In Europe over the past years and especially after 9/11, the notion of multiculturalism has turned into a societal model of dubious reputation. What is being ignored, however, is the fact that it is by no means a unitary model; indeed, the multicultural policies in the Netherlands or Denmark are quite distinct from those of Germany, the UK or elsewhere in Western Europe. In Canada, moreover, where the idea first originated, multiculturalism is a constitutive element of the state and its societies in Quebec and Anglophone Canada. Indeed, against its critics and detractors, Canada has been pointed to as a successful model to be emulated.
Partly as an outcome of these debates, it has been argued that Canada (and the US) are models of religious and ethno-communal pluralism within the framework of a “post-secular society” (Habermas). These societies are bringing about newly intensified plural religious adherences--a phenomenon which in Europe, more slowly, is gaining ground as well. European societies, after all, did not define themselves as countries of immigration and have had far greater difficulty accommodating its immigrants.
In the conference we want to go a step further and ask whether the notion of (ethno-) religious pluralism and as a consequence, a post secular society, sufficiently explains what is going on in our societies and especially our urban environments today. Just looking at religion per se, especially in ghettoized neighbourhoods in Cologne and Berlin and their Islamic communities may obscure the fact that we see not only how new diasporic religious communities have been evolving, but also, and possibly to a greater extent, that lower class immigrant milieus have evolved where migrants of different backgrounds inter-mingle, in part even with lower/lower middle class non-migrant German populations. We would need to speak here of “post-secular secularising milieus.” We mean by that milieus where ethno-religious backgrounds retreat into the background, in favour of a common de-ethnicised sphere accessible to the various immigrants. The question is therefore whether, when we speak of a post-secular, religiously pluralist society, we ignore the new cultural functions of social inequality in our societies.
We have called this conference not in the least because we wanted to bring together some outstanding scholars from abroad who are at present in Germany and who are working broadly in this field with colleagues from Berlin. We expect this to be the starting point for a sustained conversation in the next few years.
The event is free and open to the public. We kindly ask you to register with Tim.Kremser@utoronto-berlin.org.
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