside the national frameworks that have long-dominated research on this topic in the humanities and social sciences.  Our process-oriented transregional analysis of contention over religion in the secular regimes promises to capture the precise consequences of various actors’ references to "secularism” and to understand the emergence of new modes of state regulation of religion and religiously-identified agents.