Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: Published: March 2008

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies

At a time when secularism is put forward as the answer to religious fundamentalism and violence, Secularisms offers a powerful, multivoiced critique of the narrative equating secularism with modernity, reason, freedom, peace, and progress. Bringing together essays by scholars based in religious studies, gender and sexuality studies, history, science studies, anthropology, and political science, this volume challenges the binary conception of “conservative” religion versus “progressive” secularism.

With essays addressing secularism in India, Iran, Turkey, Great Britain, China, and the United States, this collection crucially complicates the dominant narrative by showing that secularism is multifaceted. How secularism is lived and experienced varies with its national, regional, and religious context. The essays explore local secularisms in relation to religious traditions ranging from Islam to Judaism, Hinduism to Christianity. Several contributors explicitly take up the way feminism has been implicated in the dominant secularization story. Ultimately, by dislodging secularism’s connection to the single (and singular) progress narrative, this volume seeks to open spaces for other possible narratives about both secularism and religion—as well as for other possible ways of inhabiting the contemporary world.

Contributors: Robert J. Baird, Andrew Davison, Tracy Fessenden, Janet R. Jakobsen, Laura Levitt,
Molly McGarry, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Taha Parla, Geeta Patel, Ann Pellegrini, Tyler Roberts,
Ranu Samantrai, Banu Subramaniam, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Angela Zito


“[T]he volume signifies the pluralities of secularisms in different times and spaces. The editors of the book deserve special praise because of the structured presentation of core arguments and the successful organization of the chapters over the 400 pages of the volume. . . . The major strength of the work lies in its ability to link theoretically and analyze empirically the critical questions on secular practices, thereby making a strong plea for openness towards pluralities in the present world.” — Chandran Komath, Contemporary South Asia

“The greatest strengths of Secualarisms are its thoughtful, incisive theoretical grounding and its inclusion of multiple minority reports which taken together challenge conventional secularism theorizing as it has developed.” — Jonathan Seitz, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory

“Do you think you already know what secularism means? One virtue of this book is that the authors examine several modes and dimensions of secularism in different places, always closely attentive to the specific religious practices with which it is imbricated. Another is that the essays, taken together, loosen up the political imagination, allowing us to think outside the two-slot system—‘either secularism or theocracy’—which has such debilitating effects on political thought. An admirable collection of essays.” — William E. Connolly, author of Capitalism and Christianity, American Style


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Janet R. Jakobsen is Director of the Center for Research on Women at Barnard College. She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics and a coeditor of Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence.

Ann Pellegrini is Associate Professor of Performance Studies and Religious Studies at New York University. She is the author of Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race and a coeditor of Queer Theory and the Jewish Question. Jakobsen and Pellegrini are coauthors of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Times Like These / Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini 1

Part 1. Secular Interventions

1. (Un)Veiling Feminism / Afsaneh Najmabadi 39

2. Secularism and Laicism in Turkey / Taha Parla and Andrew Davison 58

3. Women Between Community and State: Some Implications of the Uniform Civil Code Debates / Rajeswari Sunder Rajan 76

4. Other Moderns, Other Jews: Revisiting Jewish Secularism in America / Laura Levitt 107

5. Disappearances: Race, Religion, and the Progress Narrative of U.S. Feminism / Tracy Fessenden 139

6. Late Secularism / Robert J. Baird 162

7. What Tangled Webs We Weave: Science, Secularism, and Religion in Contemporary India / Banu Subramaniam 178

Part 2. Secular Relations: Micronarratives

8. Secularizing the Pain of Footbinding in China: Missionary and Medical Stagings of the Universal Body / Angela Zito 205

9. Ghostly Appearances / Geeta Patel 226

10. "The Quick, the Dead, and the Yet Unborn": Untimely Sexualities and Secular Hauntings / Molly McGarry 247

Part 3. Public Alternatives

11. Toward Secular Diaspora: Relocating Religion and Politics / Tyler Roberts 283

12. Feminisms and Secularisms / Kathleen Sands 308

13. Continuity or Rupture? An Argument for Secular Britain / Ranu Samantrai 330

Bibliography 353

Contributors 387

Index 391
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4149-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4125-3
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