Religious Nationalism in Flux

AHA Session 173
American Society of Church History 2
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
Julia G. Young, Catholic University of America
Julia G. Young, Catholic University of America

Session Abstract

In this panel, historians of religion and nationalism from various regional and temporal foci explore how specific cases inform an ongoing exploration of religion and nationalism in historical research. Along with this dialogue regarding the “general” and “specific” across our research, our panel will also promote innovative frameworks to look at the old questions regarding religion and the national community. Most notably, panelists will address the roles of religion in ethnic and civic citizenship, religion in relation to the formation of secular national identities, grassroots religion and nationalism, and the nexus of nationalism, religion, and music. We address race, ethnicity, and nationalism in a global perspective by not only highlighting cases across the globe but by exploring if and how religion impacts these categories in disparate national and historical settings. This panel will be of interest to historians of religion and of nationalism, as well as those specialists in the national histories of the countries and regions discussed (Indonesia/Southeast Asia; Peru/Latin America; Israel/the Middle East and Europe). Most importantly, we look to include in our discussion all who are interested future of the field of religion and nationalism.

The past half-century has produced a rich and fraught literature on the relationship between religion and the national community. Whereas previous studies tended to focus only on the relationship between the institutions of “church” and state, Robert Bellah’s important 1968 article argued that national identity itself is rooted in a highly developed “civil religion” constituted by the participation of the general population. Scholarship of nation and religion then turned towards secularism, with Talal Asad and others showing that the secular and the religious are equally foundational to our modern concepts of democracy and citizenship. Recently, the work of scholars like Rogers Brubaker and Genevieve Zubrzycki have highlighted the kaleidoscopic relationships between religion and nationalism, moving beyond established frameworks like civil religion and secularization theory. Continuing this momentum, we offer three historical case studies of religious nationalism that extend beyond national borders, have changed radically over time, or exist in contentious relationship with other nationalist models and faiths. Our aim is to synthesize the historical, cultural, material, and political conditions of these nationalist contexts to consider a new framework for understanding religion and nationalism, that accounts for both particularities as well as broadly shared trends.

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