The Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging (RelSec) project links five humanities centers—at The University of Arizona, Portland State University, Utrecht University, Tel Aviv University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong—through a mutually coordinated set of research programs. The project’s key research questions are: How are we to understand the contemporary resurgence of religious discourses, social practices, and forms of cultural organization in political arenas, civil society, and the public sphere? What light do these developments cast on long-standing accounts of “modernity” as a secularizing historical process? How are current formation of religious and secular shaping local, national, transnational and “universal” measures of political belonging? Over the three years of the project (2013 to 2015), each participating center will convene a research team to conduct investigations anchored to each site along these thematic lines. 

At the inaugural event in October 2013, the participating organizations met at the University of Arizona to discuss a set of common readings and keywords. The 2013-2014 academic year saw the RelSec group complete many project, including meetings in Tucson and Tel Aviv, culminating with a presentation and group conference at the CHCI Annual Meeting in Hong Kong. In the coming year, in addition to sites hosting a range of internationally distinguished speakers, the RelSec group has selected a lexicon of project-specific terms to investigate; each site will discus their conclusions in Utrecht in December of 2014. At the conclusion of the project, all will convene at Tel Aviv University to report their findings and discuss a potential ensuing phase of the project in which new organizations would rotate into the project leadership—potentially creating an innovative “passing the baton” model that may be able to sustain an intellectual theme by continually attracting new organizational voices and approaches.

The project is funded by the participating institutions and by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which awarded $1.2 million awarded to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) for Integrating the Humanities across National Boundaries, an initiative designed to foster new forms of collaborative research and partnerships among the organization’s international membership.

Established in 1988, CHCI is a network for the circulation of information, ideas, and best practices related to the programmatic and organizational dimensions of humanities centers and institutes. CHCI is currently comprised of over 180 member and affiliate organizations in 23 countries and 46 US states. CHCI members are engaged in a wide range of programs, including research support, public humanities programs, fellowship programs, activism and advocacy on issues of educational and cultural policy, digital humanities programs, partnerships with arts organizations, and the development and maintenance of research collections. Many CHCI members are powerful agents of growth, change, and transformative, interdisciplinary research on their campuses and within their communities. CHCI operations are based at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. More information on CHCI can be found at http://chcinetwork.org.

The CHCI member organizations participating in the RelSec project are:

RelSec is comprised of five partner sites situated in universities around the world. The participating centers conduct parallel research projects whose exact shape reflects the distinct missions of the centers and research profiles of the teams. All will include some combination of public presentations and events, faculty workshops, and/or curricular initiatives, such as the development of team-taught courses on secularism, religion, and political belonging.
Click on the icons below to link to each partner’s individual websites.