Religion and the Political Imagination
This project strand is coordinated by Ira Katznelson (Columbia University) and Gareth Stedman Jones (University of Cambridge). It engages historians of political thought and political scientists in the investigation of theoretical and constitutional aspects of relations between religion and political institutions over the period since the American and French revolutions. These two events are widely (and wrongly) supposed to have initiated a new epoch of secular and universal politics. The role of religion in contemporary politics, especially in the Middle East and South Asia, has been examined in literally innumerable conferences, colloquia and research projects. But the historical foundations of political assumptions about universal secularization have been the subject of oddly little attention, at least among historians and political theorists in leading research universities. Even the most prestigious publication series in intellectual history have included few works whose titles signal a central concern with religion. This strand aims to fill this void.
The 2005 meeting set the agenda for future work by focusing on a set of key questions. The empirical status of western secularisation was explored. The question – is it an exception or the harbinger of the future – was discussed, as was the analytical use of the model of secularisation built to account for this experience, its diffusion and its use in understanding other parts of the world.
The 2006 meeting took place from 25-26 July and discussion focussed on, on the one hand, the historical relationship between religious sentiment and practice and the processes of secularisation and, on the other hand, the changing constitutional relationship between the church (and other religious institutions) and the state.
The 2007 meeting, organised by Ira Katznelson and Gareth Stedman Jones, was held on 16-17 July in the Saltmarsh Rooms, King’s College. The meeting examined secularisation and participants were given brief presentations of essays to be published in a volume. Participants included Karen Barkey, Callum Brown, Sudipta Kaviraj, Jytte Klausen and Hugh McLeod. Click for the programme, participants, and conference report.