The question behind this Symposium presented itself readily: when, how, why, and to what extent did religious justifications fade out from mainstream legal, political, and scientific arguments in the West? That they largely did is a fact, historical and stubborn. Not only the causes and mechanisms of this highly significant change are unclear, even its label is contested.
The term ‘secularisation’ has a bad press today. There are good and bad reasons for this. They range from a healthy suspicion of sweeping generalisations and of ideology-driven models of progress to increasing overspecialisation and thickening walls between the disciplines, including legal history, political science, anthropology, and sociology.
This Symposium aims to consider the revival, meaning, significance, limits, and future usage of ‘secularisation.’ Do recent uses have anything in common, or contribute to a future common sense? Can the term become inter- and multi-disciplinary without self-deconstruction or renewed over-simplifications? That is, has secularisation one cogent history, or is it at best a collection of micro-histories? Can it help to explain the success of early modern colonialism? How about the reprioritisation of natural over divine law, and the new options to replace Christian with alternative metaphysics, or with civic and commercial morality? Can and should the emerging usage of the term be guided toward current concerns, from the autonomy of the religious experience to the viability of the disenchanted political? Or has secularism, the norm and end-point of secularisation as a process, now become so closely associated with rationalism and modernity that it cannot be contested without appearing retrograde?
Or are such questions mis-posed, because the historical range of the current revival is limited to the Reformation and the Enlightenment? Are Bentham, Burke, and other critics of post-Kantian moral philosophy relevant here too, and has political theology returned in the nineteenth century under protean guises of nationalism, cosmopolitanism, a culturally partisan human rights discourse, metaphysically founded national exceptionalisms and self-positionings of “friends of man” states like Britain, the US, France and Prussia, or the shift in international law from the sufficiency of self-declared sovereignty to a status bestowed by a self-appointed club of ‘civilised’ states? Were secularised norms spread around the world by early modern imperialists, or was the process critically uneven in both depth and breadth? Can any conceivable history of secularisation contribute to understanding the modern state’s and international community’s inability to prevent and resolve conflicts that have a religious dimension, from home-grown terrorism, through the regular failure of territorial nation-states, majority rule, international arbitration and other techniques of post-conflict state-building, to the integration of Muslim immigrants in the West?
These questions, and others that rephrase them into a different vocabulary, are what brings together scholars from law, history, philosophy, and political science.
Secularisation: History, Meaning, and Scope
09:00 – 09:15 Welcome and Introduction
09:15 – 10:45 SECULARISATION AND HISTORIOGRAPHY
Professor und Lehrstuhl für Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit. Universität Potsdam, Germany
C. Louise Thijssen-Schoute Professor in the History of Ideas in the Early Modern Period. School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Professor of Bible, Religion and Culture. School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow, UK
Assistant Professor in Early Modern History. School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Senior Lecturer. School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Moderator: James Livesey
10:45 – 11:00 Refreshments
11:00 – 12:30 SECULARISATION AND THE STATE
Juniorprofessur für Intellectual History. Forschungszentrum Laboratorium Aufklärung, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany
Associate Professor. Department of Political Science, Secondary Appointment in Classics. Tufts University, USA
Associate Professor of Politics. The New School for Social Research, NYC, USA. Visiting Research Professor, University of Barcelona, Spain
Professor of Jurisprudence. Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Moderator: Tarik Kochi
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 SECULARISATION, COLONIALISM AND THE LAW OF NATIONS
Professor, Chair of Legal History, Faculty of Law. Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Professor of Public International Law and European Law. Université de Fribourg, Switzerland. Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germany
Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law. S.J. Quinney School of Law, University of Utah, USA
Senior Lecturer in Law and International Security. Sussex Law School and Centre for Social and Political Thought, UK
Moderator: Hans Blom
15:30 – 15:45 Refreshments
15:45 – 17:15 SECULARISATION AND METHOD
Lea Campos Boralevi
Professor of the History of Political Thought. Dipartimento di Studi Storici e Geografici, University of Florence, Italy
Professor of History, Head of Department. University of Sussex, UK
Professor of Political Science. Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Athens, Greece
Professor, Kulturgeschichte der europäischen Aufklärung. Universität Potsdam, Germany
Moderator: Ioannis Evrigenis
17:15 – 17:30 Refreshments
17:30 – 19:00 SECULARISATION: A RESEARCH AGENDA
Moderator: Mark Somos
Rechtskulturen Research Fellow. Forum Transregionale Studien, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and Humboldt-Universität, Juristische Fakultät, Germany