Ethnicity and Religious Pluralism

Opdracht week 6 Religieus Pluralisme

How can religious pluralism be related to ethnicity? With ethnicity questions in which religion is an important factor, there is always more than one religion present. I also think that in these cases the present religions won't be syncretising but rather fundamentalising.

Jenkins gives in his article (Jenkins 1997:) five varieties of religious conflicts. These conflicts have their source in a space of which both parties want to have and hold their power. When we talk about groups who are in struggle, we come very quickly to the discussion of ethnicity. Both discussions deal with the questions why groups tend to differentiate themselves from other groups and how come groups can come to a struggle. One way for groups to differentiate themselves from others is through the use of religion. Religion than becomes a symbol or also a boundarymarker for an ethnic group. Funny enough is that when we talk about groups without any struggles we rather talk about identity. 
Because ethnicity is related with some kind of struggle over power, ethnicity related religions are also related with some kind of struggle over power. This means that if ethnicity is about differentiating groups from each other than religion is about that to. Ethnic groups who are in struggle with each other don't want to see that they have much in common. No, they want to see that they are different. One way to show you're different is to show you adhere to a different religion, with different customs and taboos. These differences do not necessary have to be present. 
Jenkins (1997: 107,108) also says, and what I also think is very important, is that religion is not just a boundarymarker, but also a part of the inside of ethnicity, in his words: the cultural stuff. It is not only the differences between the religions that are of importance to ethnic struggle, but the religions themselves and the interpretations of them also make the ethnic groups how they are and in this way different of others.
People not only want to show that they adhere to another religion, they also want to believe in that religion. Their religion gives them the reason for fighting, so that religion must be worth fighting for as well. If it isn't, why then should people fight. When religion is one of the main factors in ethnicity, than that religion is also made important. This is a process that intensifies itself. In the example of Northern Ireland Jenkins (1997: 111) shows that the people there are more religious than the rest of Northern Europe.


Haynes, Jeff
1998 The Middle East: religions in collision. In: Religion in Global Politics. London and New York: Longman. Pp 125-147.

Jenkins, Richard
1997 The Cultural Stuff. In: Rethinking Ethnicity: Arguments and Explorations. London, etc.: SAGE. Pp 107-123.

Werbner, Pnina
1996 Stamping the Earth with the Name of Allah: Zikr and the Sacralizing of Space among British Muslims. In: Cultural Anthropology. American Anthropological Association. Nr. 11 (3): 309-338

Wednesday 01 January 2003 - 10:35 am | | Culture and behaviour, All