Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Religion and Empire: Excavating Secular Christian Cultural Dominance in the United States

Richard Shapiro.

This paper will examine how our capacity to imagine and enact liberatory possibilities in relation to difference is enabled by reflection on cultural and religious dominance. Here in the center of the Empire called the United States, it is imperative that we name and address Christian cultural dominance as it operates under the cover of the secular. How is this complex legacy alive in our own self-understandings and practices regarding the true, the good, the universal? How does Christian cultural dominance, in secular form, effect what we say and do in pursuit of social change? How is it a force in U.S. led globalization? If, as Jacques Derrida states, the present is marked by intersections of media, technology, science, capital, and politics that penetrate all areas of life in every corner of the world, and these supposedly secular forces, (markets, rationality, law, nation states) are themselves inseparably linked, as concepts and practices, to histories marked by Christian cultural dominance , then we would benefit from assuming that none of us occupy a pure space outside the influence of what we may call secular Christian culture. How does this dominance affect the way we understand difference in relation to universal goals, analyses, and interventions? Or alert us to how difference is organized hierarchically, embedded in power dynamics that demand our engagement. How might reflection on this silent force that lives within us expand our capacities and imaginations in building emancipatory cultures of solidarity and difference?


Richard Shapiro  (United States)
Social and Cultural Anthropology Program
California Institute of Integral Studies

Richard Shapiro has been teaching at the California Institute of Integral Studies since 1986 and has held the position of Director of the Social and Cultural Anthropology Program at CIIS since 1996. Using interdisciplinary and cross-cultural frameworks that draw on social thought, cultural studies, philosophy, history, and anthropology, Richard has been involved in creating critical, emancipatory, activist and multicultural education. He is very much concerned with issues of social justice, ecological sustainability, cultural diversity, engaged spirituality, and the intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality in local and global contexts.

  • Empire
  • Secular Christian Dominance

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)