1 2015

The Long Shadow of Totemism: Anthropologies of 'the Secular'

3:30PM - 5:00PM  

244 Barnard, UNC Charlotte 9201 University City Blv.
Charlotte , NC 28223

Contact Elise Berman

UNC Charlotte's Anthropology/GIAS Seminar Series Presents Gregory Starrett.

Critical social theory increasingly views secularism not as a separation between religion and politics, but as a kind of entanglement between them. Modern states marginalize minority religious traditions by defining religious practice as legitimate only insofar as it emphasizes Protestant values such as interiority, individuality, and the primacy of belief. But such processes are in fact very old ones, not necessarily associated with anything we might recognize as "modern," "secular," or "state" institutions. Drawing on case studies from the Jewish communities of medieval Europe, I will argue that we gain no analytical clarity by labeling processes of organizing and domesticating religious difference as secular. Contemporary theories of "the secular" are--like early twentieth century theories of Totemism--more accurately viewed as stereotypes through which contemporary intellectuals construct hierarchies of difference.

Sponsor: UNC Charlotte Department of Anthropology, UNC Charlotte Department of Global, International, and Area Studies