Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 3B

Self-Representation in Interfaith Dialogue

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

‘Performing Authenticity Through Interfaith Dialogue’ – Lise Paulsen Galal (Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Arts, Roskilde University)
Based on the study of organized interfaith activities in Denmark, I argue in this paper that ritualized practices of performing and narrating religious identity draw on a dominant discourse of authenticity (Taylor 1992; Lindholm 2008) that acknowledges but also disciplines religious differences in particular ways. I ask how this discourse leaves room for the minorities’ “own politics” (Ortner 2006) and how this is performed and narrated by minority participants during dialogue events. Two cases of interfaith dialogue are analyzed: a public meeting with four women of different religious backgrounds (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Brahma Kumaris), and a weekend course in interfaith dialogue with participants of primarily Christian or Muslim backgrounds. A special focus is, firstly, how bodies and narratives are attuned in order to create authentic self-representations and performative practices (Ahmed 2004). Secondly, I explore how participants in their self-representations engage with representations that others have made of them (Pratt 1991).

‘Communicating Morality: The “Small Politics” of Dialogue’ – Merve Kayikci (PhD Candidate, Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities Research Centre, KU Leuven)
This paper interrogates how dialogue is a means of communicating Islamic morals to the non-Muslim Other. Discourses of ‘co-existence’ that are articulated among my interlocutors usually tap into the memories of the Prophet Mohammad, his companions and how they ‘lived peacefully’ with the non-Muslims. Hence, as a concept dialogue is contextually defined, and applies to one specific time and place in history which is modern democracy in the West (James 1999). While my interlocutors absorb such narratives from the Islamic tradition, they interpret them through liberal conceptualizations. In this paper, I examine how my interlocutors, construct a narrative of ‘sameness’ by reflecting on Islamic ethical norms through a liberal vocabulary. This trajectory is grounded in constructing ‘likeability’, which I argue becomes a small politics of everyday life. My interlocutors try to engage in a meaningful and moral relationship with the Other, while historically they as Muslims are the Other. The data for this research was collected by interviews and participant observation of female Muslim volunteers in Brussels and Antwerp.

‘Coming Out: Alevis and Jews in Conversation’ – Annemarike Stremmelaar (Lecturer, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University)
In the Netherlands Alevi’s are a minority within a minority: they share their Turkish background with about 400,000 people in the Netherlands, but they see themselves as distinct from a Sunni Muslim majority. In broader Dutch society, Alevi’s are often not recognized as different from others with a Turkish or Muslim background, and confronted with dominant and negative perceptions of those groups; in Turkey Alevi’s have been and still are the object of prejudice and discrimination. Drawing upon observations of dialogue meetings bringing together Alevi’s and Jews in the Netherlands, this paper examines the ways in which Alevi’s represent themselves in the face of these contradictory perceptions. What Alevi and Jewish participants turned out to be sharing was being confronted with the question whether or not to publicly acknowledge an identity which previously had remained undisclosed.