Call for papers : The Non-Religious and the State: Choices and Frameworks for Seculars from the Age of Revolution to the Current Day

Secular Studies Assocation Brussels Research Group

In the past 15 years, secular studies have become an autonomous field of interdisciplinary scholarship. As humanists, seculars and the indifferent constitute an expanding group in society, understanding them and their ambitions and needs, becomes increasingly important. It is to be expected that the increasing numbers of non-religious people lead public authorities to redefine the formal frameworks in which the religious and non-religious can build and experience their lifestances.
For this conference, we welcome contributions that shed light on the fields of activity of the non- religious at large – be it organizations, networks or even committed individuals – and explain how their goals and ambitions impact upon the interface between the state and the religious or the non- religious. To what specific legal statuses have these processes led. What elements were taken into consideration when making these decisions? Who opted for a recognition of a non-confessional lifestance and why? Conversely, who opted for a wall of separation and why? Are things that clear cut? Doesn’t the variety of choices and frameworks offer a more varied spectrum? What continuities and discontinuities are to be observed in the history of seculars and their organizations since the end of the 18th century? How can these patterns, whether divergent or entangled, be mapped and framed within a broader conception of ‘multiple secularisms’?
The Secular Studies Association Brussels (SSAB) invites submissions for its inaugural conference to be held in the Fall of 2022. The Institute and its partners welcome abstracts for individual papers, panels, roundtables and other options. The conference is open to a variety of disciplines as papers are welcomed with, but not limited to, a historical, legal, sociological or political science approach. Generally speaking, research will be presented in English, but this call is open to other languages as well, i.e. French and Spanish.
Contributions may cover any organizations, networks or committed individuals that have existed within a specific context (national, regional, local) since the era of the revolutions. Apart from simply presenting a factual legal status, we further aim to understand the strategies made by freethinkers, rationalists, secularists, humanists and the ‘nones’ of today in order to function within the public sphere.
The general goal of this conference is to produce an open-access edited volume in the series New Perspectives on the History of Liberalism and Freethought (De Gruyter).
As the book will have a limited number of contributions, the organizers of this conference will support authors of papers that fall beyond the volume’s scope in identifying suitable journals for their contribution.

Organizing partners:

  • Secular Studies Association Brussels (VUB, Brussels)
  • Centre for Academic and Secular Humanist Archives (CAVA, Brussels)
  • Liberas (Heritage Centre for the History of the Freedom Ideal, Ghent)
  • The International Society for Historians on Atheism, Secularism and Humanism (ISHASH)
  • Humanists International (HI)
  • Union of Secular Associations (, Brussels)


  • March 15: deadline Call for Papers
  • April: registration open to participants
  • Friday October 21 and Saturday October 22 : conference
  • Fall 2023: publication edited volume (De Gruyter)

Organizing committee

  • Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Tyssens
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Scheelings
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph de Spiegeleer
  • Niels De Nutte

Academic committee

  • Dr. Silvia Baldassarre (University of Florence - Italy)
  • Prof. Dr. Joseph Blankholm (University of California Santa Barbara – USA)
  • Prof. Dr. Tina Block (Thompson Rivers University - Canada)
  • Prof. Dr. Callum Brown (Glasgow University - Scotland)
  • Dr. Leni Franken (Universiteit Antwerpen - Belgium)
  • Dr. Freddy Mortier (Universiteit Gent – Belgium)
  • Dr. Caroline Sägesser (CRISP - Belgium)
  • Dr. Stefan Schröder (Bayreuth University - Germany)
  • Prof. Dr. Valentine Zuber (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes – France)

The conference will be held at the KVAB (Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts) in Brussels.
CfP and program to be found on the website of here.