After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics


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Tanya B. Schwarz and Cecelia Lynch
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It perpetuates the subtle logic of the coloniality of knowledge that continues nourishing dynamics of coloniality of power and of being de Sousa Santos, ; According to Braidotti , the importance of affirmative action lies in the fact that it is a form of resistance oriented towards the dis-identification of the subject of categorisations attributed by colonial power such as black, religious, or woman, for example. Thus, the act of re- cognising is oriented towards the subjective political agency of individuals, which consists more of multiple micro-political practices than of legal identities formally registered by a neutral state as ultimately defended by Habermas.

Then,although this epistemological turn is a feature shared generally by post-positivist theories in Social Science, there is a potential in post-colonial and de-colonial perspectives to critically rethink the colonial power-knowledge relationship and claim its production from below. A real effort to understand the time conceptions embedded in political actions from a religious perspective requires a critical epistemological approach. In this sense, methodologies such as Participatory Action Fals-Borda ; de Sousa Santos , Collaborative Ethnography, or co-Theorisation Rappaport ; Lassiter , highly developed by post-colonial and de-colonial researches in Latin America, could be especially useful.

It is a matter of developing methodologies that contribute to understanding what occurs in the social ground through the inclusion of those who have historically been excluded and underestimated as active political subjects and complex subjectivities. Thus, according to the aim of this article, this epistemological approach can be a useful vehicle to understand the time conceptions that underlie the political claims of religious actors. How do religious ideas contribute to the formation of particular notions of social time?

How do these temporalities determine their understanding of the political? In the first place, for these conceptual perspectives, time is understood in relational terms; i. It is not something natural, objective, and exogenous with respect to social interaction, as defended by the Cartesian perspective.

This is the reason why time must be an important part of the de-coloniality of knowledge, power, and cultural identity. In the second place, regarding the idea of culture, post-colonial and de-colonial perspectives approach it recognising its ambiguous nature. On the one hand, culture is the result of a colonial European construction and was one of the main strategies of power-knowledge to control the peoples of the world for centuries.

However, on the other hand, culture has been historically a discourse associated with the political identity of difference, resistance, and emancipation of those marginalised and excluded. It is usual to relate culture with difference, reading difference as a question of identity.

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As defended by this article, a conception of time is always engaged in all forms of social identity. Thus, if the aim is to apprehend these conformations of social time, it can be useful to take into account the reflection on culture, difference, and identity of post-colonial and de-colonial thinkers like Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha, and Boaventura de Sousa Santos. According to Hall , there is no essential identity and we should instead speak about identification processes.

But identification is not understood like a finished and complete process. It is contingent, conditional, and subsumed in a continuous process of social interaction and change. Therefore, what is at stake in the political action of religious actors is not simply whether they interpret the political project in linear or circular temporal terms as a primary cultural feature, but how religious actors create temporal forms of identification and how they negotiate the fluid boundaries of their constituencies among religious groups themselves, as well as between the religious and secular identifications.

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In order to illustrate this approach, I would like to show the close relationship between time, politics, and spirituality within some indigenous communities in managing the armed conflict resolution and peace building in Colombia. This spiral or umbilical movement from inside to outside and from outside to inside gives all their action, including the political, a particular spiritual sense.

This is because they interpret facts as part of a constant process of going and coming. Taking this indigenous culture of time into account makes it easier to understand the actions of the Nasa people before their peace negotiations with the FARC in in Colombia. In accordance with their culture of time, peace is part of the struggle for them. Therefore, through the logic of the spiral, the question of peace is reviewed, discussed, and returned to again and again in reiterated form.

It is thus in this turning of the spiral that time permits the achievement of transcendence. In this particular case, the political utopia is in the transforming turn. The Awa indigenous people suffered for nine months a confinement of 2, persons families in , given the clashes between the national army and the FARC.

The approach to the idea of reparation was complex, since the question was who could intervene and how it was possible to do so with respect to damage like the loss of their collective being. They considered spiritual healing to be an internal affair of the people to be resolved through their rituals and, following these acts, their decision was to not speak of what had occurred, to not relive the experience again through memory. Thus, they vindicated a right not to remember, but rather to forget. If the purpose is to understand the political nature and effects of religious practices in our world, it is important to understand the diversity of cultures of time in which these practices are conceived, interpreted, and legitimised for the actors involved.

The purpose of this article has been to critically rethink the post-secular academic category from the standpoint of the question of time.


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Nevertheless, it appears that, on the contrary, after more than two decades of reflection in and among different disciplines of the Social Sciences regarding the post-secular, time continues to be the forgotten dimension. Thus, the main conclusion of this article is that the exclusion of time from the academic debate about politics and religion is one of the clearest signs of the colonial power politics contained in the post-secular.

Therefore, this idea, developed mainly since its formulation by the philosopher Habermas in the s, is a way of colonialism by other means. Likewise, the Habermasian proposal of post-secular societies does not give up the modern, enlightened pretension of universality either. Even though it criticises the postulates of the modern secularisation paradigm, it nonetheless defends communicative reason as a formula to be worldly extended.

If it is understood that the post-secular involves surpassing the modern paradigm of secularisation, then silencing the temporal grammar of the modern European and Christian concept of secular is a political decision that determines forms of inclusion and exclusion. From a socio-historical approach, time is translated into cultures of time that are contingent and structure the behaviour of actors in society.

For the moment, concealing the temporal dimension in the post-secular has the effect of totalising the cultures of time of religious actors by associating them with conservatism and with a linear, teleological, eschatological conception of time.

Finally, the article inquires into the possibility of a post-colonial reading of the post-secular. Is this current line of thought capable of including time in understanding political religiosity in our times?

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In this sense, the article concludes that post-colonial thinking is controversial with respect to this task, but it is nonetheless not completely unproductive. Post-colonial and de-colonial perspectives can therefore deepen the understanding of temporality that structures religious practices in the field of politics. Asad, Talal. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam and Modernity. Stanford: Calif. Barbato, Mariano. Review of International Studies 38 5 : — Beck, Ulrich. El Dios personal. Bellah, Robert N.

Berkeley: University of California Press. Berger, Peter ed. Barcelona: Anthropos.

After Secularism Rethinking Religion in Global Politics

Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge. In Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay eds. Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage, pp. Bhargava, Rajeev. Secularism and Its Critics. In Linell E.


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New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. Bilgrami, Akeel. Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment.

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Harvard University Press. Blumenberg, Hans. The Legitimacy of the Modern Age. Cambridge: The Mit Press. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 1 : 55— Braidotti, Rosi. Bubyis, Eric. Critical Research on Religions, 3 1 : 25— Bury, John B. The Idea of Progress. An Inquiry into its Origins and Growth. New York: Dover Publications. Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Rethinking Secularism. New York: Oxford University Press.

After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics

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