RelSec Update: Prof. Dr. Stathis Gourgouris Defends ‘Secular Criticism’ at Utrecht University

On March 19th and 20th 2014, the RelSec team of the Centre for the Humanities of Utrecht University hosted Stathis Gourgouris (Columbia University). Author of the 2013 book Lessons in Secular Criticism (Fordham University Press), Gourgouris takes up an interesting position in the debate concerning religion and the secular. Although agreeing with authors such as Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood that the secular needs to be submitted to critical scrutiny, Gourgouris nonetheless argues that this critique needs to be secular itself. Defending this position of 'secular criticism' over and against 'postsecular critics' Gourgouris took part in a polemical debate with Saba Mahmood on the pages of the Immanent Frame and the journal Public Culture. During an intensive seminar as well as a public lecture, Gourgouris presented these thoughts. We invited a young Utrecht scholar, Pooyan Tamimi Arab as well as Centre for the Humanities director Rosi Braidotti to respond. This resulted in two afternoons during which the seminal positions concerning the role of religion and the secular in the formation of a tolerant public sphere were addressed and critically evaluated.

The Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University is one of the five collaborators on CHCI’s Mellon-funded project Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging.