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CfP: Belief in Solidarity

For an international workshop on 11-13 December 2023 at the University of Antwerp, Belgium

In this workshop, we aim to discuss the role of faith and religious inspiration in organizing solidarity in contemporary superdiverse and post-secular urbanized societies as well as in secularizing societies from the nineteenth century on. We proceed from the observation that religiously inspired or faith-based organizations have played and continue to play a significant role in offering social support and protection to vulnerable groups.

However, these organizations do not sit easily in their intellectual and political-ideological context. While religiously inspired solidarity is driven by inner motives and personal faith, in the historical development of European welfare states, solidarity has become institutionalized as a set of impersonal redistributive mechanisms such as paying taxes and social contributions.

Relatedly, solidarity practices based on faith and religion can come into conflict with the political-philosophical standards and values of modern welfare regimes. Within the territorial context of nation states and against the backdrop of nation states conceived as ‘imagined communities’, access to social services is based on the idea of social rights, justice and equality and conditional on neutral criteria related to citizenship. While faith-based forms of solidarity can potentially lead to less calculated, more disinterested and less reciprocal forms of solidarity, they are often perceived as being at odds with what we call ‘modernity’.  

The aim of our workshop is to unpack this tension in an interdisciplinary way. Both in the past and today the practices and views of religiously inspired people were both challenged by and related to the development of such ‘modern’ concepts and standards as equality, neutrality, human rights and democracy. This urges us to confront empirical insights from history and sociology with the normative views of political philosophy. We expect the presentations to concentrate on the historical and present-day interaction between, on one hand, religiously inspired and faith-based practices of solidarity and, on the other, the secular and modernizing context and the development of (European) welfare regimes.

Our workshop hopes to contribute to ‘de-naturalizing’ the dominant conceptions of solidarity and to transcending the taken-for-granted binary of secular versus religious. Thematically, we will contribute to discussions about the ‘post-secular’ condition, the strengths and weaknesses of the (European) welfare state, and the role of civil society and grassroots organizations in it. We also welcome comparative contributions from non-European contexts and/or on religious institutionalization. 

deadline for submission: 28 June 2023

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