“The stereotypical conceptions about the role of women and religious minorities need to be nuanced”

2017-10-26

This is one of many findings that Prof. Anders Bäckström together with other Impact researchers put forward in the Wave-project. The newly released anthology “Religion and Welfare in Europe. Gendered and minority perspectives” is the final report of the project, which presents rich case studies and research conclusions.

Prof. Anders Bäckström tell us about the Wave-project

Anders Bäckström

– The project “Welfare and Values in Europe. Transitions to religion, minorities and gender”, also called The Wave-project, is the first large European sponsored project at the faculty of Theology at Uppsala University. It focuses partly on the importance of European religious and political roots for the development of different modern welfare states and partly on current common social challenges. For instance, it deals with challenges caused by downturns in the areas of economy and migration. These are two trends that activate religion both as a political voice and as a participant in the civil society. The project also analyzes the new visibility of religion as a part of the social, religious and political complexity. 

What are your findings?
– The project shows that the stereotypical conceptions about the role of women and religious minorities need to be nuanced. The religious minorities care about the extended family, though at the same time is both including and excluding its members. And in the middle there is a big group of family members (women) who try to bridge family and society. Women work as an arena to bridge tensions between a religious and secular civil life as well as a link between traditions and modern working life.
The most important factors supporting integration are language knowledge and employment, and the multicultural society’s ability to tolerance and unity.

In which direction is the research field going?
– The religious and political tensions have increased since the project started. The Swedish welfare model, which aims to reach general economic equality has been shown to be both socially integrating and religiously excluding. In particular, when it comes to the tension between different rights, often the focus is on how women dress. On top of that there are nationalistic political tendencies that politicize the Swedish church and criminalize religious minorities, in particular Islam. 
Research today needs to develop innovative methods with the aim of clarifying the integrated possibilities between the cultural majorities/minorities and the religious/secular. In order not to turn democracy into an empty shell in the future we need to focus on the voices of the religious minorities as a part of the open dialog about a common future.

Facts
The project Welfare and Values in Europe. Transitions to religion, minorities and gender (Wave) started 2006 and ended 2009. It was financed by the European Community and included over thirty researchers in twelve different countries. In 2009 the Impact of Religion programme took over the Wave-project. The recently released anthology “Religion and Welfare in Europe. Gendered and minority perspectives”, (Policy Press 2017) is the final report of the project. Anders Bäckström is Professor Emeritus in Sociology of religion and one of the editors.

Anna Ciabuschi Eriksson