Conference: Secularisation and secularism, Gothenburg October 20-21 2008

Conference & Workshop 20-21 October 2008:
Secularisation and secularism: International multidisciplinary perspectives
October 20-21, 2008, Stora hörsalen, Humanisten, University of Gothenburg
Organising committee: Elisabeth Abiri (Global Studies), Marie Demker (Political Science), Christian Munthe (Philosophy), Ola Sigurdson (Religion), Eva-Maria Svensson (Law).
Contact: secularism (a)
Secularisation – the process of dividing the realms of politics and religion – has been influencing national and worldly affairs for several hundred years. The idea of the desirability of such a division – secularism – is nowadays a given backdrop for public policy issues regarding education, family, gender, media, migration, personal integrity and freedom, reproduction and sexuality. But globalisation and multicultural trends, as well as claims from religious groups for increased political influence or autonomy and the uncertain and varying responses to these from society, have made us aware that the secularist ideal has been realised through the process of secularisation in radically different ways in different settings. As a result, an identity crisis is presently afflicting secular societies. It is no longer as clear what secularism is supposed to amount to, why secularisation is desirable and where its proper limits are. To investigate questions about this is the focus of a newly initiated multidisciplinary research theme at the University of Gothenburg.
This conference marks the starting point of this intiative and is planned to be followed by a series of smaller workshops the following years. Some of the international scholars and researchers that have already made special contributions to secularisation and secularism as a field of study have been invited to deliver plenary talks on the first day. On the second day, a more open workshop on what particular topics, sub-themes, approaches, etc. to develop further and what challenges this involves is held. Shorter presentations will be given by selected Scandinavian researchers from various disciplines to spark discussion and dialogue with our invited international guests.
The plenary speakers are:
Abdullahi An-Na’im: Law scholar specialising on human rights and islam. With a background in Sudan, he is Professor at Emory University, and his research deals with how secular aspects of societal life and human rights may be combined with islam and islamic law, particularly regarding the status of women. He is the author of  African Constitutionalism and the Role of Islam (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006) and Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and International Law (Syracuse University Press, 1990).
Kent Greenawalt: Professor of Law at Columbia University, specialising in the philosophy of law. His research focus on descriptive as well as normative issues regarding the interplay between law and morality, with special concern for questions about freedom of speech and the relationship between religious groups and national government. The book Does God Belong in Public Schools? (Princeton university press 2005) is the latest in a long series of contributions to this field of inquiry.
Brian Palmer: Conducting his research in the intersection of the anthropology and sociology of religion, formerly lecturer at Harvard university, he currently is Torgny Sergerstedt Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg and guest lecturer at Uppsala University, working on the theme religion and freedom of speech. His research touches on a broad spectrum of issues, where freedom of speech, the role of religion in contemporary Western societies and, in particular, Sweden has been in focus. Among his publications can be mentioned Global Values 101: A Short Course (Beacon Press, 2006) and Wolves at the Door : Existential Solidarity in a Globalizing Sweden (Harvard university press 2000).
Paul Weithman: Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, with his interests combining contemporary and medieval political philosophy as well as ethics. He has devoted special attention to issues about the place and function of religious faith and reasoning in liberal democracies, especially regarding republicanism and citizenship. Besides several papers on such subjects, he has also published Religion and the Obligations of Citizenship (Cambridge University Press 2002) and Religion and Contemporary Liberalism (University of Notre Dame Press 1997).
Linda Woodhead: Specialising in the sociology of  religion, she is Professor at Lancaster University. Her research interests centre on the role of religion in contemporary Western societies, with a special attention to issues about power and values. Among her many books on such subjects can be mentioned God and Human Dignity (William B. Eerdmans 2006), Predicting Religion: Christian, Secular and Alternative Futures (Ashgate 2003) and An Introduction to Christianity (Cambridge University Press 2004).