Religion in the Societal Sphere

Global mobility and immigration pose challenges to the idea of an evolving and irreversible secularism. Religious diversity, recognition, participation, secularism and interreligious dialogue have become key issues in post-secular European societies, making it necessary to re-evaluate and understand how the dynamics of religious diversity follow different logics and is formed by different societal and contextual trajectories.

This research project analyses the move towards new forms of governance of religion due to the intersection of immigration, integration and security policies in a transnational setting as well as in the increasingly harmonized EU. It is important to analyse both the presence and the governance of religion in particular contexts to form an idea of the space provided to religion in public spheres. This effort includes analyses of political and societal strategies as well as of how religious groups, actors, movements, and practices are affected by e.g. European or national policies. Furthermore, the project seeks understanding of how these actors engage in networks of a national or global character, how they relate to politics and ideologies concerning e.g. ecology, nationalism and policies concerning religious, cultural pluralism and interreligious dialogue.

In particular various forms of encounters and dialogue between religions and spiritual traditions are of interest to this project due to their relevance for e.g. social cohesion. However, as the authority and role of traditional religious institutions diminish, the established view of interreligious dialogue as an intellectual encounter centred on comparing fixed dogmas and rational belief systems on an organizational level becomes untenable. In a post-secular society, the encounter is regarded as a complex question including also aspects of individual interpretation, spiritual experience and practical encounters. The traditional, relativist understanding of religious pluralism also calls for re-evaluation as the post-modern age gives way to a stronger sense of religious integrity among several minority groups in society. The project aims at developing a renewed understanding of the societal role of interreligious co-operation and conflict resolution by paying attention to the changes in the religious landscape and including contemporary, innovative forms of communication.

Central research areas
Emerging forms of governance of religion
Contemporary forms of interreligious dialogue and co-operation
Critical examination of dialogue practices from the perspectives of power, gender, political and economical influence as well as ethical considerations
Emphasis is placed on ethnographic research methods and intersectional theoretical explorations.
Dr Ruth Illman, Senior researcher, The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History
Dr Tuomas Martikainen, University researcher, University of Helsinki
MA Laura Wickström, Research student, Åbo Akademi University