Interfakultärer Studiengang Religionswissenschaft




History and the Secular

Workshop at LMU Munich, Chair for Religious Studies, Faculty 10, June 22-23, 2024

22.06.2024 – 23.06.2024

Venue: Geschwister-Scholl-Pl. 1, A 120

Organized by Jonathan Sheehan, Lorenz Trein & Robert Yelle
Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation


What is the history of the secular? The question is hard to answer, not least because history and the secular coordinate in such a confusing fashion. History often seems to be an effect of the secular: once secular, we will abandon finally God’s time for human time. No less often, it appears to be a cause of the secular: once historical subjects, we will finally abandon the stories that religion tells us about ourselves. Another difficulty concerns the multiple referents of history and the secular. Religion has always had its own versions of history and the secular, which continue to circulate and compete with “secular” versions of the same. Abandoning God’s time for human time also appears both to relocate the religious within historical time, and push it beyond the horizon of history altogether. The circularities – and our tentative anticipatory tenses – signal that perhaps we are not asking the question in the right way. This workshop invites an open consideration of how we might ask it better.
For example, is the history of the secular a history of secularization? If so, what are the criteria that we might use to study this? Why does “history,” as one recent essay collection suggests, seem a plausible answer to the question “What comes after the critique of secularism” (Greenberg; Steinmetz 2020)? To which distinctions does the secular, both as a sensibility and an object of study, ask, or force, us to commit? Can these distinctions – religion/secular, history/eschatology, anthropology/theology, theocracy/democracy, political theology/theopolitics, to take just a few – be stabilized? Are there zones of indistinction, neither secular nor religious, past or present, from which we might ask the question better? And what about religion? Why is it so difficult to disentangle the intricate relationship between religion, the secular, and secularization? Is this a problem mainly of our histories of the secular, or of any history, past and present? Finally: What are the limits of the question ‘What is the history of the secular?’ Why stop at history? What if we confronted the secular not only with history or anthropology, but also with theology and philosophy?



Saturday, June 22, 2024

09.00 - 09.15: Welcome

  • Introductory Remarks
    Jonathan Sheehan, Lorenz Trein, Robert Yelle

09.15 - 10.45: Session one

  • Futures of an Illusion? Classical Theories of Religion and the Predicament of Modernity
    Cristiana Facchini (University of Bologna)
  • “Secularization” as a Narrative and as a Trope: Variations on Relating the Secular
    Daniel Weidner (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg)

11.15 - 12.45: Session two

  • Distinctions before the Distinction: Early 19th-century Emigration as a Site of the Upcoming Religious/Secular Divide
    Anja Kirsch (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim)
  • Worldview: A Global History of a Religious-Secular Concept at the Heart of Modern Culture Wars
    Todd Weir (University of Groningen)

13.45 - 15.15: Session three

  • The (Im)Possibility of Genealogical Critique – Liberalism’s ‘Religion’
    Anna Blijdenstein (University of Amsterdam)
  • Is Critique Secularizing?
    Victoria Kahn (UC Berkeley)

15.30 - 17.00: Session four

  • The Violent Theology of the Secular
    Jayne Svenungsson (Lund University)
  • Intimacies of Distinction: History, Sacrifice, and Civil Religion
    Jonathan Sheehan (UC Berkeley)

Sunday, June 23, 2024

09.30 - 11.00: Session five

  • Koselleck on the Beach: The Suntan of History, the Body of the Text, and the Problem of Secularity
    Henning Trüper (ZfL Berlin)
  • The Prospects of Singularity – Concepts of Time in Posthumanism
    Oliver Krüger (University of Fribourg)

11.30 - 13.00: Session six

  • A Secular Tradition Within and Without Religion
    Joseph Blankholm (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • On the Unavailability of History
    Lorenz Trein (LMU Munich)

14.00 - 15.30: Session seven

  • The History of Secular Mythology: The Prophetic Reading of Genesis 49:10 and the Theological Origins of the Idea of Separation of Church and State
    Robert Yelle (LMU Munich)
  • How Religion Walks Through Walls: or, the Problem of Separate Spheres in the Enlightenment
    Ethan H. Shagan (UC Berkeley)

15.45: Closing Discussion


Interessierte Zuhörer*innen sind herzlich willkommen!