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.

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.