Symposium "Expanding the Secular: From Diffusion to Multiplicity?"

Civis Mundi Digitaal #45

19 April 2017 – Utrecht


On 19 April, Stefan Binder MA (Religious Studies), Prof. Birgit Meyer (Religious Studies) and Prof. Peter van der Veer (Max Planck Institute) will organise the symposium ’Expanding the Secular: From Diffusion to Multiplicity?’ The symposium will interrogate the category of ’the secular’ and, taking the example of South Asia, explore new approaches to studying secularity and non-religion in post-colonial contexts.


Resurgence of religion and the secularisation paradigm

Due to a growing awareness of a supposed ’resurgence’ of religion in the public sphere since at least the early 2000s and the rigorous critique of the secularisation paradigm across the social sciences and humanities, the topic of religion has gained renewed significance in academic debates, notably within the framework of postsecular approaches. While critique of the secularisation paradigm and subsequent interrogations of the secular as a conceptual grammar and a political project have been immensely productive for studying religion, they have ironically tended to pay less attention to that which is—or claims to be—not religious.


Current approaches to the secular in South Asia

Focusing primarily on South Asia, the symposium will address this research gap by engaging with some of the Eurocentric presuppositions underlying current approaches to the secular. Rather than reinforcing an East/West binary, the aim is to explore how ’South Asian’ concepts of self and community, caste, aesthetics, publicness, authority et cetera can provide new vantage points for studying the complex history and multiple trajectories of distinctions between religion and its various ’others’. It raises the question how scholarship in and on South Asia can contribute to a general reassessment of the methodological place of the religious/secular binary beyond the confines of specific ’area studies’.

This and related questions will be addressed by panels consisting of:

-          Arjun Appadurai, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU, Steinhardt

-          Francis Cody, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at University of Toronto

-          Rupa Vishwanath, Professor of Indian Religions at Georg-August-University Göttingen

-          Patrick Eisenlohr, Professor for Society and Culture of Modern India at Georg-August-University Göttingen

-          Lucien van Liere, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University

-          Stefan Binder, PhD candidate at Utrecht University

-          Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University

-          Peter van der Veer, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen and University Professor at Utrecht University



Date:                      19 April 2017 13:00 – 18:00

Programme:         see

Location:               Sweelinckzaal (room 005), Drift 21, Utrecht

Registration:         To enable us to estimate how much coffee and sandwiches we have to order, we would be happy if you let us know if you plan to come by sending an email to: