January 25th at 3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Study of the secular and secularism has always been of interest to thinkers and theorists of religion. In a moment when the traditional boundaries between religion and the secular continue to be blurred, the time is ripe to return to this category, examine emerging theorists and theorizations, and explore its continued usefulness. The panel will explore its many and varied meanings and how different constructions of the secular help us narrate contemporary phenomena. They will explore the ways that secularism not only help us theorize what some have called the “losing of religion” but also the reconfiguring of traditional and new religious movements. Additionally, this panel will discuss why the current evangelical revival, discourses on Afro-pessimism, and rising political partisanship cannot be read apart from histories of and discourses on the secular. Join us as we explore these and other critical questions at the intersection of secularism, the study of religion, and American culture.
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Brian Steensland, Professor and Chair of Sociology, IUPUI
Dr. Steensland’s areas of interest include religion, culture, politics, and civic life in contemporary American society. His books include Situating Spirituality: Context, Practice, and Power (Oxford, 2022), co-edited with Jaime Kucinskas and Anna Sun; The New Evangelical Social Engagement (Oxford, 2014), co-edited with Philip Goff; and The Failed Welfare Revolution: America’s Struggle over Guaranteed Income Policy (Princeton, 2008). His articles include “The Measure of American Religion” (Social Forces, 2000) and “Cultural Categories and the American Welfare State” (American Journal of Sociology, 2006). (For additional information, see briansteensland.com.)
Lucia Hulsether, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Skidmore College
Lucia Hulsether is an ethnographer and historian of religion committed to a enacting a democratic praxis in her teaching and her research. She works at the intersection of critical race and ethnic studies, feminist and queer theory, and the study of labor and capitalism. Her research is focused on the religious cultures of the Americas. She interprets this topic broadly, to encompass ritual practices and collective forms through which people organize their lives and articulate their values. Her first book, tentatively titled Liberated Market: On the Cultural Politics of Capitalist Humanitarianism, is about transnational “conscious capitalist” initiatives like fair trade, microfinance, and corporate social responsibility. She is also pursuing projects on the intellectual cultures of college policy debate competition and on the gendered history of U.S. civic education programs.
Leigh Eric Schmidt, Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Schmidt is the author of Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (Harvard, 2000), which won the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Historical Studies and the John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association; Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman (Basic, 2010); and Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (HarperOne, 2005). Dr. Schmidt has appeared on a number of NPR programs and other radio shows to discuss his books, including All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, John Batchelor Show, Bob Edwards Show, BackStory with the American History Guys, Talking History, Voice of America, Religion Matters, Odyssey, The Connection, On Point, and The Book Show. He has often commented on current issues in American religion and culture, including for such media outlets as The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, London Times, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, San Francisco Bay Guardian, U. S. News and World Report, Newsweek, Charlotte Observer, Atlanta Constitution, Newark Star-Ledger, San Bernardino Sun, Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News and Observer, Peoria Journal Star, San Diego Union Tribune, and the Religion News Service. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Religion and American Culture, Practical Matters, and Religion & Politics.
Joseph Winters, Alexander F. Hehmeyer Associate Professor of Religious Studies and African and African American Studies, Duke University
Joseph Winters is the Alexander F. Hehmeyer Associate Professor of Religious Studies and African and African American Studies. He also holds secondary positions in English and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. His interests lie at the intersection of black religious thought, African-American literature, and critical theory. Overall, his project expands conventional understandings of black religiosity and black piety by drawing on resources from Af-Am literature, philosophy, and critical theory. His research examines how literature, film, and music (especially hip hop) can reconfigure our sense of the sacred and imagination of spirituality. Winters’ first book, Hope Draped in Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress (Duke University Press, June 2016) examines how black literature and aesthetic practices challenge post-racial fantasies and triumphant accounts of freedom. The book shows how authors like WEB Du Bois and Toni Morrison link hope and possibility to melancholy, remembrance, and a recalcitrant sense of the tragic. His second book project (under contract with Duke University Press) is called Disturbing Profanity: Hip Hop, Black Aesthetics, and the Volatile Sacred.