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Joseph Blankholm – The Rituals of Secular Purification: Four Ways to Purify Religious Pollution

March 4, 2020 @ 12:15 pm - 1:30 pm  |  


Being secular means not being religious, but it also means participating in a religion-like tradition. This paradox shapes the everyday lives of secular people, as well as institutions that depend on categories like secular, spiritual, religious, and superstitious. Relying on years of ethnographic research among very secular people, this lecture describes four ways of producing the secular by purifying it of religious pollution. This approach shows how secular people become less religious and how religion and spirituality can be transformed and enabled to circulate in spaces that would otherwise prohibit them.

Joseph Blankholm is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His teaching and interdisciplinary research focus primarily on American religion, secularism, and secular people. Most recently, he has published on Karl Marx’s forgotten secularism, Saba Mahmood’s contribution to the study of religion, and the contradictory ways in which American law understands nonbelievers. He is currently finishing a manuscript on secular people’s religious ambivalence.

The Center for Cultural Studies hosts a weekly Wednesday colloquium featuring work by faculty and visitors. The sessions consist of a 40-45 minute presentation followed by discussion. We gather at noon, with presentations beginning at 12:15 PM. Participants are encouraged to bring their own lunches; the Center provides coffee, tea, and cookies.

All Center for Cultural Studies events are free and open to the public. Staff assistance is provided by the Humanities Institute.


March 4, 2020
12:15 pm - 1:30 pm


CA United States