Religion, social conflict, and the Middle East
Overall aim of the research unit
From an interdisciplinary perspective, the research unit will research into the changing relationship between the religious and political spheres in contemporary societies.
With a particular focus on the Middle East and its interaction with the Western world, the research unit aims at delivering outputs with regard to both conceptual discussions and empirically valid analyses. In the long-run, it wants to develop a theoretically grounded research platform for the understanding of the ambiguous role that religion can play in contemporary forms of social/international conflicts.
Description of the research unit
The so-called “global resurgence of religion” has severely challenged one of the foundational features of the social sciences: the secularization theory. Islamist movements, the New Christian Right in the USA, the global spread of Pentecostalism, or the heated debate over whether a reference to God or to the historical heritage of Christianity should be added to the new constitution of the European Union are cases in point that question some of the basic assumptions of the relationship between modernization and secularization.
Apparently, religion and politics in modern societies have not developed as predicted by classical secularisation theory. On the contrary, in the 21st century, religion has not disappeared but is still playing an essential role in social conflicts on a global scale. However, it is an ambiguous role of religion that with respect to contemporary conflicts comprises both functions of mobilisation and of reconciliation.
Against this background, the research unit will take up research questions related to the role of religious groups, institutions and ideologies in modern societies. Thereby, it brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers, combining general questions about the relationship of religion and politics in modern societies with DIIS’ research that has its geographical focus on the Middle East.
Contrary to substantial definitions of religion, the research will conceptualize religion as a historical and social phenomenon subjected to change. From this perspective, the relationship between the religious and the political spheres is under permanent social negotiation and it is this multiplicity of particular negotiation processes, their syncretistic outcomes, and their global interconnectedness around which the research projects of the research unit will revolve.
The current research projects deal with topics such as philosophical examination of the role that religious language, beliefs and practices have played in response to mass atrocities, the emergence of the modern image of Islam, religion and conflict in Africa, religion as cause, effect and solution in conflict, as well as the role of religion in processes of democratization in the Middle East and the way in which the region figures in EU policies.
In the course of 2006, the research unit will arrange a number of guest lectures, workshops and conferences (some of them taking place in 2007). The members of the unit are teaching courses at Danish universities and giving lectures in academic and non-academic settings in Denmark and abroad. Several academic publications - books, journal articles, and book chapters -are expected to appear in the coming months. In addition, some researchers undertake policy studies for other institutions.