Secularism has emerged as a central category of twenty-first century political thought and critical theory. Following the lead of anthropologist Talal Asad, there is a growing literature that traces the complicated relationship between state policies on religion and emergent epistemologies of the secular in modernity. Most studies have focused on India and the Islamic world (Turkey, Egypt, etc.) or looked at France and the USA. The communist world has been largely left out of the picture, which is why this new book will make a substantial contribution in the field: Atheist Secularism and its Discontents: A Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasia (Palgrave, 2015). In this interview with the editors Tam Ngo and Justine Quijada, we learn about the communist project of secularism and its legacies today.
Whereas Western models of state secularism were premised, in theory at least, on separations between religious and secular spheres and between church and state, communist regimes rejected separation and sought to directly rule over the religious realm. As the editors discuss in this interview, even after the waning of utopian revolutionary convictions, officials in contemporary communist und postcommunist states continue to intervene regularly in religious affairs. The essays of the book reveal surprising dynamics currently being generated in religious-secular interactions in today’s China, Russia, Poland, Vietnam and places in between.