Resilience or Resistance: Repressive Regimes and the Blurring of Boundaries between the Political
and Religious

Modern Europeans have long maintained a distinction between the religious and the political. From Britain’s Glorious Revolution to Germany’s Kulturkampf and the secularisation campaigns of the early Third Republic in France, this distinction was hard-fought for and uneasily maintained. Nonetheless, even in modern Europe, the idea that religion has the ability to separate itself from the concerns of the political has been repeatedly called into question. Just as modern states have shown themselves to be remarkably concerned with “ultimate concerns” (Tillich), religious groups have consistently found themselves making claims that call into question the legitimacy of the modern state.

This Open Workshop will explore the blurred boundary between ideas of religious resilience and political resistance in the context of state repression of religion. In the modern era, religious activities have frequently been interpreted as politically dangerous by regimes whilst religious communities have claimed that their pursuit of a religious life is free from political implications. Does practicing one’s religion illegally always constitute political resistance, and if not, where are the boundaries between the two? Scholarly perspectives have sometimes privileged the pursuit of faith over dissent or emphasize opposition and defiance over the maintenance of religious lifeworlds. With a particular focus on modern Eastern Europe and Russia, we invite papers that problematize the distinction between political acts of opposition and the pursuit of faith and meaning on the part of religious groups. We encourage papers that analyse interactions between state actors and religious groups, and that explore creative responses from religious groups and individuals such as visionaries, charismatic leaders, and underground communities in the context of repressive or authoritarian regimes.