Jonathon S. Kahn
is an associate professor of religion at Vassar College. He is co-editor with Vincent W. Lloyd
of a collection of essays entitled Race and Secularism in America
(Columbia University Press, 2016). Eleven scholars forward the argument that secularism in America has been a project that manages, or excludes, difference by control over both religion and race. The introduction demonstrates how Martin Luther King Jr., both a religious and black leader, was stripped of both his race and his religion to represent a homogenous white secularism. Secularism is dependent on managing not just the intertwined racial and religious discourse but the practices and bodies of ordinary people. Secularism thus becomes white and springs from a managed Protestantism. The abolitionist movement in the nineteenth century and the Civil Rights movement in the twentieth are historical examples of resistance to a secularist white consensus. The volume explores the many ways religion and race are circumscribed, how they are entwined, and the ways their management has been refused. In the process, the authors recover the transformative potential of racial and religious discourse in imagining worlds of possibilities and justice.
Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.