Defining the Secular in the Modern Middle East


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2009-2010


This project is a comparative study of how secularism has been both promoted and contested in two Muslim-majority societies, Lebanon and Egypt, in the postcolonial period. In both these societies, secularism has increasingly come to be seen as a prophylaxis against the ascendance of religious strife and political struggle. Despite this widely held consensus, it is unclear what secularism means within these two national contexts, both conceptually and practically, given their distinct demographic, political, and religious profiles. This project explores the distinctly different ways in which the Egyptian and Lebanese states have reconfigured religious belief and practice, and the ensuing ethical and political effects each reconfiguration has generated in the social and cultural fields.