Cécile Laborde (Nuffield College, Oxford): "Who Needs Secularism? India, Liberalism, and Comparative Secularism"

James A. Moffett '29 Lectures in Ethics

ABSTRACT: In this lecture, Professor Laborde aims to reflect on the universal validity of the categories of secularism and religion. She does so by reference to the Indian case. Laborde argues that secularism is a descriptively thin concept, and that it gains ethical depth only when subsumed under liberal ideals. If that is correct, we may not need the concept of secularism, neither as a descriptive comparative framework nor as a normative ideal. 

BIO: Cécile Laborde holds the Nuffield Chair of Political Theory and is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Before she joined Oxford in January 2017, she was a Professor of Political Theory at University College London. After studying political science in France, Cécile Laborde obtained a DPhil from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, in 1996. She has held permanent posts in political theory at the University of Exeter and King's College, London. In 2007, she was Associate Professor to the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She spent the 2010-11 academic year in Princeton, as a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study. She was the director of UCL’s Religion and Political Theory Centre, which was funded by a European Research Council (ERC) personal grant.

She has published extensively in the areas of republicanism, liberalism and religion, theories of law and the state, and global justice. She has published 5 monographs and has written articles in major journals of political science and political theory. She is notably the author of "Pluralist Thought and the State in Britain and France" (2000), "Critical Republicanism," and "The Hijab Controversy in Political Philosophy" (2008). Her last monograph, "Liberalism’s Religion," was published by Harvard University Press in 2017.

Cécile Laborde is the convenor of the Nuffield political theory workshop.