Socialist Secularism: Religion, Modernity, and Muslim Women's Emancipation in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, 1945-1991

Author(s): Pamela Ballinger, Kristen Ghodsee


This article uses the examples of socialist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to propose some
new directions for rethinking scholarly understandings of “secularism” and the ways
in which socialist secularizing projects were intricately intertwined with questions of
gender equality. Current scholarly debates on the genealogy of secularism root its origins
in the Catholic/Protestant West, and systematically ignore cases from the former
communist world. This article takes two cases of Balkan states to explore the theoretical
contours of what we call “socialist secularism.” Although Bulgaria and Yugoslavia’s
experiences of socialist secularism differed in the degree of their coerciveness, this article
examines the similarities in the conceptualization of the secularizing imperative
and the rhetoric used to justify it, specifically the rhetoric of communist modernism
and women’s liberation from religious backwardness.

Publication Information:

Name of Periodical: Aspasia

Volume Number: 5

Year of Publication: 2011

Page Numbers: 6-27

doi Number: 10.3167/asp.2011.050103