Whether observed in French laïcité, Kemalist Turkey, Kantian political theory, Western Christian theology, or North Indian classical music, the presence of modern secularity has been demonstrably complex (Asad 2003; Bakhle 2008; Blumenberg 1985; Connolly 1999; Navaro-Yashin 2002). My purpose in this essay is to further examine the intricacies of the modern secular, specifically its relation with what it deems “religious.” My focus will be Edward Said, whose paradigmatic engagement in secular, critical, and comparative inquiry makes his work an ideal place to investigate the modern apparition of the secular. It is widely acknowledged that Orientalism (1979) led to a profound transformation of entire fields of inquiry in the humanities and social sciences, and even the creation of new ones. Said's work as a practice of criticism has been instrumental in addressing the affinities between forms of knowledge and domination, especially in their colonial variety. However, studies of his writings have only recently begun to address the topic of modern secularism in his work, which will be at the center of this paper (e.g., Mufti 2004; Hart 2000; Anidjar 2006; Apter 2004; Robbins 1994; Gourgouris 2004).
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