Mourning Secular Futures
Ananda Abeysekara contends that democracy, along with its cherished secular norms, is founded on the idea of a promise deferred to the future. Rooted in democracy's messianic promise is the belief that religiouspolitical identity-such as Buddhist, Hindu, Sinhalese, Christian, Muslim, or Tamilcan be critiqued, neutralized, improved, and changed, even while remaining inseparable from the genocide of the past. This facile belief, he argues, is precisely what distracts us from challenging the violence inherent in postcolonial political sovereignty. At the same time, we cannot simply dismiss the democratic concept, since it permeates so deeply through our modernist, capitalist, and humanist selves.
In The Politics of Postsecular Religion, Abeysekara invites us to reconsider our ethical-political legacies, to look at them not as problems, but as aporias, in the Derridean sense-that is, as contradictions or impasses incapable of resolution. Disciplinary theorizing in religion and politics, he argues, is unable to identify the aporias of our postcolonial modernity. The aporetic legacies, which are like specters that cannot be wished away, demand a new kind of thinking. It is this thinking that Abeysekara calls mourning and un-inheriting. Un-inheriting is a way of meditating on history that both avoids the simple binary of remembering and forgetting and provides an original perspective on heritage, memory, and time.
Abeysekara situates aporias in the settings and cultures of the United States, France, England, Sri Lanka, India, and Tibet. In presenting concrete examples of religion in public life, he questions the task of refashioning the aporetic premises of liberalism and secularism. Through close readings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Derrida, Butler, and Agamben, as well as Foucault, Asad, Chakrabarty, Balibar, and Zizek, he offers readers a way to think about the futures of postsecular politics that is both dynamic and creative.
"Essential." — Choice
"Thought-provoking... a refreshing postcolonial standpoint that places European history and thought in a contemporary global context." — Charles Whitney, Clio
"Ananda Abeysekara is an exceptional writer, weaving together critical engagements with European enlightenment and secular thinkers with close examinations of political settings in South Asia. I am convinced that this will be a very important and, indeed, seminal work." — William E. Connolly, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
"The Politics of Postsecular Religion is a rigorous and original piece of work. It requires of the reader a serious engagement with its content. It is not a fast-paced book, but that is its strength." — Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
"Ananda Abeysekara offers a fresh approach to rethinking the role of religion in emancipatory politics. In probing new conceptions of a secular and democratic future in religious traditions, he challenges the hijacking of religion by fundamentalists and makes a stirring call to readers to 'un-inherit' the legacies of a past inscribed as secular and historical. The book eloquently demonstrates the pathways to responsibility and collective conscience by such forms of active forgetting." — Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, and author of Outside the Fold, Conversion, Modernity, and Belief
"The Politics of Postsecular Religion is a subtle and intellectually energetic meditation on the crisis of democracy and secularism in our times. In breaking away from contemporary critiques of religion that are predominantly genealogical, Ananda Abeysekara points us in new directions: toward Derridean deconstruction and the aporetic task of 'mourning secular futures.' The conflictual legacy of religion in postcolonial societies like Sri Lanka is central to this challenge. This is an enormously exciting and rewarding book." — Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Global Distinguished Professor of English, New York University
1. Thinking the Un-improvable, Thinking the Un-inheritable
2. Aporias of Secularism
3. Postcolonial Community or Democratic Responsibility? A Problem of Inheritance
4. Toward Mourning Political Sovereignty: A Politics "Between a No-Longer and a Not-Yet"?
5. Im-passable Limits of Fugitive Politics: Identity for and Against Itself
6. Active Forgetting of History, the "Im-possibility" of Justice
7. Politics of "Postsecular" Ethics, Futures of Anti-genealogy: Community Without Community?
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2008