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Peter Beyer

Thursday, August 27, 11:30 a.m. | SG
Forms of Religious Communities in Global Society: Tradition, Invention, and Transformation

Peter Beyer

Taking as its point of departure the idea that community refers primarily to the identification of groups of human beings, the presentation inquires into the changing relation of religion to collective identities in contemporary global society. A first part presents an historical analysis tracing the rise to global dominance of a peculiarly modern notion according to which there is a strong, but also contested, ambiguous, and incomplete isomorphism between state-centred and religious belonging, in particular between (nation-)states and religions: the ‘(national-)societal community’ and the ‘religious community’ are seen normally to be largely overlapping. A second part then considers how later 20th century global developments especially have begun to strongly undermine the dominance of this assumption and its socio-structural correlates to yield an uncertain situation in which the very idea of religious community is transforming in directions that encourage much more diverse forms of collective religious identification, an increasing proportion of which are deemed to be subjective, chosen, and exhibiting fluid boundaries of religion; and relatively less inherited, attributed, kinship based, and exhibiting stable and clear boundaries. The presentation concludes with empirical examples of such transformation drawn from the author’s current research on religious identity in the Canadian context.