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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Religious Identities and Religious Affiliation in Comparative European Perspective

Europe (Central and Eastern)
European Union
National Identity
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Antonius Liedhegener
University of Lucerne
Panel Co-Chair
Conrad Hackett
Pew Research Center
Panel Discussant
Carolin Rapp
University of Copenhagen

09/09/2016 17:40 - 19:20
Building: Faculty of Arts Floor: 2 Room: FA225V
The role of religion in European societies has become a prominent topic of public and academic debate. In the context of contemporary European societies, questions concerning religion figure large when it comes to identities and social integration. The role of the different Christian traditions, the degree of secularization and the status of more recently immigrated religious minorities, especially of Muslims, are contested. In contrast to the longstanding secularization process within European countries – mainly Western European, but not exclusively – , religious identities gained new prominence in social conflicts and political competition in recent years. In many countries, new state religious policies like the ban of minarets, headscarves, or religious symbols were introduced. At the same time, we find new and old forms of political mobilization which are based on the “othering” of persons and minorities. Religious affiliation and religious belonging are used as categories of identification as well as resources of societal integration and integration policies. Thus, religion became much more relevant to processes of identification and identity building across Europe.
Consequently, the importance of statistics on religious affiliation has grown. Numbers on religion are frequently used (or mis-used) in public discourse and political conflicts. Data on religious affiliation are regularly brought forward in debates about the strength, predominance and acceptance of various religious groups. Frequently, those numbers are doubted and disputed. There are several projects like «The Global Religious Landscape»-Project of the Pew Research Center or the «Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation in Europe (SMRE)» which try to improve the data situation and to provide better data. However, serious data problems are still unsolved and disputed.
Historically speaking, religion in Europe is a highly territorial feature of social structure and a form of an exclusive social membership role. Apart from war times, it was only after the mid to the 20th century that the religious landscape of Europe started to change considerably. This changes accelerated after the turn of the new century by migration and most recently the refugee crises. Today many, if not most European countries have to face an increasingly pluralized religious situation. However, how religiously pluralized is Europe really? And what kind of change can be found in different countries and regions of Europe? And how do these changes interplay with social conflict and political developments concerning religious identities and state religious policies?
The panel intends to explore these questions and to clarify the contemporary relationship between political conflicts around religious belonging and religious affiliation in an interdisciplinary endeavor. A scientific assessment must start with clarifying data on religious affiliation and discuss their connections to religious identities. In particular, we will debate the future challenges in this field of research following impact of the recent refugee crisis in Europe.

Paper List

Title Details
Contested Religious Affiliation. The Plurality of the Religious Landscape of Europe between Familiar Categories and New Religious Identities View Paper Details
The Expected Challenges of Measuring Religious Identity in Europe in 2020 View Paper Details
The Political Economy of Support for Sharia View Paper Details
The Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation in Europe (SMRE) – a Crowd Research Project View Paper Details
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