Generating new knowledge and greater understanding of the ways in which religious and secular forces interact in the modern world.


For more than three centuries, religious and non-religious communities have competed—sometimes violently—as they have responded to the many transformations we know collectively as modernity.

Contending Modernities (CM) is a major interdisciplinary effort to generate new knowledge and greater understanding of the ways in which religious and secular forces interact in the modern world. In its first phase, the initiative examined how Islam and Catholicism have understood, accommodated, altered, and resisted the radical transformations that have characterized the modern world. As it has grown, the initiative has engaged other discursive traditions and expanded its geographic focus to include projects in Indonesia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and introduced a thematic focus on decoloniality.

Based at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Contending Modernities involves dozens of scholars, public intellectuals, and religious and secular leaders from universities and research institutes around the world. Under the leadership of R. Scott ApplebyEbrahim Moosa, and Atalia Omer, the Contending Modernitiescore team oversees and supports the project, which has benefitted from the insights and expertise of faculty from many areas throughout the University of Notre Dame.

Contending Modernities is first and foremost a scholarly enterprise, convening experts to advance the growing edges of critical religious studies research through conferences, working groups, and publications. The research initiative aims to inform public discourse and influence educational content and practice, most notably through its flagship “Contending Modernities” blog. Lastly, CM works to place scholarship in the service of informed policymaking, broadly construed, engaging government and civil society officials, and providing extensive training to future generations of religious leaders in the Muslim community through its Madrasa Discourses curriculum.

Working in interdisciplinary research teams, Contending Modernities’ scholars have examined critical contemporary issues. Working groups focus on the following themes:

Additionally, Contending Modernities has sponsored, under the leadership of Ebrahim Moosa, the Muslim Humanities research area, a cutting edge engagement with the humanities as a project within majority and minority Muslim communities. Within this area the Madrasa Discourses project, supported by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, has worked with over 100 young Islamic studies scholars around the world and generated a new curriculum melding core madrasa texts with insights from the humanities and sciences.

Bridging these scholarly endeavors is the Contending Modernities blog, which promotes leading research in the study of secularism, modernity, and religion. It currently publishes blogs in three formats: First, the blog features short essays and series that present original research on CM research areas. Second, it solicits essays that integrate the study of religion, secularism, and modernity into analyses of current events around the world. Finally, it coordinates symposia on new books that intersect with CM research foci. The blog encompasses essays accessible to a broad audience, including professional academics, graduate students, undergraduate students, and the wider public. Currently, the editorial board is especially interested in advancing the discussion of decoloniality in the study of religion and welcomes submissions from authors on issues related and adjacent to this topic.