Secular Contours. Boundary Drawing of Claim-Making in France

Friday, July 14, 2017
Gilbert Scott Conference Room - 250 (University of Glasgow)
Angéline Escafré-Dublet , Political science, Universite Lyon 2
Successive waves of immigration have dramatically increased the diversity of religious beliefs and practices in France, throughout the 20th century. From the 1905 Law separating Church and State that acknowledged Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism as the three main religions of the Republic, to a a demographic survey that reported Islam and Buddhism as the two most important religious minorities in France, French religious landscape is significantly evolving. However, the diversification of religious identities has been largely unaddressed in political life due to an understanding of secularism that confines religion to the private sphere. Minorities are limited in their ability to articulate claims that seek to combat discrimination on the basis of a religious identity, real or perceived. This context affects the opportunity for groups to combat anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of the attacks that took place in the past few years. In this paper, I will examine the institutional channeling of minority claims through the example of cultural policies. I will demonstrate how the state has discarded cultural initiatives that were too explicitly religious and, as a consequence of which, has left civil society ill-equipped to address issues related to religious identities in general. I will ground my demonstration on material collected in the archives of the ministry of Culture from its inception and subsequent interviews I conducted with minority groups in the past 5 years. I will argue that diversity is mainly understood in cultural terms and that the contour of this culture are strictly secular.