As Editor of The Immanent Frame, Mona Oraby curates thematic forums and forums on new books in the study of religion, secularism, and the public sphere. Forums feature original, invited essays from scholars across the humanities and social sciences, and advance debates that traverse disciplinary boundaries.


Crossing and conversion

Conversion commonly refers to a change in interiorized religious belief, and a conversion’s authenticity is typically measured by the sincerity of that belief. Yet recent scholarship across the humanities and the social sciences reveals the limitations of such a framework, which not only bears an unmistakeable Christian bias but also, and more significantly, fails to situate conversion practices and the convert within broader transcultural and transhistorical border crossings.

This forum draws on a range of historical and contemporary case studies to show that conversions rarely converge on the question of belief or sincerity alone. Instead, conversions reflect protracted controversies over communal maintenance, self-identity, rituals of belonging, state governance, and international norms in which the question of belief or sincerity may figure. The convert, who is said to have endured a fractured self, far from merely sheds old ties and joins a new community or aligns individual identity with outward performance.


Modernity’s resonances: New inquiries into the secular

Following a format introduced in the Fall 2018 forum “Science and the soul: New inquiries into Islamic ethics,” this forum features eighteen essays discussing four recent books and the themes and topics emergent from them.

The four books included in this discussion are Credulity by Emily Ogden (University of Chicago Press, 2018), The Resonance of Unseen Things by Susan Lepselter (University of Michigan Press, 2016), The Story of Radio Mind by Pamela Klassen (University of Chicago, 2018), and Magic’s Reason by Graham Jones (University of Chicago Press, 2017). Respondents to the books were asked to reflect on how these works challenge and correct the discursive and philosophical modes of investigation into secularity’s histories and manners of operation.


Rethinking public religion: Word, image, sound

This forum explores three contentions of the “Rethinking Public Religion” project at Columbia University’s Institute for Religion Culture and Public Life.

The first is that we cannot understand public religion without equal attention to the mediums and modes of religious publicity. How, exactly, does public religion take shape? The second contention is that context matters, not only with respect to what "religion" means or does, but also what makes something "public." Does it make sense to speak of "public religion" in the Global North in the same way as we might with respect to the Global South? If so, how? If not, why not? The third contention is that our understanding of religion (and its others) stand to benefit from more frequent pushes beyond a focus on distinct traditions and traditional sites of inquiry. The turn to publics allows one to consider not only these longstanding subjects, but also how we can approach "religion" through any number of mediated encounters that have so far eluded inquiries into religion's publics.