Panel IV: (Post)Secularism – Theoretical and Empirical Findings on a Contested Category

"Normative Ordnungen im Wandel: Globale Herausforderungen - Siebte internationale Jahreskonferenz des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"

Freitag, 21. November 2014, 13.00 bis 15.00 Uhr

Secularism and religion stand in a tense and ambivalent relationship to each other. This pertains both to the empirically observable reality of the political and cultural discourses in which norms and the scope of action are negotiated by social actors, as well as to scholarly debates. In western societies those critical of religious positions clash with those who defend religion as an essential source of  meaning. Moreover, the “return of religions” (Riesebrodt) has been much discussed in the context of the religious rights of minority groups, particularly those of immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries. In non-western societies, too, questions regarding the significance of religion have been linked to conceptions of state and society as well as to debates on the rights of marginalized groups. Since the Weberian paradigm of a necessarily secular modernity has been called into question, we have been discussing the validity claims of religion within the framework of the postsecularist thesis. However, doubts have been raised as to whether the paradigm offers a satisfactory framework for understanding current dynamics, particularly in non-European societies.

Chair: Prof. Dr. Susanne Schröter (Principal Investigator des Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen", Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)

Since 2008 Susanne Schröter has been Professor of Anthropology of Colonial and Postcolonial orders at the Goethe University Frankfurt and Adjunct Professor at the University of Indonesia. From 2004 to 2008 she was Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Passau. Between 2000 and 2004 she was visiting professor at Yale University, the Universities of Mainz, Frankfurt and Trier, and was visiting fellow at the University of Chicago. Her research foci are the transformation of normative orders, especially in predominantly Muslim societies as well as in post-conflict areas; the debate over secularism vs. postsecularism; constructions of gender and sexuality; as well as new frms of community-building in pluralistic societies. She is head of the international doctoral research group “Cultural and Political Transformations in the Islamic World”. Selected publications include: Schröter, Susanne, ed. (2013): “Geschlechtergerechtigkeit durch Demokratisierung? Transformationen und Restaurationen von Genderverhältnissen in der islamischen Welt“. Bielefeld: Transcript. Susanne Schröter, ed. (2013): “Gender and Islam in Southeast Asia. Negotiating women’s rights, Islamic piety and sexual orders“ . Leiden: Brill. Susanne Schröter, ed. (2010): “Christianity in Indonesia. Perspectives of power“. Berlin: Lit, Reihe: “Southeast Asian Modernities“.



Vortrag 1

Dr. Jocelyne Cesari (Harvard University)

Bridging the Gap Between Political Theory and Political Reality: Revisiting the Dominant Concepts of Secularism

Over the last decade since 9/11, most scholars of IR have come to terms with fixed, a priori definitions of religion and have multiplied attempts to describe which features of and in which ways religion make sense in IR. Nevertheless, the question remains: How can these practices be included within the IR research agenda? This remains a challenge that has been taken up by only a few scholars (Sandal and Fox). A case in point is the gap between current scholarly work on secularism that still insists on some kind of differentiation, separation or neutrality between religion and politics and the socio-political reality of the relations between state and religion that is far from exemplifying this theoretical ideal. This lecture will:
• review and analyze the recent attempts of political scientists to go beyond the separation of state and church in their analyses of secularism ( such as the work of Alfred Stepan);
• show the gap between these recent academic discussions and the existing data on the intermingling of state and church in all countries, including the most advanced democracies (with the notable exception of the USA);
• propose an alternative approach to secularism that looks not only at the institutional but also the social levels of secularization and takes into account the recent scholarly input of sociologists and historians (such as Taylor).

Jocelyne Cesari is a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center where she directs the Islam in World Politics Program. She teaches on contemporary Islam at the Harvard Divinity School and directs the Harvard interfaculty program “Islam in the West”. Her research focuses on religion and international politics, Islam and globalization, Islam and secularism, immigration, and religious pluralism. Her new book, The Islamic Awakening: Religion, Democracy and Modernity ( 2014, Cambridge University Press), is based on three year’s research on state-Islam relations in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and Tunisia, conducted when she was the Minerva Chair at the National War College (2011-2012). Her book, “When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States“ (2006), is a seminal work for the study of European Islam and integration of Muslim minorities in secular democracies. She has also recently published: "Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Islam
in Western Liberal Democracies“ (2013). She coordinates two major web resources on Islam and politics: Islamopedia Online and



Vortrag 2:

Prof. Dr Hartmut Zinser (Freie Universität Berlin):

Secularization – the Return of Religions – Postsecularism. Remarks on the Conceptual Landscape

Since the beginning of the modern period, Europe has undergone several waves of secularization during which the church’s influence on the lives of individuals and on social relations as such receded. Secularization theory asserted this demise of religion constituted a general cultural trend. Today, however, in the wake of the “return of religion”, this theory is considered obsolete. Instead, religions have once again drawn public attention worldwide. Conservative critics have countered that the liberal, democratic state rests on foundations that it cannot in and of itself provide (Böckenförde). This is evident in the debates on genetic engineering and on the capabilities of the neurosciences to create individuals lacking the subjectivity that is constitutive of human life and freedom. In this situation, which is referred to as that of postsecular society, the advocates of liberal positions, once highly critical of religion and the Church, ally themselves with religion in order to defend the indisposability of man (Unverfügbarkeit des Menschen).

Hartmut Zinser (1944) is Professor emeritus of Religion (Religionswissenschaft) at the Freie Universität Berlin. He was a member of the German parliamentary commission of inquiry on “So-called sects and psycho-cults” (1996-98) and a member of the working group of the German Science and Humanities Council on “the further development of theologies and the religious sciences at German universities” (2008-10). His most recent publications are: “Esoterik“ (2009), “Grundfragen der Religionswissenschaft“ (2010), and “Religion und Krieg“ (forthcoming). Hartmut Zinser is a member of the Board of Advisers of the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”.



Vortrag 3

Dr. Dominik Müller (Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen", Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)

Anti-Secular Modernity and the Rise of Pop-Islamism in Southeast Asia

In recent years, political discourse about the relationship between state and religion in Muslim Southeast Asia has become dominated by a passionate demonization of ‘secularism’, particularly in Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. In contrast to the early post-colonial period, no Muslim politician openly defends the idea of a secular state anymore. Governmental Islamic bureaucracies have systematically rationalized the adminis-tration of an anti-pluralistic, yet widely popular brand of Sharia Law. Anti-secular ideologies, however, are increasingly expressed by modern, supposedly ‘secularizing’ means, such as new media and the novel language of marketized religiosity. How can we make analytic sense of these on-going developments vis-à-vis scholarly narratives of (post-)secularism and religious modernity? Might the concept of ‘post-Islamism‘ provide some helpful insights? My presentation will discuss and ethnographically reconsider claims of a transnational ‘post-Islamist evolution’. I will argue that we are presently witnessing a decidedly anti-secular pop-Islamist – rather than a post-Islamist – turn in Southeast Asia, while the region may have never been substantially secularized in the first place.

Dominik Müller (1982) is a post-doctoral fellow at the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders.” He studied Cultural Anthropology, Philosophy and Law at Goethe-University Frankfurt and Leiden University (Netherlands) from 2003 until 2008. He obtained his PhD summa cum laude in Frankfurt in 2012. His PhD thesis explored the intersections of Islamic politics and popular culture in Malaysia, based on ethnographic fieldwork among the country’s largest Islamist opposition party, PAS. The dissertation received the Frobenius Society’s Research Prize for the best anthropological thesis
submitted at a German university in 2012, and was published in 2014 (Islam, Politics and Youth in Malaysia: The Pop-Islamist Reinvention of PAS, Routledge). Müller was a DAAD visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) in 2013. He is now working on a book project on socio-legal change in the Islamic monarchy of Brunei Darussalam, and
presently holds a visiting fellowship at the University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD).




  • Prof. Dr. Susanne Schröter (Chair), Professorin für Ethnologie an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main und Principal Investigator des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"
  • Dr. Jocelyne Cesari, Harvard University
  • Prof. Dr Hartmut Zinser, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Dr. Dominik Müller, Post Doc am Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"
  • Prof. Dr. Rainer Forst, Co-Sprecher des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen" und Professor für Politische Theorie und Philosphie der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
  • Prof. Dr Hartmut Zinser, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Dr. Mahmoud Bassiouni, Post Doc am Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"
  • Prof. Michelle Everson, Birkbeck University of London
  • Prof. Dr Hartmut Zinser, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Marie-Claire Foblets, Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung
  • Dr. Daniel Föller, Post Doc am Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"
  • Heike List, Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmidt, Professor für Religionsphilosophie an der Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main und Principal Investigator des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"


Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Campus Westend
Lübeckerstraße/Ecke Hansaallee
Gebäude "Normative Ordnungen", EG 01 und EG 02

Exzellenzcluster "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"


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