[Methods Series] On the Virtues of a Meaning Systems Framework for Studying Nonreligious and Religious Worldviews in the Context of Everyday Life

Opening the new monthly issue of the [SSNB]-NSRN [methods blog series], Ann Taves explores one of the central questions in contemporary nonreligious studies – and a long-standing religious studies, too: how to understand and describe the object of study. Providing an overview of recent propositions arising from psychology, sociology and anthropology, she sets out a proposal for a meaning systems approach.taves

In this blog post, I want to take up the central challenge facing those who aim to study nonreligion or secularity and one that has long plagued scholars of religion — that of specifying an object of study.[i] Although several good suggestions have been made, I think we can do a better job of capturing the range of things we want to study by adapting the meaning systems (MS) framework,[ii] already in use in psychology, for our purposes. The MS framework, which was designed to encompass both religious and nonreligious meaning systems,[iii] allows us to conceptualize our object of study in generic terms. It offers a dynamic framework that has already generated a body of empirical research on the interaction between meaning systems (implicit and explicit) and meaning making in particular situations. Although much of this research has focused on how people cope with trauma, psychologists have extended it to other contexts, including conversion and spiritual transformation.[iv] Here I suggest we can build on the framework’s basic distinction between global meaning systems (GMS) and situational meaning (SM) by elaborating the concept of GMS in light of the literature on worldviews and the concept of SM in light of ‘situational’ elements, such as practices, networks, institutions, and ways of life, that are typically studied by scholars of religion under the rubric of ‘lived religion.’

The Problem

The new focus on ‘nonreligion’ helpfully expands our focus beyond the traditional focus on atheism or ‘nonbelief’.[v] In characterizing our object of study as nonreligion, we are indicating that we want to think about it – whatever it is — in relation to religion. In effect, we are setting up a comparison. But we lack two things: an overarching framework in which both religion and nonreligion fit and specific features that we want to compare. It is as if we set out to compare apples and oranges without realizing that they are both fruits or specifying which features of these two fruits we wanted to compare.

Proposed Solutions

Both Thomas Coleman and Lois Lee have made significant attempts to address this issue. Coleman et al. propose ‘horizontal transcendence’ as a way to characterize experiences that people view as profoundly meaningful and at the same time neither religious nor spiritual.[vi] ‘Experiences that people consider profoundly meaningful’ are an important feature that – I agree – we want to compare, but they are only one potential aspect of ‘nonreligion’. We need something more encompassing. Lee makes a case for ‘existential cultures’ as an umbrella term that captures theist, atheist, humanist, and other nonreligious subcultures and allows us to consider lived existential practices as well as more explicit existential beliefs.[vii] In applying this terminology, however, Lee struggled to conceptualize those she characterized as ‘anti-existential’ (or Schnell as existentially indifferent[viii]), that is, those who didn’t want to think about existential questions. Moreover, in defining ‘existentialism’ broadly in terms of ‘ultimate questions,’ she highlights a feature that – as she acknowledges — has long been associated with the concept of ‘worldviews’.

An Alternative

Although I appreciate these attempts, I think that ‘worldviews,’ as discussed in the philosophical literature, better captures the sense of the ‘big questions’ (BQs) that Lee associates with ‘existential philosophies.’[ix] Not only is the term ‘worldviews’ readily recognizable and in widespread popular use, it has generated an extensive academic discussion in philosophy and the social sciences since proposed by Kant.[x] Within religious studies, some have advocated studying religions as worldviews,[xi] and others a shift from studying religions to studying worldviews more generally.[xii] Within psychology, we find explicit discussion of worldviews in the context of terror management theory[xiii] and equivalents in existential theory of mind[xiv] and in the concept of a global meaning system within a meaning systems approach.[xv]

Although there are many different definitions within philosophy, the concept emerged in response to a desire to relativize religious outlooks.[xvi] The interdisciplinary ‘worldviews’ research group led by Apostel and van der Veken explicitly characterized worldviews as offering answers to six fundamental philosophical questions.[xvii]

taves-1

Variations on these BQs have been used to structure world religions textbooks[xviii] and textbooks in the history and philosophy of science,[xix] where they provide a framework for comparison.

Although worldviews can be used to compare elaborate philosophical and religious systems, we do not need to conceive of worldviews as explicit or well developed. They can be implicit or explicit, taken for granted or reflected upon, and surfaced on a need-to-know basis, through interaction, formal dialogue, or active cultivation. Worldviews, nonetheless, still smack of ‘beliefs’ and don’t capture the range of practices, institutions, or everyday ways of life that we associate with religions and spiritualities, nor do they provide a framework for analyzing how implicit or explicit worldviews interact with these other aspects of life.

Here I would suggest that we meld the philosophical and religious discussion of worldviews with the psychological literature on global meaning systems that researchers have used primarily to study coping in situations of trauma, loss, and bereavement. This is a generic framework that can be (and has been) linked with religious meaning systems.[xx]

taves-2

Although the MS literature has been primarily concerned with ‘situations’ that stand out because they are traumatic, we can think of ‘situations’ as the generic context in which everyday or lived meaning is made. The situations or events considered could range from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, the traumatic to the ecstatic, or the mundane to the highly significant. They would, thus, include ‘experiences that people consider profoundly meaningful,’ some of which, as Coleman et al. suggested may be considered as instances of ‘horizontal transcendence’.[xxvii] Situations and events do not need to be described in the ‘thin’ terms characteristic of psychologists, but can be richly characterized in the socio-cultural-environmental terms that characterize research in history, anthropology, and religious studies.

In characterizing situations more richly, however, humanists should not lose sight of the MS researchers’ interest in dynamic processes, e.g., the role of GMS in the appraisal of situations or events, the interactions between GMS and SM in those contexts, and the way that meaning is discovered and transformed in relation to situations or events. Based on our deeper immersion in the particulars of religious and nonreligious contexts – whether historically or ethnographically – we can seek to identify the factors that make a difference in these dynamics across worldviews and cultural contexts.

Lee’s conception of existential cultures could be assimilated with this approach. She clearly views existential cultures as constituted by the meaning making processes inherent in everyday life. As she observes,[xxviii] ‘thinking of meaning making, not as a narrow, philosophical practice but as something enacted in multiple ways, small and large, in everyday life calls into question the idea that large groups of people can be easily located outside the existential cultural field’. Within both the MS and worldview literature,[xxix] there are those that would push this point farther, claiming that all organisms – not just humans — require a GMS or worldview, rudimentary as it might be from a human perspective, in order to function. If we view meaning systems this broadly, it allows us to think about them within an evolutionary framework, asking why and under what conditions humans have sought to elaborate the explicit worldviews we think of as philosophies and religions.

Further reading

Leontiev, Dmitry A., ed. 2015. Positive psychology in search for meaning. Routledge. Originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Markman, Keith D., Travis Proulx, and Matthew J. Lindberg, eds, 2013, The Psychology of Meaning. Washington, DC: APA Press.


Ann Taves is professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara where, among other things, she is designing an introductory course on “Comparing Religions and Other Worldviews” and supervising the interdisciplinary Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group.  She is the author of numerous books and articles, including Fits, Trances, and Visions (Princeton, 1999) and Religious Experience Reconsidered (Princeton, 2009).  Her new book, Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths, is forthcoming from Princeton in October 2016.


[i] Thanks to Tommy Coleman, Lois Lee, and Ray Paloutzian for their helpful feedback and comments.

[ii] Roy F. Baumeister, 1991, Meanings of Life. Guilford; Crystal Park and S. Folkman. 1997, ‘Meaning in the context of stress and coping,’ Review of General Psychology 1, 115-144; Crystal Park, 2010, ‘Making sense of the meaning literature: An integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events,’ Psychological Bulletin 136(2), 257-301; Keith D. Markman, Travis Proulx, and Matthew J. Lindberg, eds, 2013, The Psychology of Meaning. Washington, DC: APA Press.

[iii] Crystal Park, 2005, ‘Religion and meaning’, in Paloutzian and Park, Handbook. Guilford; Crystal Park, 2013, Religion and meaning, in Paloutzian and Park, Handbook, 2nd ed. Guilford.

[iv] Raymond F. Paloutzian, 2005, ‘Religious conversion and spiritual transformation: A meaning-systems analysis’, in Paloutzian and Park, eds., Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Guilford; Raymond Paloutzian, Sebastian Murken, Heinz Streib, and Sussan Rossler-Namini, 2013, ‘Conversion, deconversion, and spiritual transformation: A multi-level interdisciplinary view’, in Paloutzian and Park (eds), The Handbook of Religion and Spirituality, 2nd ed. Guilford.

[v] Lois Lee, 2012, ‘Talking about a revolution: Terminology for the new field of Non-religion Studies’, Journal of Contemporary Religion 27(1), 129-139.

[vi] Thomas J. Coleman III, Christopher F. Silver, and Jenny Holcombe, 2013, ‘Focusing on horizontal transcendence: Much more than a ‘non-belief’, Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21(2), 1-18.

[vii] Lois Lee, 2015, Recognizing the Non-religious: Reimagining the Secular, Oxford: Oxford University Press; Lois Lee and Stephen Bullivant, in press, The Dictionary of Atheism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[viii] Tatjana Schnell, 2010, ‘Existential indifference: Another quality of meaning in life’, Journal of Humanistic Psychology 50, 351-373.

[ix] Markman et al. (Psychology of Meaning, 1) acknowledge the key role that existential philosophy and psychology played in reflecting on the BQs in a nonreligious context, but indicate that, while ‘once the province of existential philosophy, existential psychology, and the related clinical literature, meaning is a word that appears with greater frequency within the social, cognitive, and cognitive neuroscience literatures’. The shift from ‘existential’ to ‘meaning’ highlights the issue of central concern for existentialists without appropriating their distinctive self-descriptions, and, at the same time, allows to us to shift our focus to processes of meaning or sense making across a wide range of disciplines, contexts, and even organisms.

[x] David K. Naugle, 2002, Worldview: The History of a Concept, Eerdmans.

[xi] Ninian Smart, 2000, Worldview: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs, 3rd ed. Prentice Hall; Mark Juergensmeyer, 2010, ‘2009 Presidential Address: Beyond war and words: The global future of religion’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78(4), 882-895.

[xii] Christa Anbeek, Hans Alma, and Saskia van Goelst Meijer, under review, ‘Contrast experiences and social imaginaries as spaces for truth-seeking’, in Guido Vanheeswijck and Hans Alma, eds. Social Imaginaries in a Globalizing World, DeGruyter; Andre F. Droogers, and Anton van Harskamp, 2014, Methods for the Study of Religious Change: From Religious Studies to Worldview Studies, London: Equinox.

[xiii] Melissa Landau, Mark J. Soenke, and Jeff Greenberg, 2013, Sacred armor: Religion’s role as a buffer against the anxieties of life and the fear of death, in Kenneth I. Pargament (ed), APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, vol. 1: 105-122.

[xiv] Jesse Bering, 2002, ‘The Existential Theory of Mind’, Review of General Psychology 6 (1): 3–24; Thomas J. Coleman III, and Ralph W. Hood, Jr, 2015, Reconsidering everything: From folk categories to existential theory of mind, Religion and Society: Advances in Research 6 (2015): 18-22.

[xv] Park, ‘Making sense’; Raymond F. Paloutzian, 2017, Invitation to the Psychology of Religion, 3rd ed. Guilford.

[xvi] Naugle, Worldview.

[xvii] Vidal, C. 2008,‘Wat is een wereldbeeld? (What is a worldview?)’ in Van Belle, H. & Van der Veken, J., eds, Nieuwheid denken. De wetenschappen en het creatieve aspect van de werkelijkheid, Acco, Leuven, 4.

[xviii] Stephen Prothero, 2010, God is Not One. Harper One; Brodd, Jeffrey, et al. 2016. Invitation to World Religions, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press.

[xix] Richard DeWitt, 2010, Worldviews: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science, 2nd edition, Wiley-Blackwell.

[xx] Park, ‘Religion and meaning’.  [It should have been Park 2013; I am citing the two version of her ‘Religion and meaning’ chapters in the 1st and 2nd editions of the handbooks 2005, 2013.]

[xxi] Park, ‘Making sense’, 258

[xxii] Johannes Quack and Cora Schuh, eds, forthcoming, Religious Indifferences: Between and Beyond Religion and Nonreligion, New York: Springer.

[xxiii] Schnell, ‘Existential indifference’.

[xxiv] Roxane Cohen Silver and John Updegraff, 2013, ‘Searching for and finding meaning following personal and collective traumas’, in Markman, Proulz, and Lindbergh, eds. Psychology of Meaning, APA Press.

[xxv] Dmitry A. Leontiev, 2013, Personal meaning: A challenge for psychology, Journal of Positive Psychology 8 (6), 459-470; Crystal Park and Login S. George, 2013, Assessing meaning and meaning making in the context of stressful life events: Measurement tools and approaches, Journal of Positive Psychology 8(6), 483-504.

[xxvi] Samantha J. Heintzelman and Laura A. King, 2013, On knowing more than we can tell: Intuitive processes and the experience of meaning, Journal of Positive Psychology 8 (6), 471–482.

[xxvii] Coleman et al., ‘Horizontal transcendence’.

[xxviii] Lee, Recognizing the Non-religious, 172.

[xxix] Jordan B. Peterson, 2013, ‘Three forms of meaning and the management of complexity’, in Markman, Keith D., Travis Proulx, and Matthew J. Lindberg, eds, The Psychology of Meaning, APA Press; Raymond Paloutzian and Katelyn Mukai, 2017, ‘Believing, remembering, and imagining: The roots and fruits of meanings made and remade’, in Angel, H.-F., Oviedo, L. Paloutzian, R. F., Runihov, A. L. C., & Seitz, R. J., Process of Believing: The Acquisition, Maintenance, and Change in Creditions. Heidelberg: Springer; Vidal, ‘Wat is een wereldbeeld? (What is a worldview?)’

 

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[Book Review] American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems

In this post, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi reviews Joseph Baker’s and Buster Smith’s latest book American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems (New York University Press 2015).

 

Americans have never ceased to amaze foreign observers with their high level of belief in souls,benny-bh spirits, and gods. Pew Research Centre (2014) found that nearly 9 in 10 (89%) Americans believe in ‘God or a universal spirit.’ Nevertheless, over the past few decades a significant rise in the proportion of Americans who were investing less and less in religious affiliation and beliefs has been noted. Kosmin and Keysar (2011) showed that the proportion of unaffiliated Americans has been growing since 1990. A few have even embraced the clearly unpopular labels of atheists or agnostics, despite Smith’s (2015:229) acknowledgment of the stigmatized and deviant status of atheism in America.

What the book is really about is secularity, the state of being secular, because ‘secularism’ usually refers to a vision of a world less affected by religion, and the authors indeed use the term secularity a few times. So the book is about secular Americans, from the unaffiliated to the atheists.

What is the theoretical framework? Baker and Smith state: “instead of a binary distinction, religiosity and secularity should be understood as poles of a continuum, ranging from thorough irreligion to zealotry” (p.  6). Moreover, “We consider theistic dis- or nonbelief to be the most salient marker of one’s secular identity. That is, self-identifying  as someone who does not believe in god is a more prominent marker of identity than saying one is not affiliated with an organized religion” (p. 16).

There is indeed a clear behavioral dividing line between spirit world adherents and non-adherents, and research indicates that the one question “Do you believe in God?” does a good job in separating two distinct populations.

I find myself really puzzled by another statement:  “Although criticism of religion is central to understanding secularism, restricting secularity today to opposition to religion denies secularists’ potential for edifying and positive values, furthering the polemical claim that to be secular is necessarily to be immoral” (p. 6). First, the rejection of belief in spirits is not criticism, but a total disengagement. Baker and Smith later report that 63% of atheists in one sample were uninterested in religion (p. 100). Second, the reference to “edifying and positive values” sounds like apologetics. The findings reported in the book demonstrate that the less religious and the irreligious are likely to be more politically progressive, but that will not persuade those who think they are immoral.

Is there a unique American secularization? The authors describe American freethought, starting in the eighteenth century, and offer a chronology of the ups and downs of religiosity in the United States, leading to the Great Abdicating after 1990. They connect the Great Abdicating to the 1960s counterculture and changes in the US family, together with political polarization and the “Culture Wars”. They do report a correlation between growing political polarization and the percentage of the unaffiliated in the population, as well as the tendency for the unaffiliated to vote Democrat in presidential elections (p. 79).

In their historical survey, they neglect the struggles over the secularization of public space and public education. Until 1934, playing baseball on Sunday was a major issue, and the elimination of Sunday blue laws is still continuing. Another aspect of the Culture Wars was the secularization of education, starting  already in the nineteenth century with  elite academic institutions  (White, 1896), and  then affecting all universities, colleges, and public schools in a trickle down process  (Hofstadter, 1963). Does anybody remember that until 1960, the American Baptist Convention considered The University of Chicago an affiliated institution?

It should be emphasized, something that the authors do not do, that after 1960 public education was completely secularized through legal rulings. Engel v. Vitale (1962), which disallowed prayers, and  Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), which disallowed Bible reading, could be compared in their impact to the 1954 Brown decision, related to the same social and historical forces. Similarly, recent challenges to the teaching of evolution followed the great historical loss by the Religious Right over religious activities in the schools. McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982), Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and Kitzmiller, et al.  v. Dover School District, et al. (2005) became milestones in public secularization. Legal rulings do not change public opinion in many cases, but these symbolic (and concrete) victories added to the growing confidence of secular Americans.

Despite American exceptionalism, Baker and Smith show that the United States fits the worldwide correlation (p.74) between secularity and the Human Development Index (p. 203). What happens in North America is part of a global trend. The political context of secularity, which is discussed at length in the book, is also not unique to the United States.

The authors doubt the universality of sex differences in secularity, and  state  that “among Western populations, women are disproportionately prone to religiosity, in spite of the patriarchal power structure of most organized religions” (p. 141). However, a recent Pew report compared men and women on religiosity around the world, with data collected in 192 countries. It included 631 comparisons. There were 393 with no significant differences, 238 significant differences with women scoring higher, and just 4 with men scoring higher (Pew, 2016). So women’s higher religiosity may not be just a Western phenomenon, and the same goes for women’s lower secularity.

The book offers a wealth of writing genres, unlike a typical sociology text. It presents survey data together with vignettes and case studies, such as that of  Lester Young Ward, one of the pioneers of US sociology (pp. 26-34), and quotations from W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes. There are also interviews, one with David Tamayo, Leader of Hispanic American Freethinkers (pp. 126-131), and then two interviews with secularists who tried to get elected to political office, which is next to impossible in the United States. My only complaint is that the book has 47 pages of detailed footnotes. The academic convention which expects the reader to tolerate this division of attention is unrealistic. Most of the material in the footnotes is interesting and important, and should be included in the main text.


References

Hofstadter, R. (1963). Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. New York: Knopf.

Kosmin, B.A.  & Keysar, A.  (2011).  AMERICAN NONES: THE PROFILE OF THE NO RELIGION POPULATION. (with Ryan Cragun and Juhem Navarro-Rivera). http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/08/NONES_08.pdf

Pew Research Center (2014). Importance of Religion and Religious Beliefs. Pew Research Centre, November 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/chapter-1-importance-of-religion-and-religious-beliefs/#belief-in-god

Pew Research  Center (2016). The Gender Gap in Religion Around  the World.  PEW RESEARCH CENTER, March 2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2016/03/22/the-gender-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/

Smith, J (2010). Becoming an Atheist in America: Constructing Identity and Meaning from the Rejection of Theism. Sociology of Religion. 72 (2) 215-237.

White, A. D. (1896/1993). A history of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.


Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi earned a Ph.D.  (clinical psychology and personality)  from Michigan State University in 1970. Since then, he has been the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of  22 books and more than 300 reviews, articles, and book chapters, focusing on personality development, history of psychology, the psychology of religion, and politics. Among his best known works are Psychological Perspectives on Religion and Religiosity  (2015), Psychoanalysis and Theism (2010), The Psychology of Religious Belief, Experience, and Behaviour (with Michael Argyle, 1997), and Despair and Deliverance (1992).

Publication of special journal issue on “Atheism, Secularity, and Science.”

Announcing the publication of “Atheism, Secularity, and Science,” a special issue of the journal Science, Religion & Culture, guest edited by John R. Shook, Ralph W. Hood Jr., and Thomas J. Coleman III. The journal issue contains theoretical and empirical articles covering a wide range of topics related to atheism and secularity. It begins with an introduction by the editors discussing key areas in the field, within which they situate this issue’s articles on topics such as definitions and discourse, measurement, mental wellbeing, organized nonbelief and humanism, growth of the “nones,” secularity of academics, hypothetical god image, and deconversion narratives in Rabbis. The issue concludes with three book reviews on The Problem of Animal Pain, The New Atheist Novel, and Living the Secular Life.

Science, Religion & Culture is an open access peer reviewed journal and the special issue, “Atheism, Secularity, and Science” can be viewed here: http://smithandfranklin.com/journal-details/Science-Religion-and-Culture/9/archive/2015/June

New Books in NSRN Book Series

The NSRN and De Gruyter are pleased to announce the first three publications in their book seriesReligion and its Others: Studies in Religion, Nonreligion, and Secularity:

For more on the series, see here: https://nsrn.net/book-series/

Download Flyer

NSRN Series 2

83 Additions to the NSRN Bibliography

83 new items have been added to the NSRN Bibliography which now boasts 745 entries relevant to the broad remit of the NSRN. These latest additions can be viewed here:

https://nsrn.net/bibliography/bibliography-additions/

As always, if you spot anything that we have missed please get in touch via the comments box here:

https://nsrn.net/bibliography/

 

CFP: Global Secularisms at NYU, Due 3/31

Call For Papers

Global Secularisms

The Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University is currently seeking paper submissions for its inaugural conference on the topic of Global Secularisms — to be held on November 15 and 16, 2013 in New York, NY.

From a global perspective, Western secularism, and for example the American debate regarding the separation of church and state, appear as very parochial issues. Secularism is a vexed topic with global implications and consequences, affecting virtually every part of the world, every nation state and every culture, traditional or modern. Questions related to secularism have become increasingly urgent and involve enormous real-world implications. From the emergence of the “new atheism,” to battles over shariah law in Europe and the Middle East, to the reemergence of religion in the politics of India, to battles over the authority of science in the United States, to struggles both intellectual and political over the shape of the public sphere, the question of secularism proves critical.

Some scholars question the assumption that the modern social order is undergoing, or indeed has ever undergone, the process of secularization; others hold that we have entered a post-secular era. Still others associate secularism with western cultural, social, economic or political hegemony. And on the other hand, some of the most compelling thinkers insist that secularism is the only possible means of negotiating sectarian strife and establishing and maintaining a democratic state. Equating secularism with the rejection of the transcendent, secular humanists insist that secularism is the best way to achieve real human flourishing. Yet the very meanings of the words “secularism” and “religion” have been questioned. The history of secularism — and the word should be made plural — helps define the crises of our moment. This conference returns to these issues, in the light of these recent discussions and of recent events that are having serious effects on the way we live now, on the shape of global politics and culture for the immediate future.

This conference hopes to appeal to scholars and creative authors from the major divisions of the academy, including the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as to independent scholars and writers from outside of the academy. We welcome engagement with questions involving secularism and the arts, culture, economics, history, international relations, religion, philosophy, politics, and science. Among the possible broad areas that papers might address, we offer the following possibilities:

  • Secularist movements/figures, past and present
  • Secularism and/as religion
  • Secularism and the arts, literature
  • Secularism and human flourishing
  • Secularism and the state
  • Anti-secularism, anti-atheism
  • Secularism and imperialism
  • Secularism and rights
  • Secularism in colonial/postcolonial contexts
  • The secularization of knowledge, science
  • The secularization of culture
  • The secularization of the university
  • Secularism and feminism
  • Post-secularism

Please email abstracts of 150-300 words by March 31, 2013 to:
Dr. Michael Rectenwald (michael.rectenwald@nyu.edu)

The conference steering committee will respond to submissions by June 1, 2013.

Event: IWM Lecture “‘Russia Beyond Belief’ Living in a Post-Modern Dictatorship”

Tuesday, February 26 2013, 6:00pm – 7:30pm
IWM library

Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen
Spittelauer Lände
31090 Wien
Austria
 

Speaker: Peter Pomeranzev
´Russia beyond Belief´:
Living in a Post-Modern Dictatorship

Lecture Series: Russia in Global Dialogue

Communism, liberal euphoria, hyper-inflation, mafia state, oligarchy, oil boom: since 1989 Russia has experienced so many different realities at such blistering speed that by the start of the Putin era many Russians believed they could master all of them and live ‘beyond belief’. During the oil boom of the past decade, Moscow became a decadent, brilliant whirligig of a city, led by a generation of triumphant cynics who developed a new form of authoritarianism far subtler than the types familiar from the 20th century – a model I call ‘post-modern dictatorship’. In this lecture, Peter Pomeranzev will look at how this sense of being ‘beyond belief’ shapes contemporary life in Russia, and how the current protest movement can be seen as reflecting a conflict between the triumphant cynicism of the noughties and the desire to live in a value-driven society.

Peter Pomeranzev is a British television producer and non-fiction writer of Russian origin. He is also contributor to theLondon Review of Books and Newsweek Magazine (London). Currently he is Guest at the IWM in the framework of the “Russia in Global Dialogue” Fellowship program.

More information here:

http://www.iwm.at/index.php?option=com_events&task=view_detail&Itemid=&agid=359&year=2013&month=02&day=26