What We Talk About When We Talk About the Postsecular

John D. Boy over at The Immanent Frame:

The concept is not just all over The Immanent Frame. It has also appeared in the titles of about forty books, most in English and German, the majority of which were published within the past five years. Additionally, the concept features prominently in seventeen dissertations indexed by ProQuest, which largely reflects dissertations completed at North American universities. More than half of these dissertations were deposited after 2007. And that is to say nothing of the dozens of articles in scholarly journals that are an important part of the discussion of the postsecular, or the approximately half-dozen academic conferences held on both sides of the Atlantic in the last three years. These numbers indicate that both established and emerging scholars are staking their work on the concept of the postsecular. Finally, illustrating a broader trend in intellectual debate, significant interventions in the discussion have also appeared online, especially at Eurozine, ResetDOC, and on this very blog.

For over a decade now, the concept has been appearing at an ever increasing rate in academic debates in a number of different areas. The watershed event for several of these debates was a speech given by the renowned German philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas on the occassion of his being awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, in October 2001. However, Habermas’s speech, called “Faith and Knowledge,” is not the only impetus behind these discussions. In fact, some uses of the postsecular predate his speech, and they range across a wide variety of literatures. A few months ago, I tried to get as comprehensive an overview as possible and found that the concept has been used in cultural and literary studies, theology, philosophy, sociological theory and the sociology of religion, political theory, postcolonial thought, feminist thought, and even in urban studies. Reflecting the challenging reality of interdisciplinary work, some of the recurring themes in discussions of the postsecular are exploration, mapping, positionings, going “beyond” something, or being “between” two things. In what follows, I want to briefly summarize some of the recurring themes in these explorations.