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Call for Papers: Session on "Divide and Rule? Interfaith Initiatives and the Governance of Religious Diversity"

Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion
Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium – July 2-5, 2915


Dear Colleagues:

We would very much appreciate your paper proposal for a thematic session (STS 41) entitled “Divide and Rule? Interfaith Initiatives and the Governance of Religious Diversity”, which is scheduled for next year´s ISSR conference in Leuven. The session focuses on the rather specific question of political and administrative actors making use of interfaith initiatives on the local or regional level in order to govern religious diversity. We particularly welcome empirical works on specific local or regional contexts.

For a more detailed description of the session please see below or have a look at the conference website:

To propose a paper, click:

Thank you,
Alexander-Kenneth NAGEL
Center for Religious Studies, Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)


Session Description:

During the last decades European immigration societies have experienced a significant increase of religious diversity as a result of labor and refugee migration as well as missionary religious movements. At the same time, these processes of religious pluralization have long gone unnoticed as migration policy was overshadowed by economic concerns. Only when religion returned powerfully to public awareness after the fall of the Iron Curtain and—despite incentives—immigrants showed no sign of returning to their countries of origin, religious and cultural diversity came up as factors, which could no longer be overlooked by local and regional policy makers. Given the lack of experience, expertise and competency to deal with religious matters political authorities subsequently looked for partners to help them govern the heterogeneous religious field and found them in interfaith bodies and initiatives. While some of these initiatives have started at the very grassroots of civic engagement in order to promote religious understanding on the local level, others were formed as regional platforms to prevent interreligious conflict and grant ‘religion’ a public voice. Despite their differences in size, scope and orientation have been increasingly addressed, invited or even initiated by political decision makers and thus become instruments of diversity governance.

The thematic session is to comparatively examine the role of interfaith initiatives in the local and regional governance of religious diversity. It brings together empirical studies from different localities and seeks to provide new insights on a) the variety of public-private arrangements in which interfaith bodies cooperate with state actors, b) the role political and administrative actors play in interfaith activities, and c) the potential impact of these public-private partnerships on the involved initiatives. With particular regard to the framework topic of senses the session will also address d) the staging of religious harmony in public interfaith ceremonies and installations, and finally, e) how political authorities literally ‘make sense’ of religion and religious diversity according to their inner notions of and experiences with religion.