Merz and Merz, “Occupying the Ontological Penumbra”

Merz, Johannes and Sharon Merz. 2017. Occupying the Ontological Penumbra: Towards a Postsecular and Theologically Minded Anthropology. Religions 8(5):80-97.

Abstract: In the wake of the postsecular turn, we propose to reappraise both the religious as studied in anthropology and how anthropologists who have religious or spiritual interests can contribute to an emerging postsecular anthropology. Such an anthropology recognizes the failure of secularization theory to dissolve the dichotomy between the religious and the secular. We propose that as anthropologists we consciously occupy the ontological penumbra, an ambiguous and plural space in which we engage with various counterparts, both human and nonhuman. This means that we have to be open to the real possibility of the existence of gods, spirits, and other nonhuman entities. These should not only be treated as subjects of study, but also recognized as valid counterparts with whom we can engage in the ethnographic encounter. While this necessitates relinquishing the former privileged position of secular and Western epistemology, it opens up the discipline to a potentially unprecedented ethnographic productivity that is epistemologically and ontologically innovative. Without neglecting its secular heritage, such a theologically minded postsecular anthropology places anthropology in a better position to explore what it is to be human, especially in terms of understanding religious and spiritual experiences.

Bielo, “Secular studies come of age”

Bielo, James. 2015. “Secular studies come of age.” Thesis Eleven. DOI: 10.1177/0725513615592986

Abstract: In this essay I review three important volumes for the field of secular studies: Varieties of Secularism in a Secular AgeRethinking Secularism, and The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. All three volumes explore the nature of the secular and the status, role, and possible futures of religion in our late modern, globalized world. The volumes present 34 essays by 30 authors representing seven disciplines, and at least six end games. For some, questions of religion-secular entanglement are a historical matter and the task is to map intellectual and ideological trajectories. A second purpose is to empirically document the complexities of particular religion-secular entanglements in particular socio-cultural locations. For others, the remit is theoretical, to discern a conceptual agenda for the ongoing study of religion-secular entanglements. Others are more philosophical, chasing the existential consequences of secularity. A fifth end game is applied in nature: reflections on how political actors might best engage the religious and the secular in acts of governance and international relations. Finally, there are normative voices, those seeking to name what a good, productive religion-secular entanglement ought to look like. Taken together, the volumes mark a thriving, mature field of scholarly inquiry: secular studies has come of age.

 

Middleton and Yarwood, “Christians, out here?”

Middleton, Jennie and Richard Yarwood. 2015. “Christians, out here?” Encountering Street-Pastors in the post-secular spaces of the UK’s night-time economy. Urban Studies 52(3): 501-516.

Abstract: This paper explores the concept of the post-secular city by examining the growing presence of Street-Pastors in the night-time economy of British cities. Street-Pastors are Christian volunteers who work to ensure the safety of people on a ‘night out’. We contribute to work that has called for greater attention to be placed on the ways in which religious faith and ethics are performed to create liminal spaces of understanding in urban areas. Drawing upon in-depth ethnographic research conducted in a range of UK towns and cities, we consider this distinct form of faith-based patrolling in relation to the spatial processes and practices of urban-nightscapes. By exploring the geographies of Street-Pastors, we not only contribute to more nuanced accounts of ‘drinking spaces’ but provide an empirical engagement with the growing body of work on urban rhythms and encounters.