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Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network

Nonreligion and the Secular:

New Horizons for Multidisciplinary Research

Call for Papers| 4-6 July 2012, Goldsmiths, University of London

Conveners: Lois Lee (, Stacey Gutkowski (, and Stephen Bullivant


Conference Coordinator: Katie Aston (

Following decades of neglect, the academic study of nonreligion has grown rapidly in the past five years. The primary aim of this conference is to bring together scholars across a range of academic disciplines (sociology, anthropology, theology, political science, psychology, history, international relations, area studies) to begin to untangle the confused and individually contested concepts of nonreligion and the secular. Is nonreligion a subcategory of the secular or vice versa? How do the two terms structure one another? What are the practical and theoretical implications of the concepts, such as they are and/or in alternative formulations? The aim of this international conference is to contribute to addressing this lacuna. . While discussions of nonreligion and the secular have been running largely in parallel, they are potentially mutually enriching topics with significant bearing outside of the academy. This conference will consolidate the achievements already made over the past five years by nonreligion scholars and forge new, multidisciplinary dialogue between these researchers and those primarily working with the concept of the secular. This conference will bring together a range of internationally renowned scholars, including keynote speakers Gracie Davie (Exeter), Callum Brown (Dundee), Monika Wohlrab-Sahr (Leipzig), and Humeira Iqtidar (King’s College London).

The conference engages with a historical moment in which forms of religion and nonreligion have increasingly asserted themselves in the public sphere, in non-Western as well as Western settings. In the case of radical Islamism and New Atheism, such assertions have had powerful, sometimes inflammatory and divisive affect. This urgent wider social and political context demonstrates the urgency of a reasoned, global, scholarly contribution, aimed at further theorising and conceptualising nonreligion and the secular, individually and in relation to each other.

This conference will interrogate three dimensions and welcomes both

empirically- and theoretically-based paper contributions which address the following:

1) Nonreligion as a concept in its own right What is meant by the term “nonreligion”? How does it manifest itself in the lives of individuals and in collective social activity and identity?

Is it the most appropriate term to encompass a range of phenomena and where may its parameters lie? What is the relationship between nonreligion and modernity? Is nonreligion a resonant category outside of Western contexts?

2) The nonreligious in relation to notions of the secular How do nonreligion and the secular mutually constitute one another?

Under what historical social and political conditions did the rise of secularism and secularity facilitate the appearance of the nonreligious?

Does the emergence of the nonreligious indicate a new phase of modernity?

3) The implications of nonreligion research for pressing social and political issues associated with discussions of the secular What bearing does nonreligiosity have on social, political and legal questions about social cohesion and multiculturalism? To what extent do the “harder” forms on nonreligion breed intolerance and fundamentalism?

What are the implications of nonreligion for the possibility of democratic consensus and governance? To what extent do secular political landscapes outside of the West involve or even require the presence of nonreligious phenomena?

Publication Outcome: We are planning to publish a selection of the papers presented at the conference in an edited volume.

The deadline for abstract submission (250 words max) is 27 April 2012.

Please send your abstract together with a short biographical note to Katie Aston at