By Janet R. Jakobsen

About Janet R. Jakobsen

Janet R. Jakobsen is Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Center for Research on Women at Barnard College. She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics and coeditor of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance as well as of Secularisms and Interventions: Academics and Activists Respond to Violence.


The keyword “religion” names one side of a pair of terms—“religion” and “secularism”—each of which is defined by its opposition to the other. In this relational definition, religion is that which is not secular, is associated with the sacred rather than the profane, and is aligned with dogma rather than reason. As delineated through this series of oppositions, the concept of religion draws together a wide range of practices across cultures that may not have much in common with one another. The conflation of various practices under the sign of religion has its origins in the thought of Enlightenment writers such as David Hume (1757/1993), for whom religion named the universal experience that marked the unity of human beings, even as it served to distinguish among humans on the basis of their different religions (R. Baird 2000). In the process, even practices that had no reference to a god, such …

Collectivities, Ideologies, Methodologies
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