Eulberg, Rafaela; Jacobsen, Annika; Tillessen, Petra: The Label of ‘Religion’ : Migration And Ascriptions Of Religious Identities In Contemporary Europe. Bonn: Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, 2019. In: FIW Working Paper, 11.
Online-Ausgabe in bonndoc:
author = {{Rafaela Eulberg} and {Annika Jacobsen} and {Petra Tillessen}},
title = {The Label of ‘Religion’ : Migration And Ascriptions Of Religious Identities In Contemporary Europe},
publisher = {Forum Internationale Wissenschaft},
year = 2019,
series = {FIW Working Paper},
volume = 11,
note = {This working paper presents three perspectives on the ways in which a labeling of social actors, processes, or conflicts as ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ plays a central role in disputes about migration and identity-formation in contemporary Europe. From the perspective of world society theory, the examples discussed here could be in­terpreted in regard to the concept of ‘responsivity’, i.e. responses inside a particu­lar function system like religion to expectations and developments in other socie­tal functions systems.
Labeling processes strongly affect the ways in which migrant religions are incorpo­rated in a new context. Rafaela Eulberg’s section of the working paper shows the impact of such processes of ascription in the context of refugee immigration, in particular the incorporation of Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus in Switzerland. A charac­teristic of the first years of Tamil Hindu migration to Switzerland was a dynamic interplay between the South Asian Hindus and Swiss Hindu converts. In the early 1980s, the temple of the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” (ISK­CON) in Zurich became a particularly important contact zone, in which contrary labeling processes influenced the encounter of Krishna devotees and Tamil mi­grants. A second example shows how labeling processes act as invisible builders of sacred architecture. The recent overall image of immigrant groups had an influ­ence on differing tower politics within Swiss political discourses. There were strik­ing differences between the perception of the existing four minarets in Switzerland and the newly erected Hindu temple tower in Trimbach.
Annika Jacobsen’s section addresses the situation of Arabic refugees in Germany with regard to their ascribed and self-reported religious identities on the basis of empirical data accumulated in Hamburg. ‘Religion’ plays a prominent role in the public discourse about the settlement of refugees in Germany, especially when concerned with a group among them that is largely identified as ‘Arabic’ due to their outward appearance. Jacobsen highlights the ascription of religious labels and the conditions for their switching with other labels to point to the possible in­fluence these dynamics may have on the integration of refugees. Her qualitative interviews demonstrate the diversity of refugees’ self-identified religious belong­ing (some of them being Muslim, some self-proclaimed “believers” and some athe­ists) and the generally moderate role religion plays in their everyday lives. What most of them had in common, however, were experiences with members of the host-society in which they were ascribed a Muslim identity that was often linked to a dogmatic or fundamentalist image of Islam. All of the interview partners felt equally frustrated and stigmatized by these ascriptions. Jacobsen explores how these dynamics influence refugees’ stances towards religion and the host-society by making reference to the history of the discourse about Turkish “guest workers” in Germany. Another dispute about the labeling of religion can be observed in the establishment of refugee accommodations in Hamburg as ‘neutral spaces’ in which the categories of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ are employed by the camp staff to either dismiss or justify certain practices and symbols within camp life.
Petra Tillessen explores the role of labeling something as ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ in mediation, a booming field in dealing with interpersonal conflicts. But how can ‘religious dimensions’ in such conflicts be dealt with and what can the academic study of religion/s contribute to mediation? In the existing mediation literature, “religion” is frequently presented as a unique phenomenon, a very special and difficult thing to deal with. It is mostly seen as a stable and closed entity – at least as far as individuals are concerned. As religious convictions are seen as hardly negotiable, it is often recommended to deal with them e.g. by translating “religious” questions into other “social languages”. It is therefore precisely in the preparation of mediators for ‘religious dimensions’ of conflicts, that demarcations or differenc­es could be inadvertently strengthened. A combination of the expertise of the ac­ademic study of religion with the expertise of mediation training programs could possibly allow the development of new practical assignments for a religion-sensi­tive mediation. Recent approaches in the study of religion/s focus on the diversity, plurality, and flexibility of religions. Drawing on these approaches might allow us to develop an understanding of ‘flexible facts’ about religion/s as an orientation for mediation processes. This could also serve as the theoretical backdrop for the de­velopment of new practical assignments. Tillessen presents three examples of this work in progress: “My Groups”, “Labels”, and the Simulation game “You As a Muslim…”.},

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