Religious Nationalism as Concept and Practice
International workshop on religious nationalism at St. Petersbrg
On October 25-26, international workshop «Religious Nationalism as Concept and Practice» was organized by the Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg and the European University in St. Petersburg. The seminar was attended by several LCSR researchers.
The main objective of the workshop was to discuss the conceptual and methodological framework for the study of phenomena of religious nationalism in the modern world. The phenomenon of the relationship of religion and nationalism arose all over the world and became especially acute after the Cold War. On the one hand, concepts compete for ideological influence; on the other hand, they get combined into a discourse of a chosen nation.
Speakers from different countries attended the seminar: people came from Romania, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Armenia, United States, Vietnam, Greece, Serbia and New Zealand. Papers were presented on contemporary forms of religion, interaction with the protest movements, relationships between religious sects within diasporas, the impact of religion on national identity. An distinctive feature of this workshop was a fundamentally interdisciplinary approach to the selection of the speakers, the works within this narrow topic were presented by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
The guest speaker from the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research was Edward Ponarin (Director of the LCSR) with a lecture on «Islam and nationalism in global context». In his hour-long lecture, he spoke about how nationalism that used to be very popular in the Muslim world in the mid-XX century during anti-colonial wars lost the ideological battle against Islamism due to a number of geopolitical reasons. He later performed as a reviewer for the section «Religion as the foundation of post-socialist national identity».
Also, Edward Ponarin participated in a round table discussion on nationalism in Russia, during the press conference at the end of the first day (it was also attended by Jeanne Kormina, Sergey Abashin, Alexander Semyonov, Daniel Alexandrov and Guzel Sabirova) . During the discussion, Edward Ponarin suggested that in the 1990s - early 2000s, the major political issue was the problem of democracy building. Nowadays for both elites and the citizens, this issue has become less sharp, and nationalism is used by the elites and counter-elites as a bargaining chip.
Veronica Kostenko (junior research fellow at LCSR) was one of the organizers of the conference and has done much for this workshop to take place. She also gave a talk on «Gender attitudes in the Arab world: Islam, Nationalism, Modernization», where she had shown using analysis of qualitative data the formation of gender attitudes in several Arab countries. The key finding of the study is that the elderly have more liberal views on gender equity than the young, while the rest of the world there is an inverse situation. Veronica explains this trend by a suggestion that older people have formed their opinions during the anti-colonial movements in the Arab world, when nationalism ( Pan-Arabism) was stronger than Islam, and the population was more secular and liberal.
Andrey Shcherbak (senior research fellow at LCSR) was a discussant at the section on religion in the context of the protest movements, and made significant contribution to the discussion and commented on several reports.
Organizers and participants were satisfied with the program of the conference, the very high level of the research projects presented and with general discussion. Despite the shortage of time, the program was very eventful and stimulating.
by Dina Sharonova