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CLASS: Centre for the Liberal Arts and Secular Society

The Centre for the Liberal Arts and Secular Society (CLASS) is comprised of University of Winnipeg faculty and students engaged in interdisciplinary research concerning secularism and secularization within the liberal arts.

The purpose of the centre is to engage in research focused on issues of the liberal arts in secular society. While traditional views on secularism and secularization have focused on the decline of religious adherence and a differentiation between spheres—most typically, the public (areligious) versus the private—interdisciplinary scholarship in the last decade has emerged that suggests that the secular is not simply a neutral, areligious space.

This scholarship draws from a wide range of fields, including religious studies, political philosophy, history, literature and rhetoric. One dominant stream has argued that secularization brings with it a change in conditions of belief that impinge on religionists and non-religionists alike, wherein all “belief” becomes contingent. A second dominant stream in secularism studies illuminates how secular society, far from being a neutral socio-political space, is partial to some perspectives—both religious and non-religious—while marginalizing others. A third stream argues that we moderns now exist in a “post-secular” society. What has emerged from contemporary secularism studies, then, is a deeply complex and highly contested picture of secular society.

One central objective of CLASS is to interrogate the nature of the sharp “secularist” lines that divide idealized “private” spaces from “public” ones. Moreover, CLASS seeks to mobilize its knowledge in ways that engage both sides of this dyad, to blur the borders between town and gown, to envision the secular university as neither strictly private nor strictly public. Public institutes, colloquia, and lectures that engage a broad set of constituencies are a core aspect of CLASS’ knowledge mobilization.

Drawing on current interdisciplinary strengths throughout the University of Winnipeg, CLASS engages in interdisciplinary research concerning secularism and secularization from perspectives across the liberal arts, while also interrogating the ways in which secularism affects the liberal arts themselves.

The work, "Church and State", is a cropped version of "Creative Commons Church and State" by monoglot used under CC BY. "Bookshelf" image used courtesy of Carlos Colorado.