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Secularity and American Sacred Space

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Abstract:

Is there a secular way of seeing the American cultural landscape? This paper explores this question by comparing two sources of perennial conflict over the presence of “the sacred” in the public realm: Christian iconography and Native American sacred sites. Though rarely linked in discussions of American public religion, viewed together these conflicts shed light on the complex cultural geography of American secularity. Both are marked by deep anxieties about the changing nature of American civil society, and both reflect deep-seated fears about the possibility of religious freedom amid rapid changes in the country’s religious makeup: resurgent evangelicalism, increasing diversity, and the challenge of so-called “radical Islam,” among others. Centered on the territorial dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in public space, both reflect widespread anxieties about the legal protection of religious pluralism. Yet these conflicts are about more than the symbolic construction of “insiders” and “outsiders” in American public life. They are also about the cultural construction of religious belief. By staging a struggle over the visual and emotional sensibilities required of “reasonable,” “sincere” believers, they have subtly transformed the cultural discourses through which religion is imagined and experienced. They thus provide a fascinating window into the changing relationships among space, secularity, and religious subjectivity.
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Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509975_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Howe, Nick. "Secularity and American Sacred Space" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509975_index.html>

APA Citation:

Howe, N. "Secularity and American Sacred Space" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509975_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Is there a secular way of seeing the American cultural landscape? This paper explores this question by comparing two sources of perennial conflict over the presence of “the sacred” in the public realm: Christian iconography and Native American sacred sites. Though rarely linked in discussions of American public religion, viewed together these conflicts shed light on the complex cultural geography of American secularity. Both are marked by deep anxieties about the changing nature of American civil society, and both reflect deep-seated fears about the possibility of religious freedom amid rapid changes in the country’s religious makeup: resurgent evangelicalism, increasing diversity, and the challenge of so-called “radical Islam,” among others. Centered on the territorial dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in public space, both reflect widespread anxieties about the legal protection of religious pluralism. Yet these conflicts are about more than the symbolic construction of “insiders” and “outsiders” in American public life. They are also about the cultural construction of religious belief. By staging a struggle over the visual and emotional sensibilities required of “reasonable,” “sincere” believers, they have subtly transformed the cultural discourses through which religion is imagined and experienced. They thus provide a fascinating window into the changing relationships among space, secularity, and religious subjectivity.


Similar Titles:
"More than a Haircut: An Oral History of the Black Barbershop as an Informal School and ‘Sacred Space’ for African-American Males"

Secular Walls and Sacred Temple: The American Nehemiad during the Early Nineteenth Century


 
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