Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 1B

What Is a “Religious Minority”?

Chair: Lieke Schrijvers (PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Room: Stijlkamer, Janskerkhof 13

‘Religious Belonging in Question: The Belonging of Multiple Religious Belonging’ – Daan F. Oostveen (PhD Candidate, Department of Beliefs and Practices, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
In the contemporary globalized world, cultural and religious diversity leads to increasingly complex identities and social groups. Concerning religion, we witness the emergence of multiple religious belonging. This development calls into question the nature of religious belonging. Many scholars think of religious belonging as belonging to one of several “World Religions”. This kind of belonging answers to the desire of people who have an interest in imagining the existence of “religious traditions” to see who “belongs” to these “religions”. It has, however, often been observed that the boundaries between religious traditions are not always as strictly experienced in the everyday lives of many people on the borders of these religious traditions. In this presentation I will outline the idea of a rhizomatic belonging. Rhizomatic belonging can be seen as a strategy to reclaim individual religious belonging, to subvert the majority dominance on pigeonholing individuals into fixed religious traditions.

‘Is Giriama Traditionalism a Religion?’ – Erik Meinema (PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
This paper focuses on the question why Giriama elders in the coastal Kenyan town Malindi make claims of sameness when comparing Giriama traditions to Islam and Christianity. I argue that elders make such claims to strengthen the idea that Giriama traditions constitute a religion equal to Islam and Christianity. They do so in a context in which Giriama practices are often condemned by Muslims and Christians as superstitious, backward, and idolatrous. Besides responding to criticism, claims of religious equality help Giriama elders to access funds, state protection, and NGO representation. However, various ideas of what religion is also subsequently shape Giriama religion/tradition. The ideas influence how Giriama traditions are articulated in different contexts, how ‘traditionalism’ takes presence in urban landscapes, how Giriama authority is institutionalized, and how communal unity is envisioned within and beyond ethno-religious boundaries. This paper reflects on how these processes influence interreligious co-existence in Malindi.

‘New Wine in Old Cauldrons: Changing Self-Legitimations of Wicca as a Genuine Religion (1968-2008)’ – Léon A. van Gulik (Lecturer, University of Applied Sciences Inholland, Rotterdam) and Leonard van ’t Hul (PhD Candidate, Amsterdam School of History, University of Amsterdam)
Contested historical claims and genealogical strive were part and parcel of the development of Wicca. From its inception onwards, adherents of this postmodern nature religion were highly motivated to legitimize and locate their faith within the wider religious landscape. Through a historical content analysis of an extensive corpus of emic publications—i.e., books and magazines that were published in the religion’s country of origin, the UK, in the last 40 years—we assess the historical development of this self-justification. We show that claims of legitimation can ideal typically be grouped into either truth or utility claims, although the character and content of those claims shifted profoundly over the years. Especially intriguing is the waning presence of ‘religious Others’ in both kinds of self-legitimation, as tightly constructed factual narratives are beginning to give way to impressionistic narratives about how the movement contributes to self-realization and the joy of being a witch.