One of the gravest distortions of the discussion on the modern, liberal-democratic nation-state has been the prevalence of a secularist epistemology as the basis for this discussion. This epistemology serves the configuration of power of the nation-state by identifying it with the “secular” realm of rational politics, relegating “religion” to the realm of the irrational, private and apolitical. Doing so, the secularist discourse actively hides the theopolitical nature of the modern nation-state, justifying the violence of the state as necessary and rational, while delegitimizing others ideational claims for (political) truth as irrational and politically illegitimate.
Convened by Stanley Lewis Chair in Israel Studies at Oxford, the proposed symposium will position the Israeli case in a wider thematic context. It will tie into one event or discourse several threads emanating from this critique: A deconstruction and reconsideration of the conceptual duality of “religion and politics”; a critique of the notion of liberal secularism; and a reconsideration of the case study of Israel (and Judaism).
The symposium would be formatted as a series of public dialogues:
Session 1 (10:30am-12pm): Religion and Politics: a dialogue between William Cavanaugh (DePaul) and Timothy Fitzgerald (Centre for Critical Research on Religion) on the politics and history of this conceptual duality and its current usages.
Session 2 (2pm – 3:30pm): Liberalism and Secularism: a dialogue between Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Northwestern) and Yolanda Jansen (Amsterdam) on the notion of the “secular,” liberal politics of the nation-state.
Session 3 (4pm-5:30pm): Israel: a dialogue between Yehouda Shenhav (Tel Aviv) and Yaacov Yadgar (Oxford) on the uses and misuses of a discourse on “Judaism” in Israel.