"Secularism and Its Discontents": 16th Annual Philosophy Graduate Conference

April 7, 2017 - April 8, 2017
Department of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research

6 E. 16th Street
New York
United States

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Keynote speakers:

Gil Anidjar
Columbia University
Simon Critchley
New School for Social Research

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“Secularism and Its Discontents”

The New School for Social Research

16th Annual Philosophy Graduate Student Conference

Keynote Speaker: Gil Anidjar (Columbia)

Keynote Roundtable Featuring: Simon Critchley (The New School) and others TBA

With the increased social secularization in the West, philosophy, politics, and religion have become strange bedfellows. This emphasis on secularization has sparked controversies concerning the role of religion in the political sphere that have taken the form of lawsuits against forced funding of birth control, liberal democratic states outlawing hijabs, and increased focus on religious extremism as a way to define marginalized social classes. Unfortunately, in many liberal rationalizations of the political sphere there is a failure to give accounts of contemporary and historical forms of theology and specifically secularism. Questions are then raised: have politics and religion been separated by secular movements and relegated to their own jargons, ideas, and concepts, or are they both necessary to give fuller accounts of the interplays between them? With new arguments forming both in support of increased space for religion in politics and also in support of the complete separation of religion and politics under the guise of secularization - and both in the name of“freedom,” “equality,” and “rights” -  one is forced to ask a fundamental question: what is the role of religion in politics? And what are the political, theological, and philosophical ramifications of this role? From ancient thought to contemporary philosophy, issues of transcendence, absence, silence, resistance, and action have been raised as theological questions within the realm of the political. However, the extent to which religion and politics intersect in the contemporary world has become increasingly contentious in terms of religious expression and secular movements.

From political theology to radical orthodoxy to studies on political myth, the meaning of the relation between the sacred and the secular has yet to secure a consistently meaningful definition despite an increased popular rhetoric among various camps in the secularism debates. As such, the question of the influence that politics and religion have on one another is of significant import. This question holds major sway in any debate concerning the possibility of and warrant for a secular society, and to understand secular movements, one must first understand the contemporary and historical connections between the secular and the sacred. In light of this question, the liberal answer to the problem of the role of religion in politics is seemingly simple: new age, new order, a new secular approach to the political. But is the answer really this simple? This is the question we wish to explore.

At this year’s NSSR philosophy student conference, we wish to consider the role of religion in politics and all of the tensions and consequences this role entails specifically in relation to movements toward secularization. By bringing politics, religion, and philosophy into conversation with one another, one will be able to more clearly understand the causes, consequences, and meanings of secularization. At this conference we will think both with and against theology, politics, and philosophy in order to think more deeply about the secular.

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University of Nevada, Reno

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