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CFP: Liberal Rights for Illiberal Purposes? Workshop 15-17 Oct 2015

Call for Papers for the Workshop

Liberal Rights for Illiberal Purposes? Comparing Discursive Strategies of Conservative Religious and Right-wing Actors in the Public Spheres

October 15-17 2015

European University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder (Germany) and Słubice (Poland)

A battle between institutions expanding liberal rights  and  conservative or right-wing forces has flared in most western societies since the mid-nineties. Whereas the promotion of gender mainstreaming, the recognition of cultural and sexual diversity or of „reproductive rights“ is naturally seen as part of a liberal agenda and as reliable tool for combating discrimination, also conservative coalitions base their claims on liberal argumentation. This is a novum in this debate.

Instead of opposing gay-marriage on religious grounds, coalitions against the political implementation of gay rights increasingly formulate their demands on the basis of respect for freedom of expression or religious liberty. In a similar vein, political groups and parties opposing Muslim immigrants,  also claim to  defend the „western heritage“ of liberalism.

In the light of these observations, we invite scholars from different disciplines such as social science, philosophy or communication studies to an international workshop. The aims of the workshop are:

a)   a) To map and compare the public rhetoric or discursive strategies of conservative religious and right-wing actors on liberal norms:

b)    b) To investigate the implications the mentioned empirical insights have for liberal thinking – taking into account that liberal theory considers the translation of religious reasons into a secular language before entering the public sphere a desirable condition for „post-secular“ societies (Habermas);

c)   c) To analyze the effects such clashing interpretations of or reference to fundamental liberal democratic values (equality and liberal freedom) have for politics, society and research as well.

d)    d) To think about publishing and further research on that issue.

Against this background, paper-givers should address one or more of the following questions:


In which ways, under which conditions and for which ends do conservative religious and/or right-wing groups apply a secular language of liberal rights in the public spheres?

Conceptual and Methodological:

How to conceptualize and methodologically approach the public reference to “liberal rights for illiberal purposes”?


Which normative implications does the apparently strategic use of liberal rights language have for liberal theory on the one hand and the use of political/liberal concepts on the other?


What are effects or implications of such „liberal“ rhetoric for politics, society and academic research alike? To what extent does it trigger the formation of new patterns of conflict or cleavages? In the case of religious groups: What are the effects for boundaries between religion and politics?

The workshop is organized by the Chair of Comparative Politics at the Faculty of Social and Cultural Science at European University Viadrina. It will take place from October 15-17, 2015 at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder and Słubice on the other side of the river Oder. The European University Viadrina is situated approximately 1h (by local train) from Berlin.

Please send your abstract (300 words), and a short bio note, to Anja Hennig ( by August 4 2015. Applicants will be informed about the acceptance of their submission no later than September 1 2015.

Travel costs and accommodation of a few selected participants can be covered.