Event Date
Nov 17, 2010
Prof.Saba Mahmood, UC Berkeley
Prof.Wendy Brown, UC Berkeley

11/17/10 CRG Thursday Forum: Postcolonial and Liberal Discourses of the Family in Secular Polities

Secularism, Sexuality, and Religious Liberty: A Postcolonial Genealogy
Prof. Saba Mahmood, Social Cultural Anthropology

The relegation of religion and the family to the private sphere is widely regarded as a key feature of modern secular societies. While postcolonial states of South Asia and the Middle East are heir to this arrangement, they are also distinct in that they retain religious laws for the regulation of family affairs. As a result, both minority and majority religious communities of postcolonial polities continue to exert a fair degree of legal autonomy over family affairs based on their religious traditions. This paper tries to rethink the classical debate around “family law” and “minority rights” by parsing out the contradictions that attend the public-private distinction institutionalized by the modern state, particularly the complex ways in which sexuality, gender, and religious liberty have come to be intertwined under conditions of postcolonial secularism.

Is Equality Secular
Prof. Wendy Brown, Political Science

Within the widely held conviction that secularism stands for gender equality and that theocracy stands for gender subordination, there are a number of unexamined assumptions. Two of the most consequential may be the conviction that secularism entails a certain methodological individualism and that sacral values are the exclusive preserve of recognized religion. The (sacred) place of the family in U.S political culture constitutes a challenge to both of these assumptions. This talk traces, at a theoretical level, the complex circuitry among the terms of secularism that make religion a family matter, the sacralization of the family in liberal and neoliberal discourse, and naturalized gender inequality.