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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/nkxt-6n89


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Obeying God for the Nation: Religion, Citizenship and Struggles for Belonging





Despite much theorizing about “the secular”, religion remains a key nexus for defining the relationship between individuals and political communities. Modern nation-states are often imagined as secular projects that keep religion and politics separated. This separation is expected to protect freedom of religion by protecting religion from state interventions and by protecting citizens against religious impositions. But more recent theorizations of the secular have shown how secularism can also prevent such freedoms; that, in fact, the secular is a space in which the state determines what counts as legitimate religion in the first place. We might expect modern statecraft attempts to produce citizens as particular kinds of subjects equipped with particular secular sensibilities, attitudes, and dispositions. Yet, as the recent rise of right-wing religionists across democratic states make abundantly clear, in contemporary nation states religious identity is deeply conflated with national belonging. Indeed, around the world today, nation states mobilize religion in various ways as an exclusivist entry of belonging to a political community. Examples range from white Christian supremacists in the USA, to the Hindu nationalist agenda in India, to the growth of nationalist-Jewishness in Israel over other ways of being Jewish, as well as European Islamophobic discourses and practices that participate in producing “Europe” itself. This roundtable interrogates how religion is intertwined with, and increasingly instrumentalized in the production of citizens for political projects and in struggles for sovereignty. Taking into account the complications that arise from separating the modern category of “religion” from “nation”, then conflating those categories, we will look at the everyday processes by which people are produced as citizens with particular “religious” ways of being that coincide with state projects. Taking the religion-citizenship nexus as the starting point for our conversation, we want to probe the ambiguities, contradictions, silences, and acts of violence that these political projects and mobilizations engender in the making as well as unmaking citizens and the parameters of belonging. This roundtable asks how should we then think of “religious” identity in relation to sovereignty and citizenship today. We are interested in discussing ethnographically grounded contexts in which the parameters of belonging and the claims to belong in supposedly democratic countries come into being through religion-citizenship nexus in our contemporary moment as well as their relationship to the past. We are also interested in how particular religious subjectivities are produced in concert with state projects.


Transcript English (automatic)

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