Susanna Rizzo, Gregory Melleuish – The Historical Paradigm of the Post-Secular

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Sacred Modernities: Rethinking Modernity in a Post-Secular Age

18 September 2009

speaker_susannarizzospeaker_gregory-melleuishSusanna G. Rizzo & Gregory Melleuish (Campion College and University of Wollongong, Australia)
The Historical Paradigm of the Post-Secular

At the turn of the XXI century the ‘Secular’ as the dominant discourse in Western Civilization has been displaced by the revival of devotional forms of religiousness and orthodoxy and the resurgence of new forms of spirituality. The return of the ‘religious’ in the public sphere has had the effect of not only revealing the inherent tautologies of the secular paradigm, but also of prompting a legitimation crisis without precedent. The Post-Secular paradigm, inaugurated by the displacement of the secular, represents an attempt to overcome the existing aporia. The Post-Secular however should neither be read as an attempt at historical periodisation nor as a synonym of the Post-Modern, but as a new and authentic epistemological-hermeneutical paradigm, which envisages an integrated co-existence between secular and religious instances, a sort of indwelling or, as some have argued, immanent dualism. Such a paradigm involves, in fact, the redefinition of existing notions of time, place, agency and purpose and the identification of a new pattern of significance in which to cast the past and make sense of the present and eventually the future.  It follows that traditional monistic models of historical development and their holistic assumptions and approaches, informed by secular discourses concerning time and space/place, along with the teleologies they incorporated or purported, have become meaningless and need to be discarded. This paper will explore the meaning of history within the context of the emerging post-secular paradigm. It will examine whether a multi-linear and directionless model of historical development is possible and morally auspicious, one which denies the possibility of teleological accounts, and whether such a model is able to express the changeable nature of the indwelling dualism characterizing the Post-Secular.

Dr. Susanna Rizzo is currently lecturer in History and in Classical, Medieval and Ecclesiastical Latin and Vice –Dean of Studies at Campion College Australia, as well as Honorary Associate at the Department of Historical and Philosophical Enquiry of the University of Sydney. Her research interests, publications and projects are in the areas of hermeneutics and the formation of epistemologies; of the history of Early Christianity and the Judaism of the Second Temple; and World History.  Her current research includes a project on the meaning of the ‘secular’.

Dr. Gregory Melleuish is an associate professor in the School Of History and Politics, University of Wollongong.  He has published widely in the area of Australian intellectual history, including Cultural Liberalism in Australia (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and The Force of Ideas (Australian Scholarly Publishing, to be published 2009).  He has also published articles and chapters in the areas of world history and political theory.  His current research includes projects on the meaning of secularisation and a study of Australian cultural conservatism.


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