Religion/Modernity: Living on the Slash by Robert Orsi (Northwestern University)
Date: 3:00pm PDT March 13, 2015 Location: Smith Hall
This lecture challenges the widespread agreement today among scholars of modern history and culture that modernity did not mean the end of religion, that modernity itself is a religious, as well as political and legal, project. This may be true, but such an account of the modern fails to capture the fate of special, supermundane beings since the sixteenth century: gods, ghosts, ancestors, spirits, demons, and so on. The “religion” that endured in modernity—that was legally codified, epistemologically sanctioned, and diagnosed as psychologically healthy—was purified of these beings. Modern “religion” consigned them to the past of the species and the infancy of the person. Looking at the experience of a Catholic survivor of clerical sexual abuse as she makes her way between the normative modern and “superstition,” which is the necessary other of the modern, the lecture considers what it means to live everyday life in a world of plural and incommensurate ontologies.