Secularism is often understood as foundational for modern public life—a framework that allows people of different belief systems to politically and culturally engage one another. Yet secular studies (e.g. Talal Asad, Jürgen Habermas, Saba Mahmood) have questioned its conceptual and affective lacunae, its Western bias, and the forms of violence it enables. What, then, is the status of secularism in an ever more globalized world? Is it a philosophical concept capable of embracing the whole, or is it rather something more piecemeal—”secularity” as a condition that obtains in more fragmentary and shifting ways? While scholars disagree on what might replace secularism, attention to sound may offer new possibilities. Cornel West frames this as an imperative: “secular thinkers must become more religiously musical.”
“Sound and Secularity” is a day-long symposium at Stony Brook University on April 12, 2019 that will engage what it means to speak, sing, and listen when secularism falters as the dominant frame for modern religious and political life. Scholars from several disciplines—anthropology, music, history, and religion—will join Stony Brook faculty to discuss how secularity and religious faith shape conceptions of sound and the meanings we attach to them.