Politics and the Religious Imagination (Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics)

Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics
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Religion, as belief or practice, as tradition or source of cultural legitimacy, was an important site for understanding basic social processes and the operations of cultural power. Yet all classical theorists embedded religion in progressive narratives of secularization that depicted a world in which religion would inevitably weaken in response to modernity.

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Books in the series explore these religions, regions and topics both within and beyond the conventional .. Politics and the Religious Imagination book cover. Politics and the Religious Imagination is the product of a group of interdisciplinary of politics, philosophy, religious studies, and the literary influence of religion.

These narratives have, for generations, allowed sociologists to separate studies of religion from studies of culture, institutions, structures, and agency. The new directions taking shape hold the promise of reconnecting discussions of religion and its continued, though changed powers to broader discussions of the sociological secular.

Sociology has been late to these recent discussions, even though they were and are at the core of our discipline. Several of the trends we map out are already emerging in sociology and some have yet to take shape. To borrow a phrase from Clifford Geertz, they present both a model of and a model for a new sociology of religion. This, in itself, makes it difficult to see clearly what the full parameters and force of these new directions might be.

It is time to find common ground and to debate actively about our findings and underlying theoretical approaches. There is more at stake than creating a community of currently dispersed sociologists who study religion. Religion is rarely covered in introductory sociology textbooks, and when it is, these books usually rehash well-worn out themes of secularization and the religious marketplace. We have the chance to demonstrate the relevance of what has been of late a fairly insular set of debates to a wider range of interlocutors.

Finally, we can model new, interdisciplinary concepts and methods that more effectively capture the global, diverse, and interconnected worlds in which we live. Courtney Bender is professor of religion at Columbia University. The author of Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism University of California, , he is currently at work on a project on religion and political conflict in Venezuela during the era of Hugo Chavez. I welcome your seeking a new engagement for the study of religion.

You state that. Yes, the development of sociology is bound up with a tendency to see secularization as an inevitable step in modernisation, but there are plenty of people doing research and theorising in other disciplines that do not require parameters to see new directions. This is partly a problem of and for sociology and partly a problem of theorising. An excellent, engaging piece.

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Is this going to be published in any journals? It would interest a wide audience.


Makkar, SPS For a thoroughgoing exploration of the relevant arguments, see the collection of essays edited by Jeffrey Jordan To say an act is right entails a commitment to holding that if there were an ideal observer, it would approve of the act; to claim an act is wrong entails the thesis that if there were an ideal observer, it would disapprove of it. Abstract This article contributes to sociological theorizations of religion as heritage through analyzing the politics of religious heritage in Spain since its transition to democracy during the late s. Divine Goodness in Philosophy of Religion. Add comment Log in to post comments. Neill takes it as certain that Christianity was established in India by the 6th century and also affirms the possibility of the St.

I will certainly be referencing these ideas in my work on the intersections between the disability movement and religion , particularly in terms of the positive and negative portrayals of religious practice. Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Social Science Research Council. The SSRC is an independent, international, nonprofit organization.

Caring need not correlate with a positive emotion. Having a strong antipathy for something is also a form of caring deeply. For instance, the ardent atheists in ywc care about religion in the sense that they want to do away with it all together.

Toward a new sociology of religion

In contrast, conservative Christians care that Christianity has a prominent place in the public sphere, but are divided on religious pluralism. Caring entails being emotive about a topic or a controversy, but the emotion itself can range from aversion to unbridled enthusiasm. It is the caring which gives vibrant life to a mediatized conflict. More importantly, people often express their belonging through the heightened and intense emotion they feel for objects or worldviews Ahmed, ; Petersen, Emblematic symbols such as the cross or the hijab or a national flag are typical examples of objects likely to be imbued with this type of intensified religious emotion.

Religious emotion connects and binds people together in heightened, collective affect. This intensified emotion is key to the construction of religious identities, shared worldviews, and moral outlooks. It both binds and separates. It shapes perceptions of who we are, but also who we are not. Religious emotion rides on a sense of shared emotions, values, righteousness and ontological security about sticky objects.

Being an enraged fan is an aggressive and antagonistic defence of all things sacred. Both nationalists and conservative Christians ferociously defend and intensely affectively perform for their beloved sacred objects. However, it is important to not get stuck on the emotion of anger or outrage.

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As my analysis of ywc demonstrates, many more emotions can be in play than first meet the eye Abdel-Fadil, The extensive use of emotional cues and trigger themes serve to strengthen the intensification of religious emotion towards or away from sticky objects. Therein lies the significance of religious emotion for understanding the politics of affect. Caring deeply about sticky objects leads to intensified religious emotion, and makes for an affective performance of both the conflict and the self.

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However, holding something sacred and caring intensely about it may go hand in hand with certain vulnerabilities Lagerkvist, ; Abdel-Fadil, forthcoming. He also discusses the possibility that some social actors may intentionally inflict harm on others. When ardent atheists in ywc state that the cross is a symbol of ignorance, war and bloodshed, they inflict a mental wound upon conservative Christians, provoking deep disgust, shame, hurt, fear, or grief Baumgartner , p.

This is another reminder of how important it is to differentiate between emotions when analysing performances of conflict. In ywc , ardent atheists intentionally inflict harm on conservative Christians by defaming their sacred values and artefacts. What Baumgartner does not discuss is that certain actors may take pleasure in inflicting harm, either because they find it entertaining or because they themselves care deeply about the opposite stance, in this case an atheist outlook.

Toward a new sociology of religion – The Immanent Frame

The transition to enraged fan applies to the ardent atheists when they perform the conflict in a spiteful manner. The intentionality of inflicting harm upon others through the intense display of negative emotions towards all they hold sacred adds another layer to the politics of affect. Enactments of conflict that intentionally perform blasphemy and cause profound offense are thus cruel displays of power, with the intent of both harming others and directing the outcome of the conflict s.

Baumgartner argues that the Danish Cartoons inflict psychological violence because they attack that which is sacred to devout and pious Muslims. Strong emotions of disgust can also move through the Danish Cartoons to both religious and non-religious audiences, who consider themselves allies of devout Muslims who are perceived as being under distasteful attack.

Again, this points to the importance of being aware of who and what the affective performance is for, and the importance of paying attention to which emotions are in motion. Threat does have an actual mode of existence: fear, as foreshadowing. Threat has an impending reality in the present. This actual reality is affective. Fear is the anticipatory reality in the present of a threatening future.

It is the felt reality of the nonexistent, loomingly present as the affective fact of the matter. The affective reality of conservative Christians and nationalists in ywc who feel like victims, 6 in turn, triggers affective performances from others who vehemently disagree with this understanding of reality. These fears can transpire into spin offs, such as the idea that the Norwegian flag will have to be redesigned without the characteristic cross in the middle, which in turn trigger other performers and thrust the conflict in new directions.

In ywc , the intensity with which conservative Christians and nationalists felt their reality at times prevented them from spotting irony or satire. It would seem that intense affect can deter humour, too. When some ywc participants posted links to satirical content about the Norwegian flag soon being all red aka a socialist flag , or exchanging the cross for a red onion, these scenarios were interpreted as realistic by those with the strongest affective attachments to the cross or the flag.

Perhaps the best example of this tendency was the satirical piece posted in ywc which claimed that the cross in the Norwegian flag was to be substituted for a C portrayed like the crescent, a symbol often associated with Islam. This attempt at performing critique in a lighter, more humoristic mode, while intended to ridicule Islamophobic anxieties, ended up being taken for real news and came to a constitute a new affective fact, proof of how Muslims were plaguing Norway.

This heightened level of emotionality contributes to a situation in which satire is taken at face value and perceived of as within the realm of affective reality. Even if people repeatedly point out that a stance is false, this makes no difference to the affective fact that has already seeped into the consciousness of the most fearful. Satire about themes that one harbours religious emotions for may simply hit a blind spot. This is not to say that I expect everyone to laugh at the same thing, or feel their way into the same opinion about a satirical joke, particularly when the topic is so close to heart.

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Some participants who use satire or irony to argue a political stance may care deeply about their worldview, but consider humorous exchanges a valid mode of enacting the conflict. For others, myself included, humour is a coping mechanism. However, not everyone enacting a conflict enjoys satire, or finds topics like nationalism or religion suitable for ridicule. Satire can inflict psychological violence, and satirical content can simply transpire into affective facts.

Both of these outcomes are contingent upon heightened emotional attachment to that which is being ridiculed. That said, for a number of conservative Christians, the psm prohibition of religious symbols in news bulletins may be equally outrageous and unbelievable to their worldview as a number of the spoofs, a point of departure I elaborate on elsewhere Abdel-Fadil, forthcoming.

Differentiating between emotion as solitary and affect as social seems to be a futile exercise. No emotion can be disconnected from all else. Thus, scholars working on affect ought to acknowledge that both emotion and affect are social and entail some kind of connectivity. Rather than speak of affective media, I suggest building on the concept of collective affect and focusing on how enacting religious conflict in social media, invariably entails performing for someone.

Why Religion Influences Politics More Now Than 50 Years Ago - Monica Duffy Toft

Trigger themes and emotional cues that draw upon emblematic symbols, sticky objects, religious narratives, or identities, are likely to intensify the affective performance of conflicts. The intense affective performance of conflict for different sets of others may at times attempt to drown out or silence opposing views. Yet, since social media are precisely social, the very voices one is attempting to silence may be triggered into responding with equally intense, if different, emotions, escalating the conflict s further.

Affective performances of conflict attempt to direct co-debaters and the conflicts themselves in particular directions, through an intentional intensification of emotion meant to inflict harm on, or to dismantle the power of, others with whom the performer disagrees. Thus, affective performances are often attempts at shifting the balance of power, and reclaiming an object, such as an identity, nation, or religion. The analysis of affect ought to deal with the range of emotions, rather than lumping all feelings into an indistinct category, and must allow for shifting and intermingled emotions.

It is of utmost importance to keep an eye out for affective labour and its gendered expressions. We must also pay attention to what differing emotions do. Caring deeply about an object not only divides but also brings people together in heightened emotion. Together, all of these concepts make up a politics of affect, as played out in multiple mediatized conflicts.

One cannot fully understand the construction of political subjectivities without a more sophisticated analysis of this politics of affect. Fusing the anthropology of emotion with theories of affect refines our analysis. The empirically grounded conceptual framework of the politics of affect, as formulated in this article, provides a new, sharpened lens, with which to detect and make sense of the multitude of ways in which affect and differing kinds of emotions play into conflicts about religion and identity in social media.

Introduction The public sphere pulsates vibrantly with debates about religion, even in the corners of the world where religious observance is in decline Furseth, ; Meyer, Affect: Same, Same, Different, Different? Some scholars argue for a strict distinction between affect and emotion. El Comercio. The religion in the public sphere. Habermas, Toland and Spinoza. Ashgate Publishing Company. Philip S. Gorski, et al. Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen and Douglas G. Oxford: Oxford UP,