Research Cluster: “Religious Structures of Modernity”

By “modernity” in the singular I refer to any and all varieties of modernity as manifest in a plurality of “modernities.” “Modernity” as such refers – in this project – to phenomenal worlds or worldviews situated in both continuity and difference from various medieval and ancient antecedents and that are thus structured by shifts in worldview indicated in epochal transitions, e.g., from a Ptolemaic to a Copernican view of the world, or associated with transformative processes,  e.g. “secularization.”

By religious structures of modernity I refer to the transformation of premodern religious norms and forms into specifically modern concerns, patterns, symbols, value systems etc. This project aims to guide, as well as gather, research into the presence of the religious in the secular, of the premodern in the modern, namely, as constitutive elements of various modernities. The project thus builds on, as well as broadens, Max Weber’s example of uncovering the Protestant character of modern capitalist production and extends, as well as subjects to critique, his method of searching for religious elements as constitutive of specifically modern phenomena.

This research cluster is conceived within the context of the Graduate Program in Religion at Boston University, specifically the specialization in Religion in Philosophy, Politics, and Society. It interdisciplinary in that it draws on philosophical, and more broadly humanistic, as well as social and political science theory and puts them in conversation.

A note on “secularization:” Historically speaking, “secularization” refers to the forced transfer of assets owned by the Church into the hands of the laïcistic state in the wake of the French Revolution. It became a useful metaphor in descriptions of the profound changes that spiritual and symbolic assets once associated with religion entered into the “possession” of the laity, whether this was in form of art and literature, or in form of institutions such as modern state-run schools and universities. This grand transfer of religious inheritances into the hands of new and novel forms of social organization and modes of expression is the very subject of this research cluster. I nevertheless suggest to use the term secularization sparingly, as it seems to imply that what came from religious contexts is now no longer “religious” in that it has been secularized. The transfer of agency, however, may not in fact have changed the “structure” of what has been transferred, claimed, or inherited which therefore remains open to investigation. By focusing on the possibility of identifying “religious structures of – rather than in – modernity” I hope to stimulate the generation of new questions and perspectives on “secularization” and the putative “secular.”

Finally, by “research cluster” I mean a loose association of individual projects (dissertations, conferences, lectures, journal articles, etc) conducted by graduate students, post-graduate fellows, and faculty that grow out of and significantly relate to sustained conversations that will stake out the intellectual profile and approach that is here only briefly adumbrated.



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Research Cluster: “Religious Structures of Modernity” | Michael Zank1661493877

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