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Call For Papers

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Global Secularisms

The Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University is currently seeking paper submissions for its inaugural conference on the topic of Global Secularisms — to be held on November 15 and 16, 2013 in New York, NY.

In recent years, secularism has become a subject of pressing importance for philosophers, social scientists, activists, and theologians. Secularism received renewed scholarly attention with the publication of Charles Taylor’s important book A Secular Age in 2007, which prompted significant responses, including Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age (Michael Warner, Jonathan Van Antwerpen, and Craig J. Calhoun eds., 2010). Other important contributions to the discourse have included Rethinking Secularism (Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, eds., 2011), and The Joys of Secularism (George Levine, ed., 2012).

From a global perspective, Western secularism, and for example the American debate regarding the separation of church and state, appear as very parochial issues. Secularism is a vexed topic with global implications and consequences, affecting virtually every part of the world, every nation state and every culture. Questions related to secularism have become increasingly urgent and involve enormous real-world implications. From the emergence of the “new atheism,” to battles over “shariah law” in Europe and the Middle East, to the reemergence of religion in the politics of India, to battles over the authority of science in the United States, to struggles both intellectual and political over the shape of the public sphere, the question of secularism proves critical.

Some scholars question the assumption that the modern social order is undergoing, or indeed has ever undergone, the process of secularization; others hold that we have entered a post-secular era. Still others associate secularism with western cultural, social, economic or political hegemony. And on the other hand, some thinkers insist that secularism is the only possible means of negotiating sectarian strife and establishing and maintaining a democratic state. Equating secularism with the rejection of the transcendent, secular humanists insist that secularism is the best way to achieve real human flourishing. Yet the very meanings of the words “secularism” and “religion” have been questioned. The history of secularism — and the word should be made plural — helps define the crises of our moment. This conference returns to these issues, in the light of these recent discussions and of recent events that are having serious effects on the way we live now, on the shape of global politics and culture for the immediate future.

This conference hopes to appeal to scholars and creative authors from the major divisions of the academy, including the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as to independent scholars and writers from outside of the academy. We welcome engagement with questions involving secularism and the arts, culture, economics, history, international relations, religion, philosophy, politics, and science. Among the possible broad areas that papers might address, we offer the following possibilities:

  • Secularist movements/figures, past and present
  • Secularism and/as religion
  • Secularism and the arts, literature
  • Secularism and human flourishing
  • Secularism and the state
  • Anti-secularism, anti-atheism
  • Secularism and imperialism
  • Secularism and rights
  • Secularism in colonial/postcolonial contexts
  • The secularization of knowledge, science
  • The secularization of culture
  • The secularization of the university
  • Secularism and feminism
  • Post-secularism

Please email abstracts of 150-300 words by March 31, 2013 to:
Dr. Michael Rectenwald (

The conference steering committee will respond to submissions by June 1, 2013.

The conference steering committee is comprised of the following NYU Global Liberal Studies faculty members:

Emily Bauman, Ph.D.
Sean Eve, M.F.A.
Brendan Hogan, Ph.D.
George Levine, Ph.D. (honorary member)
Luis Ramos, Ph.D.
Mitra Rastegar, Ph.D.
Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D. (chair)
Martin Reichert, Ph.D.
Anthony Reynolds, Ph.D.
Tilottama Tharoor, Ph.D.
Elayne Tobin, Ph.D.
Kyle Wanberg, Ph.D.

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