Head of the project: Tim Jensen (Distinguished (MSK) Associate Professor and Head of the Study of Religions, University of Southern Denmark; Honorarprofessor of Leibniz Universität; President of the International Association for the History of Religions)
In the contemporary world, religion holds a significant place in many people’s lives, intersecting with other identities. At the same time, religion has been increasingly acknowledged as an important aspect of national and international politics, a pervasive and contentious cultural force, and a subject of significant public concern. Thus, a clear need exists for scholarly research, thoughtful conversations and an ability to reach beyond the walls of the academy to make this research available to the wider public.
This project aims at a comparative analysis of the relations between a majority and minorities and their presence in the public sphere in Russia and Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, and Norway). Despite the obvious differences in history, culture and political systems, there exists a fundamental similarity that allows for meaningful comparison. This similarity is a majority religion which has a special legal and cultural status and enjoys the support of the state: in Russia, it is Orthodox Christianity, in Scandinavia, it is Lutheran Christianity. A comparative analysis of majority/minority relations in these countries should be sensitive to both differences and similarities that stem from historical, cultural and political trajectories of these countries.
There is no general agreement on the definition of religious majority/minority; questions about size, minority-to-majority ratios, objective and subjective criteria, minority origins and nationality are all issues that affect the definition. There is a real difficulty in working out exactly what constitutes a group dangerous to society and therefore justly subject to state control. In addition, the historical majority/minority proportion depends on migration processes, i. e. on the global expansion of religions from those countries in which they constitute the majority religion to nations in which they are but one of many minority religions.
Today, religions in most countries in the world are directly or indirectly involved in political activities, influencing citizens' perceptions of state legitimacy. Religions investigate alternative strategies for broadcasting their presence in the mass media and adopt electronic and digital media technologies, reconfiguring a practice of religious mediation. Religions are taught in various forms and measures in public schools and higher educational institutions. In addition, the increased involvement of religion in the public sphere can be understood in the context of value changes. This suggests the importance of putting appropriate emphasis on the agency of religious interest groups from both conceptual and empirical perspectives. Thus, the question which faces the scientific research of contemporary religion and society is how the new situation should be understood, studied and analysed. What principles and practices have emerged in relations between the majority and minorities? How do the representations in the public space and identities of religious communities form in the context of relations between the majority and minorities?
With the view to produce a taxonomy of the ways religion enters the public sphere in the abovementioned nations, we will rely on methods of comparative analysis and classification that will draw on both a critical survey of current research and on interdisciplinary empirical study of our subject. Theoretically, we accept the idea of post-secular society and the multiple modernity/multiple secularization approach. We will be careful to attune our methodology to the particular context of each of the above-mentioned countries.
Created / Updated: 16 April 2019 / 17 April 2019