Christianity, the Secular and European Identity

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Ian Morrison, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology, The American University in Cairo, Egypt


    As Derrida suggests in the opening pages of The Other Heading, the question of Europe is both “a question that will always be of current interest” and the product of the pressure exerted by a particular imminence. The question, and the response to this question — what is Europe? — always refers both to the ever-present (the essential Europe), the particular or contingent (Europe as it is), and demands an equation or conciliation of the two. In the two decades since the publication of Derrida’s text, the question of Europe has been promoted by the apparent crisis of an engagement with two imminent Others: in the form of the seemingly permanent presence of Muslim migrants and demands by Turkey to gain membership in Europe. In response to these Others, a dual and seemingly contradictory definition of Europe has emerged — Europe as secular and Christian. Europe is secular in relation to its Muslim migrants, and Christian in the face of secular/Muslim Turkey. Within this dualistic definition, often voiced by the same figures, no contradiction, excess or difference is permitted. Instead, a socio-historical paradigm in which Christianity and the secular form a necessary and symbiotic relationship is evoked. This paper will investigate this response to the imminent question of Europe and suggest that Derrida’s notions of Europe as difference-to-oneself, of the other heading, and the other of the heading, permit an opportunity to re-evaluate the relationship between Europe, Christianity and the secular, and open new possibilities for a Europe to come.