Secularism and Religion-Making

Secularism and Religion-Making

Secularism and Religion-Making

Secularism and Religion-Making


This book conceives of "religion-making" broadly as the multiple ways in which social and cultural phenomena are configured and reconfigured within the matrix of a world-religion discourse that is historically and semantically rooted in particular Western and predominantly Christian experiences, knowledges, and institutions. It investigates how religion is universalized and certain ideas, social formations, and practices rendered "religious" are thus integrated in and subordinated to veryparticular - mostly liberal-secular - assumptions about the relationship between history, politics, and religion. The individual contributions, written by a new generation of scholars with decisively interdisciplinary approaches, examine the processes of translation and globalization of historically specific concepts and practices of religion - and its dialectical counterpart, the secular - into new contexts. This volume contributes to the relatively new field of thought that aspires to unravel the thoroughly intertwined relationships between religion and secularism as modern concepts.


Arvind-Pal S. Mandair and Markus Dressler

The project out of which this volume emerged was initially framed under the title “Politics of Religion-Making.” We conceived of “religion-making” broadly as the way in which certain social phenomena are configured and reconfigured within the matrix of a world-religion(s) discourse. In other words, the notion refers to the reification and institutionalization of certain ideas, social formations, and practices as “religious” in the conventional Western meaning of the term, thereby subordinating them to a particular knowledge regime of religion and its political, cultural, philosophical, and historical interventions.

From the outset the central aim of this project was to examine the consequences of the colonial and postcolonial adoption of Western-style objectifications of religion and its dialectical counterpart, the secular, by non-Western elites. By developing the concept of religion-making in a variety of different geographical, religious, and political contexts, we build on the relatively new field of thought that explores the thoroughly intertwined natures of religion and secularism in the modern period. In doing so we distance ourselves from the opposition between religion and the secular that has been so central for proponents and adherents of the secularization thesis and instead side with those scholars who are interested in exploring the various epistemological and political implications of the formation and codependency of “secular” and “religious” discourses.

The aim of this introduction is to articulate and deepen the methodological concerns and theoretical reflections that have since its inception accompanied this project on the politics of the religio-secular paradigm. The first part of this introduction is dedicated to an epistemological reflection on the major strands of scholarship that have a stake in critically reviewing modern discourses on religion and the secular/secularism. The purpose of this is to work out the limits of the existing paradigm by systematically questioning both religionist and secularist discourses as well as their respective historicizing negations (postreligious and postsecular, respectively). By means of this particular framing we aim at highlighting a set of continuities between these approaches—specifically the circular relationship among historical consciousness, the assumed secularity of critical thinking (or critique, the “critical attitude,” etc.), and Western civilizational identity. Taken together, these continuities embody a historico–philosophical continuum that constitutes the intellectual and political heritage and investment in which projects of . . .

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