From 11 to 13 October international researchers will explore how dominant perceptions of religious minorities feed into the ways in which they represent themselves and/or their religion during the international research conference 'Religious Minorities'Self-Representations: Claims of Difference and Sameness in the Politics of Belonging', held at Utrecht University.
How to live as a 'we'
During the last decades, there has been growing debate about religious and cultural diversity in modern Western nation states. The question of how people of different faiths and backgrounds can live together as a multiple “we” is considered by many to be one of the most urgent challenges to contemporary society. Particularly Muslims are often construed as an Other to the Western Self. Islam is repeatedly presented as inherently incompatible with Western values.
Self-representation of minorities
Numerous studies have critically addressed these issues, focusing on recent developments in dominant discourse. Far less attention has been paid to how religious minorities position themselves in this particular context. Religious beliefs and identities are not only constructed in opposition to those of others, but also in interaction with how believers think that they are seen by others. In this conference, we want to explore how dominant perceptions of specific religious minorities feed into the ways in which these minorities represent themselves and/or their religion, by reflecting on questions such as:
- What kinds of explicit or implicit statements do followers of minority religions make – whether through texts, images or bodily behavior – about themselves or about their religion?
- How do these statements confirm or subvert popular prejudices or stereotypes in broader society?
- How do religious minorities balance between claims of difference and claims of sameness, at a time when minorities are increasingly urged to emphasize their national belonging and show their commitment to secular liberal values?
These questions are at the heart of the MSCA-financed research project Muslims Condemning Violent Extremism by Dr Margaretha A. van Es, and the larger research project Religious Matters in an Entangled World, led by Professor Birgit Meyer. Both projects are conducted at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University. In the first project, Van Es studies how Muslims have responded to requests to publicly disavow violent extremism since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. She compares the recent historical developments in the Netherlands with those in Norway. The aim of the second project is to explore the role of religion in contemporary “secular” societies in Europe and Africa, with special focus on material religion.
Keynote speakers at the conference are Prof. Evelien Gans, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD), the Netherlands; Prof. Gökçe Yurdakul, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany and Prof. Elisabeth Eide, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA), Norway.