In September of 2010, Talal Asad, William E. Connolly, Charles Hirschkind, and Matthew Scherer met at the annual conference of the American Political Science Association to discuss two seminal texts in an emerging field of study that could tentatively be called the critical study of secularism. The texts in question were Connolly's Why I Am Not a Secularist and Asad's Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, and Modernity, each now roughly a decade old. We had conceived our return to these texts not as a celebration of their achievements (although they certainly deserve as much), but as way of foregrounding the most recent developments in Asad's and Connolly's thinking on the problem of secularism, in particular, and in critical discourses on secularism, more generally.

The essays that resulted from this discussion are surprising in many ways. They reframe old questions about the significance of the very idea of secularism and the contentious relation between secularism and Christianity; they also open new questions about the possibility of conceiving a secular body. True to the innovative and critical spirit of Formations and Not a Secularist, these essays trace new trajectories for work on modern secularism, articulating new connections between this formation and liberalism, pluralism, and Christianity, as well as biomedicine, spirituality, capitalism, the nation-state, violence, and micropolitics.