Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age – conference page

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Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age

Thursday-Saturday, 17-19 September, 2009 (Buckley Building, BG 10/11, Oxford Brookes University)

The age of globalization confronts the observer with more ironies than certainties. It was once assumed that the growth of modern institutions – democracy, capitalism, science – would be attended by a series of mutually reinforcing social processes, most notably secularisation, rationalisation and disenchantment. Not only has the global spread of these institutions proved patchy and uneven, religious movements and belief systems have doggedly refused to assume the private status once thought to be their natural destiny. In both the West and the wider world, religion continues to make competing claims on the public sphere and public morals. Developments like this have been accompanied by conceptual critique and innovation. Increasingly, traditional accounts of modernity are seen as Euro-centric and prescriptive, while there has been renewed interest in the question of political and civil religions and the more general relationship of the political and the theological.

Aims and agenda

The aim of this conference is to take stock of these transformations in the context of what is often referred to as a ‘post-secular’ age comprised of ‘multiple modernities’. Its agenda is emphatically interdisciplinary and welcomes scholars from the fields of history, sociology, cultural studies, theology, and others. In the same spirit, the conference adopts a broad, abundant understanding of the term ‘sacred’ to encompass not only formal religious worldviews, but also that which, in whatever fashion, disturbs, complicates, and perhaps abolishes, the distinction between the sacred and the secular. Accordingly, it is just as much interested in manifestations and logics of re-enchantment and resacralization, as it is of desecularisation understood as the persistence and revival of traditional religions. In sum, the aim of the conference is to rethink the equation of modernity, secularity and disenchantment, and to explore the various conceptual and historiographical perspectives through which we might better understand the present.


Dr. Tom Crook (Oxford Brookes University), Dr. Matthew Feldman (University of Northampton).




Thursday 17th September, 2009

Conference welcome

Opening plenary address (5pm-7pm):

‘(Post-)modern (wo-)man in search of a soul: Reflections on the contents and discontents of the first post-secular civilization’, Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes University


Friday 18th September, 2009

Parallel sessions 1 and 2 (9.30am-11.30am):

1. Utopia, political modernism and sacred causes

2. ‘End times’, ‘new times’ and ‘secular times’

Plenary address (12pm-1pm)

Fascist Italy and the Sacred City of Rome, Aristotle Kallis, Lancaster University

Parallel sessions 3 and 4 (2pm-4pm):

3. Reconciling and Reworking the Secular and the Sacred


4. Multiple Modernities and Capitalist Mythologies


Plenary Session: Post-secular Reappraisals (4:15pm – 6:15pm): Aesthetics and Representations



Keynote Address (6:30pm – 7:30pm):

How Hegel Re-sacralised the Project of Modernity, Graham Ward, Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics,  University of Manchester


Saturday 19th September, 2009

Plenary address (10.00am-11.00am)

The Disenchanted Enchantments of Modernity: From Sacred Spaces to Imaginary Worlds, Michael Saler, University of California, Davis

Parallel Sessions 5 and 6 (11.30am-1.30pm):

5. Enchantment, Spectacle and Consumption


6.  Natural Healing and Spiritual Health


Plenary address (2.30-3.30pm)

On (Not) Making Enchantment Safe for Modernity, Patrick Curry, University of Kent.

Concluding roundtable discussion, chaired by Matthew Feldman (3:30pm–4:30pm)

The conference was supported by the Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, Oxford Brookes University, and the University of Northampton.


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