Download After Secular Law (The Cultural Lives of Law) PDF

TitleAfter Secular Law (The Cultural Lives of Law)
File Size2.4 MB
Total Pages402
Table of Contents
Part I: Histories of the Legal Secular
	1. Moses’ Veil: Secularization as Christian Myth
	2. Secular Law and the Realm of False Religion
	3. Assenting to the Law: Sacrifice and Punishment at the Dawn of Secularism
	4. National Security and Secularization in the English Revolution of 1688
	5. “Intolerance of Intolerance” in the Unitarian Controversy: The Theology of Baker v. Fales
	6. The University and the Advent of the Academic Secular: The State’s Management of Public Instruction
	7. Stasiology: Political Theology and the Figure of the Sacrificial Enemy
	8. Against Sovereign Impunity: The Political Theology of the International Criminal Court
Part II: Ethnographies of the Legal Secular
	9. Sovereign Power and Secular Indeterminacy: Is Egypt a Secular or a Religious State?
	10. The Ruse of Law: Legal Equality and the Problem of Citizenship in a Multireligious Sudan
	11. The Religio-Secular Continuum: Reflections on the Religious Dimensions of Turkish Secularism
	12. “The Spirits Were Always Watching”: Buddhism, Secular Law, and Social Change in Thailand
	13. Secular Speech and Popular Passions: The Antinomies of Indian Secularism
	14. Courting Culture: Unexpected Relationships between Religionand Law in Contemporary Hawai‘i
	15. The Peculiar Stake U.S. Protestants Have in the Question of State Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages
	16. Sacred Property: Searching for Value in the Rubble of 9/11
	17. When Is Religion, Religion, and a Knife, a Knife—and Who Decides?: The Case of Denmark
Document Text Contents
Page 2

After Secular Law

Page 201


processes that put and keep those standards in place. In other words, this view
all too readily accepts secularism’s own criteria for judging its failure or success,
without carefully looking into the characteristic practices these criteria are his-
torically embedded in, and their consequences for social life.
Here I pursue an alternative thesis that will allow us to see the hisba case,
and the larger question of whether Egypt is a secular or religious state, in a very
different light. It is secularism itself that incessantly blurs together religion and
politics in Egypt. In other words, the question of whether Egypt is a secular or
a religious state arises out of tensions within modern secularism itself and its
distinctive modes of power. Those tensions and modalities of power are not
peculiar to Egypt; they are also characteristic of many states considered to be
paradigms of modern secularity, such as France, Germany, and Britain.

Secularism as an Historical Problem-Space

Secularism has been the subject of much recent theorizing.9 Much of this
theorizing has emphasized that secularism involves less a separation of religion
and politics than the fashioning of religion as an object of continual manage-
ment and intervention, and the shaping of religious life and sensibility to fit
the presuppositions and ongoing requirements of liberal governance. These
newer approaches have thus effected a separation between secularism’s nor-
mative standards and the analytic categories used to understand them, in an
effort to trace the processes of power by which these normative standards were
My argument here is in line with these more recent theorizations. However,
I worry that there is a way in which they lay themselves open to collapsing the
normative and the analytic all over again. Because even in tracing the processes
by which normative secularity is fashioned, one can still speak of them as being
fully, or only partially, completed. So that when it comes to Egypt, it doesn’t
matter whether one holds an older view or embraces recent theorizations of
secularism: one can still cast Egypt as only partially, or precariously secular.
And this, in turn, reinstates secularism’s own criteria for success or failure. A
scale of secularity, with the paradigm secular states at its pinnacle, thus sneaks
back in.10 It is just such a scale, with its collapsing of the normative with the
analytic, that I wish to avoid.
As an alternative approach, I want to highlight two aspects of modern secu-
larism that haven’t together received enough attention. First, as a process of de-
fining, managing, and intervening into religious life and sensibility, secularism
is historically and remains today an expression of the state’s sovereign power.11

Page 202


Second, secularism, as a feature of the modern state’s growing regulatory ca-
pacity, has long been, and is increasingly, fraught with an irrevocable indeter-
minacy. For the peculiar intractability of secularism lies not in the normativity
of its categories, but in the particular indeterminacies and anxieties it provokes.
Focusing on these two aspects together shifts our attention more securely to
what secularism does, without invoking its normative categories and criteria for
success or failure.
To better understand these two aspects together, I approach secularism as a
set of processes and structures of power wherein the question of where to draw
a line (and a presupposition that there is a line to be drawn) between religion
and politics continually arises and acquires a distinctive salience. I say a distinc-
tive salience because under a secularist framework this question never arises as
a simply technical or merely academic one. On the contrary, it is ineluctably
invested with high stakes, having to do with the definition and distribution
of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens and subjects. Because the
answers to it are thought to be of utmost consequence for how fundamental
freedoms are identified, it is a question always suffused with affects, sensibili-
ties, and anxieties that mobilize and are mobilized by power.
In this approach, I adapt anthropologist David Scott’s notion of a “problem-
space,” which he describes as

an ensemble of questions and answers around which a horizon of identifiable stakes
(conceptual as well as ideological-political stakes) hangs. That is to say, what de-
fines this discursive context are not only the particular problems that get posed as
problems as such (the problem of ‘race,’ say), but the particular questions that seem
worth asking and the kinds of answers that seem worth having. Notice, then, that a
problem-space is very much a context of dispute, a context of rival views, a context,
if you like, of knowledge and power. But from within a problem-space what is in
dispute, what the argument is effectively about, is not in itself being argued over.12

Approaching secularism as a problem-space means to see it in terms of the
ensemble of questions, stakes, and range of answers that have historically char-
acterized it. At the center of this ensemble is, as I have noted, the question of
where to draw a line between religion and politics. The identifiable stakes are
the rights, freedoms, and virtues that have become historically identified with
liberalism, such as legal equality, freedom of belief and expression, tolerance, as
well as the possibilities and justifications for peace and war.
This approach has many virtues. In focusing on the questions as much as
on the range of answers given, it forestalls the tendency to single out any one
answer as more or less correct. What matters in this approach is less the cor-
rectness of the distinctions made than what they are made in response to, the

Page 401

Lex Populi: The Jurisprudence of Popular Culture
William P. MacNeil

The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment: Comparative Perspectives
Edited by Austin Sarat and Christian Boulanger

Similer Documents