Friday, February 1, 2008


Postsecular Lecture Series

Faculty of the Humanities, Utrecht University

BAK, Basis Actuele Kunst (Centre for Contemporary Art), Utrecht

The aim of this academic year-long lecture series is to investigate postsecularism as our historical condition and to approach it as a series of crossroads and mutual engagements of secularism and religious discourses in the contemporary world and especially in Europe. A further aim is to map the intersections of postsecularism with social and political theory as well as cultural and artistic practices and movements. Special emphasis will be placed on issues of political theory, Islam in Europe, ethics, human rights, gender and feminist practice, contemporary art and the European tradition of liberal humanism.

The lecture series will draw together fields of scholarship which are often separated by disciplinary orientation, institutional divides and methodological traditions, so as to create spaces for dialogue and cross-disciplinary exchanges. The aim is to contribute to the understanding of and the scholarship about postsecular practices. These cover two inter-related areas: on the one hand neo-religious developments in contemporary societies, politics and culture and on the other the critique of the historical, conceptual and ethno-racial underpinnings of the European humanist tradition of secularism which is too often taken for granted as the universal norm. This universalistic assumption will be analysed from a variety of angles and critically assessed. The role of women in recent trans-national religious movements will also receive special attention.

A related aim is to make a contribution to a field and a style of scholarship that recognizes the complexity and heterogeneity of European critical thought in the Humanities and attempts to make it socially relevant. Thus, the emphasis will not be on anyone religion, but rather on the importance of understanding the role all religious traditions, as well as their related forms of secularism(s), play in the construction of identity in general and European identity in particular.

The lecture series will discuss the content of the term 'secularism' - as well as its recent inception as: (Post)'Secularism'. The focus will be on the European context in order to question the revitalization of religions as well as secular formations, and their social and political effects in relation to several recent events regarding European Muslims, such as the murder of Theo van Gogh in NL, the Danish cartoon controversy, the London underground and airport bombings, and the French ban on the Hijab in the public sphere.

These aims will be reached through in-depth conversations with and between prominent scholars in the fields of religious critiques, secularism, feminism, contemporary art theory, as well as the major monotheistic religions. The combination of public lectures, in which scholars (and artists) will be engaged in discussing their work, and the option for participating in a reading group, will make for a well-rounded series of debates. Furthermore, as a follow-up programme, a public series of lectures and debates on a number of recent events, in which images produced by both the media and artists came under attack on religious grounds, are organised by the BAK in autumn of 2008.

The lecture series are open to all post-graduates, post-doctoral fellows and academic staff working on related topics. It is also possible for a limited group of participants to attend the sessions of a reading group with targeted reading material. Anyone interested in participating in this group, please contact the organisers.

Coordinated by: Prof. dr. Rosi Braidotti, dr. Sarah Bracke, Bolette Blaagaard, Eva Midden


  • Seminar on Secularism and Europe: November 14, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Simon Glendinning

Director of the Forum for European Philosophy and reader in European philosophy, LSE, UK

  • Seminar on Religion and Feminism I: December 18, 2007

Speakers: Prof. Dr. Ada Rapoport

Head of the department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, UCL, UK

Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Korte

Professor of Theological Women's Studies at the Catholic Theological University in Utrecht, NL

  • Seminar on Religion and Feminism II: January 22, 2008 (date might change)

Speakers: Dr. Sarah Bracke

Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, Gender programme, Utrecht University, NL

Dr. Chia Longman

Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ghent, Belgium

  • Seminar (to be announced): February 19, 2008
  • Seminar on Secularism and Feminism: March 7, 2008

Speakers: Prof. Dr. Judith Butler

Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley, CA, US

Prof. Dr. Rosi Braidotti

Distinguished professor of the Humanities, Arts Faculty, Utrecht University, NL

  • Seminar : April 22, 2008

On Secularism's Magic

Speakers: Prof. Dr. Peter van der Veer

Professor of Comparative Religion at Utrecht University

  • Seminar on Islam in Europe: May 20, 2008 (date might change)

Speakers: Prof. Dr. Tariq Modood

Professor in the Department of Sociology, Bristol University, UK

Prof. Dr. Nasr Abu-Zaid

Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Leiden University, NL

  • Seminar on Evangelical Christians in the USA: June 12, 2008

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Susan Harding

Professor of Anthropology at the University of Santa Cruz, USA

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