The Critical Religion Research Group Host Naomi Goldenberg April 2012

April 2012 Naomi Goldenberg visit hosted by the Critical Religion Research Group. On their website she states: 

Conceptualizing religions as vestigial states has value for clarifying matters pertaining to supposed qualitative differences between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ law.  According to my reasoning, such a distinction is more productively thought of as occurring between two forms of ‘states’ with markedly similar processes involving contingency, debate and compromise, something I will draw out further in my forthcoming presentations.

Please see details below of three events with Naomi Goldenberg over April.

The Critical Religion Research Group is delighted to be hosting Naomi Goldenberg,Professor of Religious Studies (Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa), for a visit to the UK in April 2012.

Prof. Goldenberg will be speaking in three locations: StirlingAberdeen and London.  Details for each location are noted below, as are some notes about her current research.  The Critical Religion Research Group is also happy to facilitate media enquiries regarding Prof. Goldenberg’s visit.  Unless otherwise noted, all general enquiries should be directed to Dr Tim Fitzgerald.

In advance of her visit, Prof. Goldenberg has also written guest blog entries that discuss her work.

Stirling – Monday, 23.4.12

What’s God Got to Do With It? Contemporary Statecraft, Gender and the Category of Religion”

Room E26, Pathfoot Building, University of Stirling, at 15:00.

Aberdeen – Tuesday, 24.4.12

Prof. Goldenberg is speaking at a day workshop entitled Modernity and the Category of Religion, organised by Dr Trevor Stack of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law.

Other speakers include Dr Stack, Dr Tamas Gyorfi, Stirling’s Dr Fitzgerald, Dr Suzanne Owen and Dr Brian Bock; Stirling’s Dr Jasper is a discussant.

Please email Louise Harkins with any queries.

London – Thursday, 26.4.12

What’s God Got to Do With It? Feminism, Religion and the State”

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Covent Garden, London, at 19:00.

Posters for this event can be sent on request, and are available for download here in jpg format: A3 sizeA4 size.

The London event is organised in conjunction with our partner, Ekklesia.


Prof. Goldenberg writes:

I will argue that religions function as vestigial states within contemporary nation-states.  By ‘vestigial states’ I mean sets of institutions and practices that originate in particular histories with reference to former sovereignties within present governmental jurisdictions.  Vestigial states are both tolerated and encouraged as attenuated and marginalized governments within fully functioning nation states.  However, they compete with contemporary nation states and therefore are always problematic in varying degrees – especially if a vestigial state challenges the exclusive right of the present state to control violence.  Indeed, vestigial states have a propensity to behave as once and future states.  Nevertheless, although vestigial states can contest contemporary governments, they also work to ground the powers that authorize them by recalling earlier, now mystified forms of sovereignty from which present states arise. They are thus storehouses of nostalgia for fictional, beneficent male hegemonies that present states are thought of as representing in less magical (i.e. ‘secular’) incarnations.

Because vestigial states always embody and perform patriarchal power through citing former male-dominated governments, they support the notion that the only truly legitimate political authority is male.  Although women can exercise some authority in contemporary nation states, this power is so novel that it lacks cultural roots and social gravitas.  Rights and responsibilities tend to be provisional, partial, and subject to restriction.  In order for recent, progressive feminist gains worldwide to be both secured and furthered, the role of vestigial states – i.e. religions – in the maintenance of male control of contemporary nation states must be more vigorously interrogated.

We also encourage you to read Prof. Goldenberg’s guest blog contributions.