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ABSTRACT

In this essay, I want to follow out one line of inquiry into secularism and the secular opened up—if in different ways—by the pioneering works of William Connolly and Talal Asad: namely, the extent to which the development of secularism has historically entailed—among its various dimensions—a unique configuration of the human sensorium. For both of these scholars secularism must be approached, not simply through the doctrine of separation of church and state, not through the sociology of social differentiation and religion decline, but, rather, in terms of the cultivation of the distinct sensibilities, affects, and embodied dispositions that undergird secular forms of appraisal and practice. In my discussion, I ask, what answers do we find in the work of these two scholars to the question, What is a secular body?, and what might these answers—or refusals to answer—tell us about the practical and conceptual contours of the secular and secularism? [secularism, body, sensorium, affect]