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Rethinking Secularism: respect, domination and the state


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Editor's note: We apologise for the poor quality of the question and answer session.

Speaker(s): Professor Rajeev Bhargava

Recorded on 10 March 2014 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

It is widely recognized that political secularism virtually everywhere in the world is in crisis. It is also acknowledged that to overcome this crisis, secularism needs to be reimagined and reconceptualised.

In this lecture Rajeev Bhargava takes the first steps towards this. He argues that we need to move away from the standard church-state models of secularism and begin to focus instead on secularism as a response to deep religious diversity. He claims that diversity must be understood as enmeshed in power relations and therefore the hidden potential of religion related domination must be explicitly acknowledged. These two moves enable us to view secularism as a response to two forms of institutionalised religious domination; inter-religious and intra-religious.

This way of conceiving secularism rebukes the charge that secularism is intrinsically anti-religious. Secularism is not against religion; it opposes institutionalised religious domination. Finally, Professor Bhargava argues that this conception entails that a secular state shows critical respect to all religious and philosophical worldviews, possible only when it adopts a policy of principled distance towards all of them.

Rajeev Bhargava (@Rajeev_Bhargava) is the director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. Previously, he was a professor at the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and was the head of the department of political science at the University of Delhi. In 2006 he held the Asia Chair at Sciences Po. His publications include Individualism in Social Science, What is Political Theory and Why Do We Need It? and The Promise of India’s Secular Democracy.

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