International Conference, 29 Feb. – 1 Mar. 2016


Keynote speakers:

  • Prof. Peter Beyer, University of Ottawa
  • Prof. Peter van der Veer, Max Plank Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Main organizer: Global Asia Research Cluster, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, NTU

In recent years there has been growing academic and public interest in the global “resurgence” of religion around the world. This has in turn stimulated scholarly debates concerning “secularism” and its conceptual imbrication with notions such as modernity, the public sphere, multiculturalism, governance, citizenship and global civil society. Some have even envisioned the desecularization of the world or the coming of the “post-secular” era. Against this backdrop this conference will focus on the complex interactions between politics of secularism and changing religious expressions across contemporary Asia, especially how the “secular” and “religious” have mutually defined and shaped each other in diverse social, cultural and political settings. Inter-disciplinary studies on “the secular” have contributed to better scholarly understanding of not only the rise of the category of religion, but also the different transformations of the religious sphere in modern times. However, a dominant thread in existing scholarship tends to focus on how the majority of contemporary societies in Asia have reacted and responded to Western versions of secularism through colonial encounters.

This workshop seeks to go beyond this action-reaction model, and to examine the ways in which societies in Asia have been active contributors to the global engagement with, and formulation of, different expressions of secularism and the “religious”. Whether through accepting, appropriating or resisting secularism as a result of colonial experiences, or through elaborating and promoting their own versions of secularism, societies in Asia have diversely defined their various traditions as “religion”, “civilization”, “spirit” or “magic/cult/superstition” in their respective colonial and postcolonial contexts. In this conference, we will particularly examine how the interactions between forms of secularism and religious discourses and traditions have in Asian societies contributed to the rise of nation-states, transformed the religious terrains and reformulated the modern functional systems such as legal, financial and educational institutions.

We invite paper proposals from different approaches such as sociology, anthropology, philosophy, religious studies, international relations, law, history, geography, political science, media studies and cultural studies that examine, but not restricted to, the following questions:

  • In what ways have societies and cultures in Asia contributed to the discourses and conceptualizations of secularism, the post-secular and the religious in the context of regional and global encounters?
  • How do secular state and religious tradition shape the spaces of civil society? What are their implications for the formulation and practice of citizenship?
  • How is ethnic or identity politics related to the interplay of religion and secularism?
  • What forms of relationship do religion and the secular state have across Asia?
  • How do religions interpret and response to the building of secular nation-states across Asia?
  • How do different forms of secularism influence the growth or decline of religious institutions or engage with other forms of religious change or innovation across Asia?
  • How do secularisms and religious traditions affect the geopolitics and international relations of a globalized Asia?

We are pleased to provide meals and accommodation for presenters during the conference period. Partial subsidies for travel expenses might be available depending on funding availability and on a case-by-case basis. We intend to publish selected papers from the conference as a journal special issue and/or as an edited volume with a reputable academic press.


  1. Deadline: Please submit your proposal with title and an abstract of not more than 350 words, together with your name, title, institutional affiliation and email address by 13th July, 2015.
  2. Submission method: Send in MS Word via email to
  3. Final papers: Paper presenters are requested to submit full papers by 8th February, 2016.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any questions or clarification regarding this workshop.


  • Associate Professor Francis Lim
  • Dr Kyuhoon Cho