In Hamburg for the 2018 ECPR General Conference

Between 22 and 25 August I’ve been in Hamburg for the yearly General Conference. Our Religion and Politics Standing group was very involved, organizing a section on “Revisiting Religion and Politics Research: Achievements, Critique, Future Questions”. The section included eight panel sessions on diverse subjects of the religion and politics field.

Particularly, with the precious help of Dr Marko Vekovic (University of Belgrade) I’ve convened two panel sessions on “Religion and Political Parties in Contemporary Democracies”, which included renowned scholars such as Prof. Sultan Tepe and Prof. Madalena Meyer Resende, but also some very interesting junior researchers from all over Europe. A lot of interest was of course focused on populist parties, a subject which was the focus of many panels in this year’s conference. In our panels, we have discussed about the role of religion in the populist phenomenon. Is there a role of the religious cleavage, or populist parties only instrumentalize religion in identity terms? Well, it is still hard to say, at this stage.

On Saturday 25th, the business meeting of our standing group has taken place, with the participation of about 25 colleagues. The main issue was the election of a new board member, after the resignation of Anja Hennig. The attendants have unanimously acclaimed Eva-Maria Euchner (Munich University) to take Anja’s place. The group is in very good health, with 231 members (a 15% growth since the 2016 conference) and very good ideas for future activities, which might include a summer school and a new journal. We also look forward a tighter cooperation between the ECPR group and the religion and politics groups and networks active at the national level in many European countries.

As a whole, the conference was a very pleasant experience, also because of the beautiful location (the city of Hamburg indeed proved a very pleasant venue), and the good organization. Particularly, I’d like to highlight the launch of a new ECPR open access journal, Political Research Exchange, a very interesting experiment which will be the focus of the next post of this blog.

In Castel Gandolfo for the Economy of Communion meeting

The author in Castel Gandolfo with Prof. Paolo Frizzi (Sophia University) and two East Asian entrepreneurs
The author in Castel Gandolfo with Prof. Paolo Frizzi (Sophia University) and two East Asian entrepreneurs

Between 2 and 5 February 2017 I participated in a meeting organized at the ‘mariapoli’ center of the Focolare movement in Castel Gandolfo. The focus was the Economy of Communion (EoC), theorized by the founder of the Focolare movement, Chiara Lubich, in the early 1990s, and practiced today by about 800 entreprises all around the world (but with its main centers in Italy and Brazil). The idea behind the EoC is that entrepreneurs should not work for profit only, but they should invest a part of their revenues to help poor people and to foster education activities. Most of all, all the people involved in an economic activity (entrepreneurs, workers, customers, and even competitors) should live an experience of communion, not only in economic terms, but also in terms of life experience, information, etc.

A focus group involving entrepreneurs from different continents

The meeting involved hundreds of EoC entrepreneurs and activists from all over the world, and included different kinds of events, ranging from plenary sessions in which participants shared with the audience their experiences and their practices, to smaller meetings focused on some specific activities or geographic areas, to other kinds of events (particularly, on Saturday 4, we had the opportunity to participate in a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Sala Nervi). The first two days of the meeting, particularly, were focused on the new project of the EoC incubator, aiming at fostering the creation and the growth of new EoC entreprises.

The meeting with Pope Francis: Prof. Luigino Bruni speaks

The participation in the meeting was very important for me at the professional level, for the advancement of the research project on “Searching Alternative Communitarianism, Religion and Economic Development (SACRED)”, that I’m leading at the University of Turin. Indeed, in Castel Gandolfo I had the opportunity to interview entrepreneurs from three different continents: some of them, particularly, with many years of experience, having been involved in the EoC since its very beginning. The interviews, and the participant observation at the event were therefore invaluable for the research.

However, the esperience has proven precious also at personal level, because the interviews have given me the opportunity to meet some really outstanding people, and to listen to their life stories, which will prove impossible to forget.

POLARE School in Rome

This week, I participated in the Ecole Thématique Politique, Laicité, Religion (POLARE), organized by the University of Bordeaux (Sciences Po and Centre Emile Durkheim), the CNRS, ans the French School in Rome. This institutions also hosted the event, in the outstanding framework of Piazza Navona, just in front of the Tritone fountain.

The Ecole Française in Rome, where the POLARE event took place

The programme of the school was not less interesting, with a 360 degrees reflection on the relation between religion, politics and secularism in the Mediterranean, and the participation of some of the most significant names of the francophone social sciences: Valerie Amiraux, Olivier Roy, Xabier Itçaina, Philippe Portier, Yves Deloye. All assembled together by a perfect organization led by Magali Della Sudda, researcher in Bordeaux.

It was a very interesting but challenging experience (not only for the mental effort to translate from Italian to English to French and reverse!) considering the approach to social sciences of most French scholars, who privilege historical-sociological reflection where the Anglo-Saxon academic community (to which I’m more acquainted) mainly prefers an empirical approach. It is a pity that these two worlds don’t communicate more deeply and frequently, because in their complementarity we could find very interesting resources. Surely, to me the experience was very rewarding.

Religion and Politics in Oslo

ecprlogo150x55The next general conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) will take place in Oslo, on 6-9 September 2017. A huge event, for the main organization of political scientists in Europe. At the conference, I will have the honour to convene with Anja Hennig the section on “Religion, Politics, and the Public Sphere: Contesting Liberalism?”  By the way, Anja and I in 2017 will also become co-convenors of the ECPR standing group on ‘Religion and Politics’, after the retirement of Jeff Haynes.


Both the section and the convenorship are a great honour and pleasure as well as a burden: it will not be easy to carry on the standing group after the convenorship of Jeff Haynes, who has created this group from scratch and grown it to its actual size (more than 200 scholars). Of course we look forward to a lot of new programs and ideas to implement. Surely, everything will be a little different. Well, anyway, I hope to see you all in Oslo…