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Session Overview
RN32_07b_P: (Post-)Secular Subjectivities in European Societies I
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Alberta Giorgi, Centro de Estudos Sociais
Location: PD.2.34
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: D, Level: 2.

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Christianity and Secularism in the (Un)Making of Europe

Ian Anthony Morrison

The American University in Cairo, Egypt

The question, and the response to the question of what is Europe always refer both to the ever-present, and the particular or contingent, and demand a conciliation of the two. In the past two decades, the question of Europe has been increasingly raised in relation to the apparent crisis of Europe’s engagement with two immanent Others, in the form of the presence of Muslim migrants in Europe and the attempts by Turkey to gain membership in the European Union. In response to these Others, a dual and seemingly contradictory definition of Europe has emerged, Europe as both secular and Christian. Europe is secular in relation to its Muslim migrants, and Christian in the face of Muslim Turkey. Within this dualistic definition, no contradiction, excess or difference is permitted or acknowledged. Instead, a socio-historical paradigm in which Christianity and the secular form a necessary and symbiotic relationship is invoked.

My presentation will address this response to the imminent question of Europe and argue that the dual engagement with the Muslim migrant and the Turkish state exposes the confluence of what are portrayed as competing ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ definitions of Europe and European identity. I will suggest that Europe’s engagement with these immanent Others draws attention to the difference and contradiction at the core of what are presented as unified, essential definitions of Europe. Revealing the autoimmune process at work within these definitions of Europe presents an opportunity to re-evaluate the relationship between Europe, Christianity and the secular, and discloses new possibilities for a Europe to come.

Secular Affects in the Public Debates after Charlie Hebdo

Anna Lea Berg

Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany

In my PhD research, I explore the emergence of a “secular we” within the political communication of European public spheres. The paper I will present at the ESA conference will focus on media coverage of the attack on the editorial office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. It will introduce the concept of Reading for Affect as a new perspective on discourse analysis of mainstream media, which draws on ideas of cultural studies and affect theory. Applying Reading for affect to reporting after the Charlie Hebdo incident, I aim to highlight the role of affects in the production of secular subjectivities in European public spheres. I argue that a relational understanding of public discourse – as emphasized by Reading for affect – is crucial to understand how a secular “middle-ground” is devised between on the one hand religious, and on the other hand right-wing fundamentalisms. The Charlie Hebdo debate in that sense is inscribed in a genealogy of recent controversies on the role of Islam in Europe more generally, which serves as a crystallization point of emerging new political subjectivities in times where boundaries between the mainstream and the extreme rights are intensively problematized. Whilst the focus will be on the reporting of German newspapers, comparisons to the French and the British media coverage will also be drawn. Overall, the paper aims at contributing to the discussion about a “secular we” as trans-European hegemonic subjectivity, no longer rooted in nationalism, but in secularism.

AKP, Secular Dissent and Postsecularity in Turkey

Umut Parmaksiz

TED University, Turkey

This paper critically examines the claim that religion-society relationship in Turkey has been evolving towards a postsecular condition as a result of AKP rule, and provides an alternative account of postsecularisation that concentrates on the transformation of secular identity and politics. In the first section, I examine the predominant postsecular Turkey thesis which construes AKP period as a break from the ‘secularist Turkey’ tradition, harbinging the emergence of a postsecular society. I argue that this view is problematic, firstly because it ignores AKP’s control over the religious sphere and the exclusionary practices that stem from this control, and secondly because the premise upon which this thesis rests, that state-religion relationship in Turkey is best understood as secularist until AKP, is questionable. I argue that the AKP period represents an attempt to change the nature of Islamonormativity in Turkey rather than a new dynamic between politics and religion. In the second section, I focus on the secular resistance to AKP’s efforts to deepen Islamonormativity. In light of the Gezi Park protests, I argue that secular identity and dissent has been going through social ‘postsecularisation’ by gradually moving away from a state oriented dissent to a lifestyle politics that construes everyday contexts as sites of resistance.

“Unmaking Europe: it is just God’s will”

Dimitra Mareta

Panteion University Of Social and Political Sciences, Greece

Among the several centrifugal processes showing towards the unmaking of Europe, one seems to set the tone: this of the radical right parties. Although for many years the attention was turned on the critique from the counter-globalisation movements, lately it seems that the attacks from the extreme Right become stronger and more influential.

In this paper I explore the central points of the opposition of the nationalist parties against Europe focusing on the role of the religion in politics. In order to do so, I will focus on two southern countries, Spain and Greece, and I will investigate the rhetoric of the main nationalist Spanish and Greek parties as it is expressed either at the Parliament or in their political and ideological texts.

More specifically, I will focus mainly on Alianza Nacional, Democracia Nacional, Falange Española de las JONS and España2000 – in the case of Spain - and Golden Dawn – in the case of Greece. I will concentrate on the way the critique against Europe is articulated with regard to the formation of central policies based on religious terms and affected by a religious perception of politics.

I intent to investigate their total stance against making of Europe with a specific attention on the new emergence of the religion as politics and as a source of political order and authority. By locating the commonplaces - and any differentiations there might be - of this rhetoric, I will try to interpret what this new dynamics might mean for societies and politics.

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