By Charles Hirschkind, David Scott

For greater than 3 a long time, Talal Asad has been engaged in a particular severe exploration of the conceptual assumptions that govern the West’s knowledges—especially its disciplinary and disciplining knowledges—of the non-Western global. The essays that make up this quantity deal with assorted facets of this striking physique of labor. between them: the connection among colonial strength and educational wisdom; the old shifts giving form to the complexly interrelated different types of the secular and the non secular, and the importance of those shifts within the emergence of recent Europe; and elements of human embodiment, together with a number of the a variety of ways in which discomfort, emotion, embodied flair, and the senses hook up with and constitution cultural practices. whereas the categorical subject matters and arguments addressed via the person individuals diversity greatly, the essays cohere in a shared orientation of either severe engagement and effective extension. word that this isn't a festschrift, nor a celebratory farewell, yet a sequence of engagements with a philosopher whose paintings is in complete spate and merits to be much better identified and understood.

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Among other things, it reframed the analysis of religion in terms of a Foucauldian theory of discourse. Simply and perhaps too baldly put, it argued that religion (as well as ritual) is a historically constructed category, which in anthropology, moreover, owes a great deal to Christian theological discourse and religious practice—though Asad charged that anthropologists from Frazer to Geertz had forgotten this genealogy when they put forward allegedly universalist or essentialist definitions of their subject.

34 The fact that the pope links these allegedly universal norms and values—the sacred dignity of the human person as well as the inalienable  Secularization Revisited rights to human autonomy and self-determination—to a particular religious tradition is certainly bound to affect the reception of these universalistic claims by non-Christians. But conversely, in places where this particular religious tradition is still alive, it will serve to sanctify and legitimate modern liberal secular norms and values as Christian ones.

While the first may be true, the second proposition does not follow. On the contrary, the United States has always been the paradigmatic form of a modern secular, differentiated society. Yet the triumph of the secular came aided by religion rather than at its expense. The point I am trying to make is that Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity is intrinsically implicated in the development of secular modernity. One could say that the existence of a theological discourse of the “saeculum” within medieval Christianity was the very condition of possibility and the point of departure of the process of secularization.

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