Spring 2016 - Wednesday 4:30 PM-7:20 PM - bldg. 50-52E
Stanford University, Anthro 340A - French 341A - REES 340A [5 units]

Ewa Domanska


The term “Postsecularism” refers to various theories and approaches regarding the revival of religion (various religious beliefs and practices) in the present as well as current reevaluations of the relationship between "faith and reason" in knowledge building. The "post" refers to the era after the process of secularization following the Enlightenment in the West (for some scholars postsecularism presupposes the failure of secularization). The so-called post-secular turn became especially visible after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and soon became a popular subject in works by sociologists, political theorists, scholars in religious studies, art studies, and literary studies (Giorgio Agamben, Talal Asad, Alain Badiou, Rosi Braidotti, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, Slavoy Žižek – to mention only a few).

The postsecular might be defined more broadly as a renewed openness to questions of spirituality. When thinking about a postsecular humanities, we would on the one hand follow scholars that are usually associated with this trend (like Agamben, Badiou, Derrida, Habermas), as well as discuss the problem of rethinking secularism in the post-secular world, the impact of a post-secular turn in the humanities and social sciences, post-secular art and aesthetics, the possibility of buidling a post-secular theory (and criticism), the relationship between postsecularism and postcolonialism, green theology and animal theology, a growing interest in the new animism in the context of discussions about epistemic justice and postsecularism, on the other. In such a context, postsecularism might be understood as a move "beyond secularity" and as a positive opening of the humanities to various forms of spirituality, alternative rationality, and non-scientific approaches to the study of reality. The postsecular turn in the humanities allows us to treat religions and beliefs as a source of alternative knowledges and wisdom as well as to discuss the problem of religion as adaptation in the framework of the cognitive science of religion. The course will consider how the interactions and collisions among various worldviews can provoke the rethinking of the key ideas of our times: what it means to be secular, religious, a citizen, a hybrid, an indigene, a non-human.

The course promotes a transdisciplinary, comparative approach and integrated cross-regional and cross-cultural studies. This course is a research seminar designed to help students work on papers for other classes, theses and individual projects. It serves as an introduction to discussions about the "return" of religion and various beliefs in the public sphere (and academia) from a perspective of postsecularism and stresses an awareness of how to draw on and combine these approaches for analyzing the student's  own research materials. It advocates a ground-up approach to theory building, and thus it also teaches students how to formulate their own interpretative categories and small range theories based on case study analysis.



Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three meetings (except for illness or other serious matters) will not be graded. Students are expected to read assigned readings carefully and participate in discussions. Each student will sign up to present a text relevant to the the m e of the readings for that week. Class presentations will be limited to 10-15 minutes. A 15 page final paper is required. Its topic will be chosen by the student hi m self/herself. It can draw upon work being done in other classes but must utilize the materials of this course as well. Grading: participation - 40%; class presentation - 20%; final paper - 40%.


March 30
1. Introduction: Overview of the Course

April 6
2. Are we Living in a Post-Secular World?

Michael Rectenwald and Rochelle Almeida, "Introduction: Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age," in Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age, ed. by Michael Rectenwald and Rochelle Almeida. Walter de Gruyter, 2015: 1-24.

Philip S. Gorski, David Kyuman Kim, John Torpey, and Jonathan VanAnwerpen, “The Post-Secular in Question,” in Post-Secular in Question: Religion in Contemporary Society, ed. by Philip S. Gorski, David Kyuman Kim, John Torpey. New York: Nw York University Press, 2012: 1-22.

Jürgen Habermas, “Notes on a Postsecular Society.” New Perspectives Quarterly, vol. 25, no. 4, Fall 2008: 17-29.

Arie L. Molendijk, “In Pursuit of the Postsecular.” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, vol. 76, no. 2. 2015: 100-115 [special issue: Making Sense of the Postsecular. Theological Explorations of a Critical Concept, ed. By Petruschka Schaafsma.]

Charles Taylor. A Secular Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007: 1-22, 351–376, 618–675.

Cesare Merlini, “A Post-Secular World?”. Survival, vol. 53, no. 2, 2011: 117-130.

Ananda Abeysekara , The Politics of Postsecular Religion: Mourning Secular Futures. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

April 13
3. Rethinking Secularism

José Casanova, “Secularization,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences, ed. by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes. Amsterdam, Paris Elsevier, 2001: 13786-13791.

Talal Asad, “Introduction: Thinking about Secularism” and Chapter 1: “What Might an Anthropology of Secularism Look Like?”, in his, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003: 1-66.

José Casanova, “Secularization Revisited: A Reply to Talal Asad,” in Powers of the Secular Modern: Talal Asad and His Interlocutors, ed. by David Scott and Charles Hirschkind. Stanford University Press, 2006: 12-30.

Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism,” in Secularism and Its Critics, ed. by Rajeev Bhargava. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998: 31-53.

Akeel Bilgrami, “Secularism: Its Content and Context” SSRC Working Paper. 2008.

Charles Taylor “Why We Need a Radical Reconceptualization of Secularism,” in The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011: 34-59.

Peter J. Katzenstein, "Multiple Modernities as Limits to Secular Europeanization?," in Religion in an Expanding Europe, ed. by Timothy A. Byrnes and Peter J. Katzenstein. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, 1-33.

Nicos Mouzelis, “Modernity and the Secularization Debate.” Sociology, vol. 46, no. 2, April 2012: 207-223.

April 20
4. Post-Secular Turn in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Gregor McLennon, “The Postsecular Turn.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 27, no. 4, 2010: 3-20.

Khaled Furani, “Is There a Postsecular?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 83, no. 1, March 2015: 1-26.

Rosi Braidotti, “In Spite of the Times. The Postsecular Turn in Feminism.” Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 25, no. 6, 2008: 1-24.

Tracy Fessenden, “The Problem of the Postsecular.” American Literary History, vol. 26, no. 1, Spring 2014: 154-167.

Gregor McLennan, “Towards Postsecular Sociology?” Sociology, vol. 41, no. 5, 2007: 857–870.

Birgitte Schepelern Johansen,  “Post-Secular Sociology.” Approaching Religion, vol. 3, no. 1, 2013: 4-15.

Philip Fountain, “Toward a Post-Secular Anthropology.”  The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 24, 2013: 310-328.

Graham Ward, “Theology and Postmodernism: Is It All Over?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 80, no. 2, 2012: 466–484.

Jonathan Sterne, “The Theology of Sound: A Critique of Orality.” Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 36, 2011: 207-225.

April 27
5. Post-Secular Art and Aesthetics

Abou Farman, “Towards a Post-Secular Aesthetics: Provocations for Possible Media in Afterlife Art.” e-flux journal, vol. 45, May 2013.

Mike King, “Art and the Postsecular.” Journal of Visual Art Practice, vol. 4, no. 1, 2005: 3-17.

Jennifer Scheper Hughes, “Mysterium Materiae: Vital Matter and the Object as Evidence in the Study of Religion.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion, vol. 41, no. 4, November 2012: 16-24.

Anne-Marie Korte, “Blasphemous Feminist Art: Incarnate Politics of Identity in Postsecular Perspective,” in Transformations of Religion and the Public Sphere, Rosi Braidotti et al. (eds.), Palgrave Macmillan, 2014: 228-248.

May 4
6. Postsecular Theory and Criticism

Rosi Braidotti, “Conclusion: The Residual Spirituality in Critical Theory: A Case for Affirmative Postsecular Politics,” in Transformations of Religion and the Public Sphere,  ed. by Rosi Braidotti, Bolette Blaagaard, Tobijn de Graauw, Eva Midden. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014: 249-272.

Matthew C. Watson, "On Multispecies Mythology: A Crtique of Animal Anthropology." Theory, Culture & Society, 2016.

Rosa Vasilaki, “The Politics of Postsecular Feminism.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 2, 2016: 103-123.

Alex Cistelecan, “The Theological Turn of Contemporary Critical Theory.” Telos 167, Summer 2014: 8-26.

Talal Asad, Judith Butler, Wendy Brown, Saba Mahmood, Is Critique Secular?: Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech. University of California Press, 2010.

Graham Ward, Theology and Contemporary Critical Theory. 2nd edition. Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

Is Critique Secular?” SSRC Blog

Elaine Graham, “Manifestations of the Posthuman in the Postsecular Imagination,” in: Perfecting Human Futures. Transhuman Visions and Technological Imaginations, ed. by J. Benjamin Hurlbut  and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. Springer, 2016: 51-72.

Allan Megill, “History, Theoreticism, and the Limits of ‘the Postsecular’.” History and Theory, vol. 52, no. 1, February 2013: 110-129.

May 11
7. Post-Secular Animism and Epistemic Justice

Walter D. Mignolo, “Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 26, no. 7–8, 2009: 1–23.

Dave Aftandilian, “Toward a Native American Theology of Animals: Creek and Cherokee Perspectives.” CrossCurrents, vol. 61, no. 2, June 2011: 191–207.

Graham Harvey, Animism. Respecting the Living World. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006: xi-29; 99-120; 179-212

Harry Garuba, "On Animism, Modernity/Colonialism, and the African Order of Knowledge: Provisional Reflections." e-flux, #36, July 2012.

Nurit Bird-David, "‘Animism’ Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology." Current Anthropology, vol. 40, February 1999: 567-591.

The Handbook of Contemporary Animism, ed. by Graham Harvey. Acumen Publishing, 2013 (fragments).

Ernst Halbmayer, Debating Animism, Perspectivism, and the Construction of Ontologies (Berlin, 2012) INDIANA 29: 9-23.

Africa and the Future: An Interview with Achille Mbembe

May 19
8. Is the Postcolonial Postsecular?
special guest: Dipesh Chakrabarty

Dipesh Chakrabarty, "Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts," in his, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000: 97-113.

---, "Subaltern Histories and Post-Enlightenment Rationalism" in his, Habitations of Modernity. Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002: 20-37.

---, “The Modern and the Secular in the West: An Outsider’s View” (a review essay on Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age). Journal of the American Academy of Religions, no. 77, 1 June 2009: 393-409.

Vincent William Lloyd and Ludger Viefhues-Bailey, "Introduction: Is the Postcolonial Postsecular?" Critical Research on Religion, vol. 3, no. 1, 2015: 13-24 [Special Issue: Is the Postcolonial Postsecular?]

Bruce Robbins, "Is the Postcolonial Also Postsecular?" boundary 2, vol. 40, no. 1, 2013: 245-262.

Graham Huggan, Is the “Post” in “Postsecular” the “Post” in “Postcolonial”? Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 56, no. 4, Winter 2010: 751-768.

Eric Bugyis, "Postsecularism as colonialism by other means." Critical Research on Religion, vol. 3, no. 1, 2015: 25–40.

Satish Kolluri, Ali Mir, “Redifining Secularism in Postcolonial Context.” Cultural Dynamics, vol. 14, no, 1, 2002: 7–20.

Manav Ratti, The Postsecular Imagination. Postcolonialism, Religion and Literature. New York & Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2013.

May 25
9. Religion as an Adaptation
guest participant: Martin Fortier

Helen De Cruz, Ryan Nichols, “Introduction. Cognitive Science of Religion and Its Philosophical Implications,” in: Advances in Religion, Cognitive Science, and Experimental Philosophy, ed. by Helen De Cruz, Ryan Nichols. Bloomsbury, 2016: 1-17.

David Sloan Wilson and William Scott Green, “Evolutionary Religious Studies (ERS): A Beginner’s Guide.” 2007

Dominic D. P. Johnson, “Anthropology: Hand of the Gods in Human Civilization.” Nature, vol. 530, no. 7589, 10 February 2016.  

Stewart Guthrie, “Animal Animism: Evolutionary Roots of Religious Cognition,” in: Current Approaches in the Cognitive Science of Religion, ed. by Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Veikko Anttonen. New York: Continuum, 2002: 38-67.

June 1
10. Postsecular Nature / Green and Animal Theology

Patrick M. Curry, “Post-Secular Nature: Principles and Politics.”  Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion, vol. 11, no. 3, 2007: 284-304.

Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si')

Denise Kimber Buell, “The Microbes and Pneuma That Therefore I Am,”  in Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology, ed. by Stephen Moore. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014: 63-87.

Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God: Explorations in Animal Theology. Winchester University Press, 2007: 49-113.

Donovan O. Schaefer, “Do Animals Have Religion? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religion and Embodiment.” Anthrozoös, vol. 25, supplement, 2012: 173-189.