t is rare to associate a conference with a good fortune. For
most of us, traveling for conferences has become not only a
banality but also a burden. However, there are some precious
in one’s academic history that yield unexpected
consequences. In 1994, a conference in which I participated in
Honolulu, Hawaii, at the East-West Center, was such a moment.
I owe special thanks to Dru Gladney for inviting me. I was part
of a panel on secularism, a subject at that time still very mar-
ginal, even for this conference. Rajeev Bhargava, Charles Tay-
lor, and I were the three speakers on the panel. The conference
proved to be the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration. Dur-
ing all these years, in spite of geographical distances, we suc-
ceeded in establishing a dialogue, with the help of an extra-
institutional platform provided by the Center for Transnational
Cultural Studies and the journal Public Culture. Ben Lee, Dilip
Gaonkar, Craig Calhoun, Michael Warner, and Ackbar Abbas
made possible this journey toward uncharted paths of think-
ing and unconventional ways of exchange. Themes around pub-
lic sphere, secularism, and alternative modernities brought dif-
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