About this Research Topic
The reality of multiculturalism that has emerged throughout Europe since the second half of the twentieth century has put matters of religion and religious identity firmly on the agenda and sparked various debates about religious identities in contemporary European societies.
There is great contextual variety within Europe when it comes to these debates and their dynamics: some countries have seen a simultaneous decline in Christianity, in terms of both numbers and power, and an increasing ‘culturally Christian’ non-religious population, alongside a the growth of a multi-religious landscape; some countries are experiencing an (often historic) struggle between competing traditions over the power to construct, define and ‘own’ national identity; and others are experiencing the reassertion of a national, Christian tradition against minority faiths, whether historical or ‘new’ populations.
Yet these debates are also all taking place in contexts and at a time of increasing secularisation on the continent. Where some see decline, others see patterns of growth in minority religions or denominations, or in changing forms of religion. Nevertheless, Pew has reported that Europeans express more scepticism about the role of religion than in other world regions and social hostilities related to religion have risen on the whole across the continent. Yet, religious identities have received scant focus in literature on ‘everyday multiculturalism’ or ‘lived diversities’.
At the level of the state, the Christian character of a country (or Europe as a continent) might be expressed or a more multi-religious character might also be invoked. A further issue then is how these forms impact upon religious minorities and their inclusion or exclusion. Literature on multiculturalism of this kind has tended to focus on Muslims conceived in ethno-religious terms. This is also brought into sharp relief by the promotion of national values, such as British or Hungarian values and what this can mean. Further issues relevant to the relationship between the state and religion revolve around state ‘patronage’, whether through formal recognition, funding for social and welfare service provision or involvement in promoting a national form (such as French or German Islam) might mean for different religions and religious organisations.
These debates and questions touch on various issues and raise a number of difficult questions. How do we think about ‘Christian’ identities in contemporary Europe? What is the relationship between religious identities and religious practice? And which can and should be accommodated in the public sphere? What is the relationship between ‘religious’ identities and ‘cultural’, ‘ethnic’ or ‘national’ identities? In all of these what is meant by ‘religious’ identity and the role it plays, whether conceived positively or controversially, is debated and at issue. They also straddle various levels of academic research, from ‘macro’ normative theorising to ‘micro’ in-depth ethnographic investigations and their connection, as well as different societal levels, including legal, institutional, political and everyday interactions.
This Research Topic engages these debates in a way that foregrounds questions of religious identity and how this is understood. It seeks to address questions around how religious identity is understood in debates on the issues of (although not restricted to):
• theories of multiculturalism and interculturalism
• forms of discrimination, such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism
• everyday diversities
• religious identity as intersectional (with gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and so on)
• religious identities and cultural/national/regional identities
• religion in the public sphere
• accommodation of religious minorities
• religious identity and social or political action
We particularly welcome comparative perspectives between different religions or across different countries and contexts, or also those that seek to connect different levels, such as theoretical and empirical or macro and micro.
Keywords: religion, religious identity, multiculturalism, diversity, everyday multiculturalism, religious minorities, state-religion relations
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