New dissertation: Religious actors have various prospects in the media debate


Representatives of religious groups are published on the debate pages of the large Swedish newspapers. The conditions are set by media though, and the prospects vary between different religious groups, according to sociologist of religion Marta Axner. Axner, who is part of the Impact programme, has studied debate articles by different religious actors in large Swedish newspapers. The results are now presented in her doctoral thesis.

Marta Axner's dissertation Public Religions in Swedish Media

About 3,5 percent of all debate articles published in the papers DN, SvD and Expressen during the last decade were signed by someone who could be said to represent a religious group of some kind, according to Axner’s results. Most of the signatories were Christians, most frequently representatives of the Church of Sweden and the free churches. But there were also other Christian churches and organizations, as well as Jewish and Muslim actors. The debate articles cover a wide range of topics, but many of them deal both with certain issues and the more general question of the place of religion in society.

Axner’s analysis show that though all religious actors in the media debate adapt to conditions set by media, there are also differences between different religious groups and how they take part in the debate. It seems that Jewish and Muslim signatories are more limited in their issues, as well as in their wordings and the argument they use. Muslim debaters in particular tend to refer to the very negative media image of Muslims present in Sweden and the Western world. On the other hand, the Church of Sweden and some other Christian groups are given the opportunity to address a much wider scope of issues, as well as for “the public good” in some sense.

The participation of religious actors in the public debate is shaped by the certain logic of the debate article, with its focus on news value, in interaction with opinions about the place of religion in the public debate, and the religious actors own logics.

Marta Axner defends her defends her thesis Public Religions in Swedish Media: A Study of Religious Actors on Three Newspaper Debate Pages 2001-2011 at a public seminar on Friday October 25, 2013.

The thesis can be downloaded here (pdf)

News from 2013