SSRC Launches New Blog on Religion and Secularism
The Immanent Frame Immediately Garners Major Media Attention
The Social Science Research Council has launched the blog The Immanent Frame with the aim of fostering scholarly debate on secularism, religion, and the public realm while making the ideas and arguments of leading experts on these topics available to a broad audience.
The blog kicked off with an appraisal by Berkeley sociologist Robert Bellah of philosopher Charles Taylor’s new work, A Secular Age. Bellah’s posting—and the comments it elicited—immediately received a shout-out on Crooked Timber, a popular blog whose contributors includes a number of social scientists, as "a great way to broaden the debate beyond the usual suspects." Soon after, the Chronicle of Higher Education drew attention to Bellah’s claim that A Secular Age represents "one of the most important books to be written in my lifetime."
Atlantic Monthly journalist Andrew Sullivan was next, linking to Bellah’s blog posting from The Daily Dish, one of the most widely read political blogs in the nation.
Besides Robert Bellah, contributors to The Immanent Frame have included Charles Taylor himself, as well as scholars Wendy Brown, José Casanova, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, John Torpey, and Simon During. In the coming weeks, further contributions are expected from Rajeev Bhargava, Akeel Bilgrami, Hent de Vries, Amy Hollywood, and Tomoko Masuzawa.
"I am somewhat surprised—but also deeply gratified—at how rapidly the blog has taken off," said SSRC research fellow and program officer Jonathan VanAntwerpen, editor of The Immanent Frame. "To my mind, this signals not only the recognized importance of our topic, but also the extent to which our readers appreciate both the innovative format we’ve tried to create and the SSRC’s commitment to bringing leading social scientists into conversation with the wider public. While many blogs are primarily vehicles for airing the perspectives of one individual, we’ve chosen quite consciously to do something different. Our aim has been to involve a diverse range of contributors—from eminent academics to emerging new voices and junior scholars. As a result, this new SSRC blog has been, from the very start, a collective project."
VanAntwerpen added that while The Immanent Frame has opened with a focus on Charles Taylor’s major new work, it will not be limited to discussions of A Secular Age. "Later this fall, we’ll have a series of posts responding to Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. And there will be posts on a variety of other topics: pluralism and the 'post-secular'; religion and humanitarianism; international relations theory and political theology; reconciliation and transitional justice; religious freedom and the law; secularism and the future of shari`a."
The blog builds on the SSRC’s work on religion and the public sphere, including plans for conferences and publications on religion, secularism, and international affairs, and a recently launched series of public dialogues on “Rethinking Secularism,” being cosponsored by the SSRC and the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.