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Prof. dr. Laurens ten Kate

Laurens ten Kate

Associate professor of philosophy, religious studies and globalization studies Endowed professor of liberal religion and humanism


Office +31 30 2390100


Kromme Nieuwegracht 29
Postbus 797

FAX 0031 (0)30 234 0738
3500 AT
The Netherlands


Laurens ten Kate (1958) is a philosopher, religious scientist and theologian. He studied, obtained his doctorate and taught at the Catholic Theological University of Utrecht (currently Tilburg School of Catholic Theology), where he defended his dissertation, The Empty Place: Revoltes against Instrumental Life in Bataille’s Atheology 1994; in Dutch). He worked at the Theological University of Kampen, where he did comparative research on the possibilities of a 'theology of difference' in Barth and Derrida, and was a senior research fellow at the Heyendaal Institute for Interdisciplinary Religious Studies (University of Nijmegen), where he did research into the meaning of performativity in ethics, literature and religion. He is currently affiliated with the University of Humanistic Studies (UvH) in Utrecht. There he is an associated professor in the philosophy of culture and religion, religious studies and theology (in particular Jewish-Christian traditions), globalization theory and political ethics.
Ten Kate teaches various courses each year at the International School of Philosophy in Leusden, and for HOVO Utrecht. From 1997 to 2012, Ten Kate worked alongside his academic career as a part-time philosophy editor at Boom Publishers, Amsterdam.

Endowed chair
From 2016, Ten Kate holds the endowed chair in Liberal Religion and Humanism at the UvH. The chair is the initiative of the Stichting Stimulering Vrijzinnigheid Gedachtegoed (Foundation for the Promotion of Liberal Religion). In 2016, he delivered his inaugural lecture, De vreemde vrijheid. Nieuwe betekenissen van vrijzinnigheid en humanisme in de 21ste eeuw (Strange Freedom: New Meanings of Liberal Religion and Humanism in the 21ste Century), translated in 2019 in the open access journal Limina. The central themes of the chair and of the associated PhD projects are freedom, imagination and sense-seeking. A special focus lies on the theme of aging well and modern life-course. Ten Kate supervises several PhD-projects in this field of research.

From 2008 to 2011, together with Dr. Caroline Suransky, he led the research group "Citizenship in an Intercultural Society" at the UvH. From 2017, in collaboration with prof. Hans Alma (Free University of Brussels), he directst the international research consortium “Simagine: Social Imaginaries between Secularity and Religion in a Globalizing World”, with eleven partner institutions from The USA, South Africa, the UK and Europe.
He is currently a member of the department of Care Ethics, in which philosophers, ethicists, theologians and social scientists are concerned with the cultural, social and political meanings of care, in relation to art, spirituality, modern life course and aging, and sustainability.

Key Publications
He is co-author and co-editor of, among others, Het wakende woord. Literatuur, ethiek en politiek in Maurice Blanchot (The Watching Word: Literature, Ethics and Politics in Maurice Blanchot; 1997), Flight of the Gods: Philosophical Perspectives on Negative Theology(2001), Re-treating Religion: Deconstructing Christianity with Jean-Luc Nancy(2011), and Religion, Community, Borders: Social Imaginaries and the Challenge of Pluralism(thematic issue of Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society- 2020). He also wrote an Encyclopedia of Philosophy(2007; in Dutch), and in cooperation with prof. Marcel Poorthuis he edited and wrote the handbook 25 Eeuwen theologie. Teksten en toelichtingen (25 Centuries of Theology: Texts and Introductions; 2017).


General current research fields and topics:

Interculturality, globalization, humanism and humanistic studies, secular-religious divide, worldview theory, deconstruction, theories of social imaginaries, axial theory, political ethics, decolonial thinking

* Human trafficking, migration, religion and the blind spots of professional mental care with regard to victims (research project & report De religieuze lacune (in Dutch; in collaboration. with Rijk van Dijk and Africa Studies Centre, Universiteit of Leiden)
* Political ethics and the ‘intercultural condition’; possible meanings of humanism within intercultural and cross-cultural societies.
* Philosophical theories of globalization: Nancy, Sloterdijk
Spherology and globalization; sense and sense-giving in a complex world; the self-foundation of the modern world, and the idea of ‘faire monde’ (Nancy); the notion of asymmetry between the local and the global.
* The limits of the concept of the secular within a complex, intercultural and interreligious world (among others Weber, Blumenberg, Asad, Ch. Taylor); World theory (book project The World in Theory, forthcoming Edinburgh University Press 2021, in collab. with Peter Gratton & Philip Leonard).
* ‘Dialogue between worldviews and religions’: N. Smart’s dimension model
* The modern self between self-creation and the loss of self: tensions within the concepts of autonomy and heteronomy. (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault)
* Dialectics as a way of thinking and a way of living: complexity and complicity of life and death. Studies on a specific feature of western views on humanity, from Antiquity and Christianity to modern culture. (Nancy, Hegel, Malabou, Ch. Taylor)
* Deconstructions of Christianity, starting from the work of Jean-Luc Nancy. Book project Re-treating Religion (2011.
* Monotheism and atheism: an unexpected connection (Bataille, Nancy, Derrida, Levinas, Gauchet, Assmann, among others)
* Difference and différance: exploring the political, ethical and theological meanings of an influential concept. Towards a community without commonness? Friendship and gift as political concepts. (Barth, Derrida , Marion, Sloterdijk, Bataille, Mauss)
* Mystical thought and experience from late medieval negative theology to late-modern humanism. (Eckhart, Silesius, Pascal, Schleiermacher, De Certeau et. al.)
* Early Romanticis between philosophy, literature and religion: re-reading Hölderlin.
* Specific studies in contemporary French philosophy (deconstruction, poststructuralism): notably on Foucault and Bataille (genealogy of sexuality and eroticism), and on Blanchot (the meaning of writing and literature, new definitions of atheism, humanism).
* Theories of freedom beyond neoliberalist thought; tensions between freedom and community.
* Music and religion; book project The Music of Theology: Language, Space, Silence (forthcoming Routledge, Fall 2020).

Ancillary activities

  • Coordinator and director of the international research consortium Simagine: Social Imaginaries between Secularity and Religion in a Globalizing World (with dr. Carolina Suransky)
  • Member executive board NOSTER: Dutch Research School for Theology & Religious Studies
  • Member and chair committee NWO funding program Teacher PhD's
  • Chair NWO funding program Open Competition Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Member Academic Advisory Board Titus Brandsma Institute Nijmegen