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Marian Burchardt


Legal anthropologists and sociologists of religion increasingly recognize the importance of law in current controversies over religious diversity. Drawing on the case of South Africa, this chapter explores how such controversies are shaped by contestations over what counts as ‘religion’. Analyzing the historical context and emergent forms of institutional secularity from which contemporary contestations over religious diversity draw, the chapter explores debates and practices of classification around religion, tradition, and culture, and the ways in which these domains are co-constituted through their claims on the law: on the one hand through an analysis of religion-related jurisprudence; on the other hand through an examination of the debates on witchcraft, law, and religion. I argue that the production of judicial knowledge of ‘religion’, ‘culture’, and ‘tradition’ is tied up with contestations over the power to define the meaning of the domains. In fact, contrary to notions of constitutionality in which rights seem to exist prior to the claims made on their basis, in a fundamental sense rights struggles help to constitute the contemporary human rights dispensation. Against the Comaroffs’ claim that judicialization depoliticizes power struggles, I show that legal claims making remains vibrantly political.

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Cora Schuh, Marian Burchardt and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

In this paper, we propose to analyze ideas, practices, institutionalizations, and public controversies related to the religious-secular divide in the Netherlands in terms of contested formations of secularity. We introduce the concept of ‘multiple secularities’ and use it as an interpretive device for an analysis of the historical emergence and transformation of Dutch secularity. After that we show how historically shaped notions of secularity operated within the parliamentary debates on blasphemy, freedom of speech, and religion that unfolded between 2004 and 2009. We argue that long-standing notions of secularity as a means for balancing religious and ideological diversity are challenged by and give way to a new preponderance of secular progressivism. By secular progressivism we mean the idea that within an ‘immanent frame’ in which the secular ontologically embodies the ‘real’ and constitutes the ground for normative universalism, religion turns into a historical vestige whose protection must be subordinated to universalistic notions of civic liberties. However, this development is still contested in the Netherlands.

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Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Marian Burchardt


For more than two decades sociological debates over religion and secularization have been characterized by a confrontation between (often American) critics and (mostly European) defenders of secularization theories. At the same time, there was a remarkable rise in public debates about the role of secularism in political regimes and in national as well as civilizational frameworks. Against this backdrop this paper presents the conceptual framework of “multiple secularities” with a view to refocusing sociological research on religion and secularity. We will demonstrate that it can stimulate new ways of theorizing the relationship of religion and secularity in a variety of modern environments. Arguing for a reformulation of this relationship within the framework of cultural sociology, we conceptualize “secularity” in terms of the cultural meanings underlying the differentiation between religion and non-religious spheres. Building on Max Weber we distinguish four basic ideal-types of secularity that are related to specific reference problems and associated with specific guiding ideas. Finally, we illustrate the use of the concept with regard to selected case-studies.