This international conference, featuring Talal Asad, Jose Casanova, Hent de Vries, and Tomoko Masuzawa as keynote speakers, aims to create a forum for discussing historical and contemporary politics of religion-making. Broadly conceived, the term "religion-making" refers to the ways in which religion(s) is/are conceptualized and institutionalized within the matrix of a globalized world-religion discourse. We are particularly interested in exploring the consequences that follow when non-Western elites adopt Western-style objectifications of religion and its dialectic other, the secular.
There is a growing body of scholarship dedicated to rethinking the politics of religion-making in ways that demonstrate the shortcomings of the standard religion/secular paradigm. New genealogies of religion and analyses of the concept of world-religion are part of a broader theoretical debate in the study of religion over the translation of the term "religion" into non-Western contexts during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Still, the religion/secular paradigm continues to thrive in public discourses, among indigenous practitioners, and even within certain lines of scholarly analysis. The tension between theoretical deconstructions and everyday practical reifications of the religion/secular paradigm is a challenge for critical scholarship since it points to its role and limitations within global and local political contexts.
The panels within this conference are designed to bring innovative reflection on the concept of world-religion - particularly reflection that takes into consideration the post-religious/post-secular movement in the study of religion(s) - into critical dialogue with empirical research that is interested in practical local appropriations of the world-religion discourse. While theoretical discourses for deconstructing religion(s) have become increasingly sophisticated, there has, as yet, been relatively little application of such discourses to the practical and historical workings of religion at the local, national, or global level. And vice versa, established empiricist scholarship (mostly by social and political scientists) has remained disengaged from recent developments concerning the category of religion. The aim of this conference is to initiate a productive engagement between theoretically oriented and empirically grounded approaches in the study of religion in order to better understand the politics underlying the various projects of religion-making.
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