Invoking Heritage: The Catholic Church and the Politics of Religious Diversity in Spain

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marian BURCHARDT, Inst Study Religious & Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany
Mar GRIERA, ISOR, Investigacions en Sociologia de la Religió, Department of Sociology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Spain
Avi ASTOR, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
Processes of ethno-religious diversification in a variety of new immigrant societies have intensified state efforts to ‘manage’ religious structures and practices through legal and bureaucratic regulations. In some cases, these regulations have been framed as important for the safety, support, and protection of religious minorities. In others, they have been framed as necessary for protecting the civic or secular character of public spaces and institutions. This deepening of governmentality in the religious sphere has generated challenges not only for religious minorities, but also for majoritarian communities that previously enjoyed a high degree of autonomy from the state and its regulatory apparatuses. In an effort to remain shielded from governmental regulation and control, majoritarian religious leaders have increasingly invoked discourses of “heritage”. Such discourses have proven critical for defending the differential treatment of distinct religious confessions against critiques rooted in the liberal principles of equality and neutrality. Understood in this way, heritage discourses constitute a cultural resource that majoritarian communities have mobilized strategically in response to the deepening of governmentality within the religious sphere. In advancing this argument, we draw on data and fieldwork from Spain, a historically mono-confessional society that has experienced a tremendously rapid wave of immigration and religious diversification over the past several decades. We focus on recent debates surrounding the laws and regulations around places of worship, devoting particular attention to how the Catholic leadership has responded to regulatory changes developed in response to the proliferation of mosques and Protestant churches.