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In light of the success of the far right and new culture wars in Europe, controversies about the relationship between the secular and the religious have gained new ground. We will explore sites and practices of religion and secularism as a way of shedding light on these insecure times.
Secularism has long been central to Western self-understandings of progress and modernity. Even as scholars (c.f. Asad 2003; Hirschkind 2011) have shown that secularism has its own history and is not an inevitable telos for the modern world, the concept has taken on a new contemporary relevance. The apparent clash between the secular and the religious continues to churn in political realms and these categories shift in the face of social and political crises. To this point, Mahmood (2009) and others have argued for greater attention to the ways that the secular and religious articulate with and transform each other, especially in the context of particular events, legal and political processes, spaces, and objects. To this end, this panel seeks to explore how concepts of the secular and religious emerge and shape space in European sites. Approaching space as constituted through practice and based upon the existence of plurality (Massey 2005), we examine contested spaces that are variously defined as religious and/or secular in order to better understand how these categories are enacted, conceptualized, and altered across contexts. How do certain spaces (physical or conceptual) become loci of religious and secular claims? How are these spaces figured as religious and secular, by whom and in what contexts? How do contested definitions impact the ways that actors organize spatial practices and relationships? We invite papers that explore these and related questions based on ethnographic studies of spaces that have become sites of contestation between the secular and religious.