Owning the Secular
Religious Symbols, Culture Wars, Western Fragility
- Available for pre-order. Item will ship after July 19, 2021
Owning the Secular examines three cases studies dealing with religious symbols and cultural identity, including two public controversies over the veil in Canada—at the federal level and in the province of Québec—and an ex-Muslim podcaster rethinking her atheist identity in the era of Donald Trump and the alt-right.
Drawing on theories of discourse analysis and ideology critique, this study calls attention to an evolution in how secularism, nationalism, and multiculturalism in Euro-Western states are debated and understood as competing groups contest and rearrange the meaning of these terms. This is especially true in the digital age as online cultures have transformed how information is spread, how we imagine our communities, build alliances, and produce shared meaning.
From recent attempts to prohibit religious symbols in public, to Trump’s so-called Muslim bans, to growing disenchantment with the promises of digital media, this study turns the lens how nation-states, organizations, and individuals attempt to "own" the secular in order to manage cultural differences, shore-up group identity, and stake a claim to some version of Western values amidst the growing uncertainties of neoliberal capitalism.
Table of Contents
Introduction; 1.The Secular and the Culture Wars; 2. The Secular and the Veil; 3. Are Ex-Muslims Atheists?; Conclusion
Matt Sheedy is Visiting Assistant Professor in North American Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany.
"In this intellectual étude, Sheedy takes us to the very heart of secularism’s—and by extension, the West’s—fragility. Discourses of values, he deftly shows, are neither ontological nor natural, but often political slogans awaiting convenient manipulation when needed. The result is a timely, well-informed, and nuanced analysis that deserves wide attention."
~Aaron W. Hughes, University of Rochester, USA
"While scholars of religion once saw their objects of study as unique and set apart, those acquiring the tools of social theory find that their research has far wider application, helping us to understand how groups and identities work. Matt Sheedy represents this second camp, offering a timely analysis of how our secular world functions: its beneficiaries and its challenges, as well as its possibilities. Owning the Secular nicely exemplifies why those who don’t usually read scholars of religion would be well served to change that habit, for religion is never really about religion but, instead, about how we organize ourselves, how we authorize our worlds, and how we marshal the forces to contest the worlds of others."
~Russell T. McCutcheon,University of Alabama, USA
"Owning the Secular is a superb study of the theory, culture, and politics of all facets of secularity in the twenty-first century. It's particularly valuable for the way it links the political and intellectual coordinates of the secular to its most dynamic contemporary ecosystem: the whirlpool of 24-hour news media, podcasts, clips, pop-up protests, and social media posts. Matt Sheedy has creatively arranged a broad range of sources into a convincing argument about the digital secular."
~Donovan Schaefer, University of Pennsylvania, USA