Processes of Unification in Germany: (Re-)Configuring Religious, National and Gender Identities

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:20
Oral Presentation
Diana LENGERSDORF, University of Bielefeld, Germany
It is not at least Stuart Halls merit to highlight that there is no pre-given identity. Therefore, it is to ask how elements of identity come together and become (relative) stable. With theory of hegemony we can stress that these processes of unification – in particular of collective identities as national or religious identity – go hand in hand with social struggle. Within these struggles opposed interests, adversarial needs and different views of life are connected to a “reasonable” compromise, a consensus that is supported by “civil society”.

In my talk I will focus on a struggle that take place in Germany recently: a revival of a religious based antagonism. In a different way to a long period of the antagonistic relation between two Christian denomination - Catholic vs. Protestant - there can be observed the arise of an antagonism between Christian and Islamic religion. What is instructive is that this antagonism is interrelated to national identities (“foreign nationals”; “Arabs”, “North Africans” vs. “Germans”) and gender. Based on material conducted in an ongoing project funded by the German Research Foundation I will argue that the figure of the Muslim patriarch is a pattern that members of our group discussions uses to stabilise their (masculine) identities via demarcation. Therefore the arise of a “new” religious identity is not threaten the identity of hegemonic social positions but stabilizing it.

My talk will start with a brief theoretical discussion on the interrelation of identity and hegemony, followed by an introduction of the observed phenomenon of connecting gender, national and religious identities in Germany and finally bringing in data from group discussion to show how this connection is used for stabilizing identities: the “own” identity becomes more distinct.