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Building Bridges/Tisser des liens: Erin Wilson

Thu, April 03, 2014

Event/Évènement: Building Bridges: Lunch an Learn / Tisser des liens: Lunchez et apprenez

Speaker / Conférencière: Erin Wilson (University of Groningen)

Title/titre: "But that’s culture, not religion": the politics of Christianity as cultural heritage

Presented by / présenté par: The Canada Research Chair in the Contextualization of Religion in a Diverse Canada / La Chaire de recherche du Canada en étude de la religion dans le contexte multiculturel canadien

Time/heure: 12:30pm-2pm/12h30h à 14h

Location/lieu: Simard Hall, Room 129 / Pavillon Simard, pièce 129

Please R.S.V.P. before Friday, March 28, 2014 (info@religionanddiversity.ca), a lunch will be provided.
Prière de répondre avant le vendredi 28 mars 2014 (info@religionanddiversity.ca), un dîner sera servi.

Is "Christianity" “religion” or “culture”? Recent European and North American debates in politics and law suggest a growing trend towards classifying "Christianity" as “culture”, specifically “cultural heritage”, rather than “religion”. As Lori Beaman has argued, this represents a mode of control enabling the “cultural” symbols of the majority to remain in the public sphere at the same time as the “religious” symbols of the minority are excluded. Yet it is also, I suggest, a means for controlling "Christianity" as a site of opposition to the secular neoliberal state. “Culture”, particularly in relation to “cultural heritage”, is inherently weak. It requires protection and preservation by the state to prevent it from disappearing altogether. Its capacity to challenge the state is thus limited. Further, “culture” is positioned as benign, apolitical, relative, with few or no universalist aspirations, fitting neatly within secularist modes of state control. “Religion”, in contrast, is a site of resistance to secularist ideology and statecraft. Classifying "Christianity" as “culture” rather than “religion”, I argue, facilitates its presence in the public sphere, yet only in forms acceptable to the secular state. As part of the dominant “culture”, "Christianity's" capacity to critique and challenge dominant modes of exclusion is significantly curtailed.

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