Northwestern Events Calendar


"Expertly Secular."

When: Wednesday, April 6, 2016
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM Central

Where: University Hall, Hagstrum Room 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Rossitza Guenkova-Fernandez   847.491.3611

Group: Religious Studies Department

Category: Academic


By Matthew Engelke, Professor of Anthropology at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

What might it mean to be “expertly secular”? Professor Engelke explores this question through an ethnography of the British Humanist Association, the largest explicitly non-religious association in the United Kingdom. BHA celebrants perform funerals for the unbelieving dead, for people who embrace—or at least accept—an immanent and secular order of things. In such a context, the idea of expertise raises a host of issues, chief of which is whether and to what extent anyone can be better (more expert, more skilled) at being secular than anyone else, and what such a situation might suggest about the nature of secularity itself. In the process of exploring these issues, he discusses the training that goes into becoming a celebrant, and how this is used to model the expertise. What emerges out of the ethnography are a number of issues to which secular studies ought to pay more heed, including not only the concept of expertise, but skill, embodiment, and professionalism.

The event is co-sponsored by The Global Politics and Religion Research Group and Department of Religous Studies.



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