Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

“Power Differences” and “the Power of Difference”: The Dominance of Secularism as Ontological Injustice’

Wilson, Erin K.; Smith, Peter J.; Glaab, Katharina; Baumgart-Ochse, Elizabeth Smythe

Recent religious studies and international relations scholarship has highlighted secularism as a critical element in dominant modes of identity, power, and exclusion in global politics. Yet, the implications of these insights for global justice theory and practice have rarely been considered. This article suggests that the current dominance of secularism within global justice theory and practice risks undermining the global justice project. Specifically, I argue that secularism’s dominance constitutes an ontological injustice, where both alternative non-secular visions of the world and visions of alternative non-secular worlds are subordinated to secular ontologies. However, this argument raises a crucial question: if, despite secularism’s claim to neutrality and universality, the dominance of secular ontologies contributes to rather than ameliorates injustice, the question that remains is: what are the alternatives? The article concludes by exploring some preliminary responses to this question.