For a long time, research on nationalism has been dominated by a top-down perspective: with scholars approaching collective identities through the prism of state ideologies, established high-culture national narratives, and official forms of political participation. The focus on élites, state institutions, and other official actors has tended to reproduce a rather limited picture of modern nationalism, often with insufficient attention paid to power relations, social inequalities, and the experience of the “ordinary people”. Even the constructivist view of nation-making envisioned lower social strata as passive recipients of “enlightening” and mobilizing impulses coming from above.
The volatile junction of nationalism and religion was, likewise, often studied as an alliance of state-level institutions—with “national” churches, religious law, or the theological legitimation of political goals as tools to bolster the nation state and mobilize people for political action. Popular forms of religious practice typically drew the attention of scholars in the context of protest cultures, political insurgency, or ethnographic interest, but their manifestations were rarely seen as alternative to, undermining, or conflicting with the nation-building project.
The present workshop has a twofold ambition. On the one hand, we seek to reexamine the intersection of religion and nationalism “from below”, looking at popular religious performativity, folk religiosity, and religious symbolism in the political realm from the perspective of local actors and street-level participants. On the other, taking a transnational and comparative perspective, we wish to ask how these grassroots forms of religious articulation, when performed/employed/appropriated in a political setting, impact the notions of nation-ness. Does folk religion fortify or fracture the national belonging? Or does it perhaps enable parallel patterns of belonging beyond nationalism?
The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg
University of Warsaw
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Freie Universität Berlin und Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin