Religion, Nationalism and Populism

The Cadbury Centre’s distinctive approach combines the social sciences with theological and religious studies to explore the relevance of religion in different political and social aspects of life.

Traditional Christian church service on the Epiphany in Russia

This approach is distinctive for two reasons. First, most other related research centres, in the UK and worldwide, address the role of religion in politics from either one discipline or another, not the two simultaneously, but we are committed to bringing together scholars to explore the same topic through two different disciplinary perspectives and work toward a common methodology. Second, we aim at moving beyond the binary of ‘Global North vs. South,’ or the supposed ‘East-West divide’, to bring global perspectives to bear on issues that affect us all. With the help of our significant network of Centre Honorary Fellows, and through our direct engagement with experts from the Global South, we have insight into the local implications of global challenges and can draw on a range of resources to bring non-Western perspectives to the table.

Jocelyne Cesari highlights this methodological distinctiveness in this two-minute video:

The Centre’s bidisciplinary approach is particularly significant when it comes to the study of religion, nationalism and populism.

In Europe and the United States, religion has become a significant component of the growing nationalist and supremacist political groups which contest fundamental rights of religious, sexual or racial minorities in the name of their religious identity. Outside western secular democracies, the rise of religious claims not only impinges on civil rights but also on the rule of law and democratic life in general.

This project aims to discuss the religious dimension of populism and nationalism across countries, religious traditions and historical periods. To do so, it will for the first time bring together scholars of religion and politics to explore comparatively the rise of extreme right movements in Europe, white supremacist groups in the USA, but also rise of authoritarian figures in Turkey, Russia or India.

This important global collaboration with partner institutions worldwide including Australian Catholic University (Bryan Turner), Innsbruck University (Wolfgang Palaver), Georgetown University (Shaun Cssey), Kent University (David Lynch), Campen University (Leo Van der Broeke), Cambridge University (Tobias Cremer), Istanbul Bilgi University and the University of Delhi, has already delivered a series of presentations at the 2020 European Academy of Religion Digital Conference and will result in a forthcoming special issue of the journal Religions with Jocelyne Cesari as guest editor.

The project has also resulted in a series of lunchtime webinars hosted by our colleagues at the Berkeley Centre, Georgetown University:

Is religion the blind spot of populism - report and video of online conference, European Academy of Religion, June 22 2020