Thematic Sessions – University of Copenhagen

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Thematic Sessions 

Christian Migrants and Integration 

Session Leader

Helje Kringlebotn Sødal, Professor in Church History, University of Agder, e-mail:

During the last 15 years religion and immigration have been studied extensively in the USA. Social capital theory, Putnam's bonding and bridging theory in particular, has been vital for interpreting the empirical data. Whilst American research has included many religions, European research tends to concentrate on migrants from countries where Christianity is not the dominant religion. Hence there is a considerable knowledge gap about Christian migrants and how they interact with society. In this session scholars are invited to present research on Christian migrants and Christian migrant congregations, preferably empirical research focusing on integration. Why do Christian migrants tend to establish separate congregations? To what extent is integration facilitated or obstructed by participation in Christian migrant congregations? What kind of impact do Christian migrants have on established churches?

Consumerism, Voluntarism and Professionalism in Organised Religious Life

Session Leader

Margit Warburg, Professor, dr. phil., University of Copenhagen, e-mail:

The overall trend of individualisation in late modern society also shows itself in how people regard their relation to organised religion. An important aspect of this change is a dwindling willingness for members of a congregation or other religious organisations to participate actively on a steady basis with voluntary work in congregational activities; instead, the members in practice act as occasional consumers of religious services and events. The conditions for organising congregational activities have thereby been changed and so has the balance between voluntarism and professionalism in congregational life. Papers are invited to address relevant topics, such as activity profiles among members of a congregation, mobilisation and allocation of resources, examples of new types of events arranged to attract the occasional consumers, the changing roles of religious professionals and so forth.

Is religion returning to the public sphere? The main findings from the NOREL research program on the five Nordic countries 1988-2008

Session Leader

Inger Furseth, Dr.polit, Associate professor at Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo and Adjunct professor at KIFO Centre for Church Research, Norway, e-mail:

This session presents the main findings from the research program “The role of religion in the public sphere. A comparative study of the five Nordic countries” (NOREL) (2009-2013). Is there a resurgence of religion in the public sphere during the past twenty years in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden? Four themes are studied: 1. Religion and state, 2. Religion and politics, 3. Religion and the media, 4. Religion and civil society. The main findings point to continuity and profound changes, where the emphasis on Christianity is weakening while the focus on religion is growing, especially in relation to human rights. This is evident in the data from political debates and in the media, and in the state regulation of religion and a growing distance between church and state in several countries. This is also evident at the civil society level, where there has been a development of an interfaith infrastructure.

Looking at Change - Perspectives on Projects of Mapping and Measuring Religion in Local, Regional and National Settings

Session Leaders

Marie Vejrup Nielsen, Associate Professor, Study of Religion, Aarhus University, Head of the Center for Contemporary Religion, e-mail:

Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger, Associate Professor, Study of Religion, Aarhus University, e-mail:

This session will look into the issue of how we study change and continuity in contemporary religion through projects that map religion through quantitative and/or qualitative approaches in relation to a specific city, region or nation. We are interested in perspectives on both theoretical and methodological dimensions of doing mapping projects, and our goal with the session is to bring the theoretical hypotheses and models into contact with the empirical material. Too often, these two dimensions are kept apart in presentations on these projects. How do we measure transformation, how should we understand the changes we see e.g. over time, between generations etc.? This session therefore primarily invites scholars who have been or are engaged in mapping projects concerning religion, e.g. in specific cities, regions or nations and will emphasize the importance of feedback from the analysis of the data into theoretical and methodological discussions on how we map religion and how we conceptualize transformation.

Market, Ethics and Religion

Session Leader

Niels Kærgård, Professor, dr. polit., University of Copenhagen, e-mail:

The interrelation between people and between people and society are regulated by many different institutions, e.g. laws, ethics, norms, religion and markets. For more than hundred years the trend has gone in direction of letting more and more be regulated by the markets. This trend has accelerated in the last decades. Moral and religion have lost importance. But there are also many drawbacks of the market mechanism. The mechanism do not guarantee any justice in the income distribution. There can be market external effects as pollution. Usury and exploitation of the weak member of the society must according to ethics and religion often be condemned. In this session is discussed which part of the society can be regulated by the market mechanism and which must be left for regulation by moral and religion.

Public Policies and Religious Pluralism

Session Leaders

Claude Bovay, Professor, Haute école de travail social et de la santé, Lausanne, e-mail:

Louisa Sayad, Research assistant, Haute école de travail social et de la santé, Lausanne, e-mail:

Local state is the main actor for integration policies in Switzerland. In the context of religious pluralism, our research questioned the ability of Lausanne’s municipal government to take into consideration the various religious affiliations of the civil society. We focused on the laws and rules organizing religious questions and how public administration takes into consideration religious demands coming from the citizens. As a result, we can tell that only a few demands are considered as religious and no specific attention is taken to answer these religious demands or to attend to religious situations (as defined by the authorities). This is the result of an effort not to politicize the topic of religion as well as leaving the possibility to religious communities and professionals to build new case-by-case arrangements and new solutions. Depoliticizing religious pluralism has resulted in a lack of debate within the public sphere regarding secularism in the city.

Regulation of Religion? Limits of Law? What Law Regulates What Religion?

Session Leader

Lisbet Christoffersen, Professor (mso) in Law, Religion and Society, Roskilde University, and adjunct professor of law on religion, University of Copenhagen, e-mail:;

Not least in the Nordic countries, recent years have seen both continuity and change when it comes to how politics (and thus also law) is supposed to regulate religion as well as the extent to which religion is assumed to give resistance to political regulatory attempts. This session takes a theoretical starting point in analyzing possible boundaries, self-boundaries and breaking points in this conflict. The session the pursuits to analyze three different topical areas: a) a possible forum internum for religious communities (incl folkekirker)? B) staff regulations in the religious labour market; and c) the question on whether or not family matters are part of (collective or individual) freedom of religion and belief. The session follows up on and proceeds from a workshop held at Roskilde University April 2014 and thus contributes to a work in progress.

Religion and Economy - Mutual Inspirations and Correctives

Session Leader

Pål Repstad, Professor in Sociology of Religion, University of Agder, e-mail:

The mutual relations between religious and economic life was a central topic among the founding fathers of sociology, such as Marx and Weber. Recent sociology of religion, however, has to a lesser extent dealt with exchange processes between religious and economic institutions, except for a sometimes rather abstract and ideological struggle over the relevance of rational choice for the study of religion. In this session, scholars are invited to present research about connections between religion and the economy, for instance how religious ideas can inspire or criticize economic practice, and how economic ideas and dynamics can influence the workings of religious institutions and religious life. Examples: Is religious  puritanism still able to facilitate economic development? Are neo-liberal ideas finding their way into church life? This is a broad invitation, and papers based on empirical studies will be given priority.

Religion and Media: Change and Continuity

Session Leaders

Mia Lövheim, Professor in Sociology of Religion, Uppsala University, e-mail:

Henrik Reintoft Christensen, Postdoc, Aarhus University, e-mail:

Newspapers and magazines play several roles in modern society. They inform the general public, public intellectuals, and decision makers on issues and narratives that are found important enough to be covered in these media. In that way they (re)produce and (re)shape knowledge that can be used to perpetuate current narratives or facilitate new ones. In the Nordic societies, the last decades have seen a growing diversification of both media and religion. The large media institutions have been challenged by smaller, more segmented, and often digital media, and the majority churches have also witnessed a partial loosening of their monopoly due to both migration and individualized attitudes to religion and faith. We invite papers that address the role of the newspapers and magazines as arenas for and participants in the public negotiation of religion focusing on the changes and continuities that have taken place.

Studying Religion in Secular Spaces - After 'the Material Turn'

Session Leaders

Birgitte Schepelern Johansen, PhD, Assistant Professor, Cross Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, e-mail:

Laura Maria Schütze, PhD student, Cross Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, e-mail:

Modern societies are rife with social spaces that declare themselves as secular: universities, schools, parliaments, museums, court rooms etc. But what, more precisely, makes secular space secular? How are they constituted materially, semantically and practically? And how can religion or the religious materialize within such secular spaces? If declared secular spaces are structured through the explicit and implicit articulation of a constitutive absence of religion, what are then the more specific possibilities of appearance and presence of religion within secular spaces? Based on the assumption that studies of the secular, and religion within the secular, can benefit from taking into account the issue of space and materiality, we invite papers that investigate and discuss such questions. Both theoretical and more empirically grounded analyses are welcomed.

The Discursive Constitution of "Religion" in International Politics

Session Leader

Stephanie Garling, Research Fellow, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies Hamburg, e-mail:

For more than a decade “religion” has been a major subject in discussions in International Politics. A discursive field opens up, where the so-called return of “religion” meets a field conventionally categorised as secular. The panel will focus on the current formations of the category “religion” and the changes and continuities these formations contain. It is therefore open to all kinds of theoretical and empirical reflections on discursive shifts “religion” has undergone in International Politics. How and where are the lines of differentiation drawn towards other terms? In discourse how is the relationship of “religion” described towards democracy and civil society? How it the notion of “religion” characterised within the policy field of International Politics? The panel invites people who have come across these and other empirical questions and is also open for presentation of analytical frameworks which can be applied to these questions. 

The Dynamics between Market Orientation, Individualization, and Social Capital in Nordic Folk Churches

Session Leader

Hans Raun Iversen, Director of Center for Church Research, University of Copenhagen, e-mail:

Nordic societies are decisively impacted by market orientation and individualization with the consequent changes in its social capital. This session examines the dynamics between these three tendencies with particular regard to the public cultural institutions, using The Nordic National Churches (The Folk Churches) as empirical case. Papers for the session should deal with one or more out of the following three levels: the social structure of the folk churches (including legal, economic, administrative and political factors); the members and users of the churches and their attitudes and practices; and the connections between the levels (resource mobilization, links between self-understanding, resource allocation, and participation, and the institutions’ production of public goods etc.). The papers should aim at contributing to the international debate on the consequences and limits of market orientation and individualization in relation to cultural institutions such as churches.

The Orthodox Church as a Public Actor in Non-Orthodox Countries

Session Leaders

Annika Hvithamar, Associate professor, PhD, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, e-mail:

Magdalena Nordin, Associate professor, PhD, University of Lund, e-mail:

Eastern Orthodoxy has only recently emerged as a discrete research area in the study of sociology of religion. The historical conditions that give rise to renewed interest in and access to Eastern European Orthodoxy, namely the fall of communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union, have also facilitated Orthodoxy's renewed migration and dispersal especially to Western Europe and America. In this context, the study of Eastern Orthodoxy in migration has become an important aspect. In the new homelands Orthodox groups face a new situation where they represent one out of many minority religions, instead of representing the majority. In this process, the public outreach (or lack thereof) becomes a vital defining factor of the Orthodox groups. This panel invites papers based on empirical studies of Orthodox Churches and communities outside of majority Orthodox states.

The Role of Religion in Civil Society

Session Leader

Inger Furseth, Dr.polit, Associate professor at Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo and Adjunct professor at KIFO Centre for Church Research, Norway, e-mail:

This thematic session focuses on the role of religion in civil society. As the religious landscape is changing and becoming more diverse in Western Europe and in the Nordic countries, the role of religion in civil society is increasingly important to understand. How has the growing religious diversity affected the civil society sector? What are the relations between the different faith communities (majority and minority), and between faith communities, holistic spirituality, and secular organizations? Do faith communities primarily produce bonding, bridging or linking social capital, or the combination of some of these forms of social capital? The session is linked to the research program “The role of religion in the public sphere. A comparative analysis of the five Nordic countries” 2009-2014 (NOREL). It is open to everyone with an interest in the role of religion in civil society.

Transformations in the Field of Religion and Care

Session Leaders

Terhi Utriainen, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Theology, Helsinki, e-mail:

Anne Birgitta Pessi, Professor, Faculty of Theology, Helsinki, e-mail:

All religions are major forces of cooperation and care but can – and do – also encourage conflicts, animosity, violence. Religion is never neutral in terms of care and caring. Furthermore, carereferring to the provision of what is necessary for the welfare and protection of someone or something, has always been a particular point of contention related to, for instance, social policy regimes, professional versus lay expertise, agency, subject–object perspectives, and gender roles, and all these disputes have multifaceted religious dimensions. This session focuses on the search of transforming forms and modalities in the field of care and the specific role played by religion and spirituality in such search. In our post-secular era individuals are searching for authenticity and spirituality, and many find potential arenas particularly in the field of (widely understood) care, and often particularly in the field of civil society. Various forms of alternative healing and wellbeing practices become increasingly popular, for instance. Both empirical cases and theoretical contributions are warmly welcomed to this session.