CHRONICLE NR 4, august 2020
DIACONIA RESEARCH IN THE NORDIC COUNTRIES 2015-2019
This year, I have had the privilege to do a survey of recent Nordic diaconal research, a report commissioned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden, as my master thesis in Church and Mission Studies.
Diaconia is most often understood as some sort of social work or social care, performed by churches and Christian institutions. However, as my report shows, Diaconia can be defined and delimited in many ways, as can Diaconia research. In a theological universe, Diaconia studies can be perceived as a bit blurry, not as bright and conspicuous as other stars, with their own academic disciplines. However, if you start looking, it is a cluster of dynamic research, drawing from and contributing to several academic fields.
In my report, I have analysed dissertations, scientific reports, peer reviewed articles, books and contributions to edited volumes, all of which are making a scientific contribution to the diaconal field of knowledge. Among the contributors are several researchers affiliated to CRS in Uppsala, as well as other internationally well known researchers on the field, and junior researchers and PhD students.
The referenced research makes visible the broad contribution made by churches, diaconal associations and institutions to public welfare in the Nordic countries, historically and in the present day, through a wide variety of diaconal practices. My report also shows theological developments in the understanding of Diaconia as an integral dimension of being Church. An interesting part of the study has been to make visible the variety and complexity of the work performed by deacons, as well as differences and similarities in the understanding of the Deacon’s office in the Nordic Lutheran majority churches. One of the results from my study is the insight that deacons in different countries struggle with similar challenges of mandate and responsibilities, which is shown by comparison between several referenced studies. These challenges appear to be connected to gender and a low overall appreciation of social care in society and church alike. Some authors also argue this to be an expression of outdated interpretations of the Deacon’s office as humble or lowly service.
This interpretation has roots in a post-reformation misunderstanding of the meanings of the Greek diakon-terms used in the New Testament, which was shown by John N Collins in the 1990:s but is still affecting the understanding of the word Diakonia to this day. Among the referenced works are contributions from an international research project at University of Eastern Finland, aiming to correct some of these misunderstandings by retranslating texts from the patristic era. Other researchers are addressing the issue through theological analyses, or by relating empirical finds to theories of gender and power.
All in all, the referenced studies show that diaconal works in the Nordic countries expand beyond the concept of care, and engage in theological development, social innovation, social mobilisation and interreligious cooperation. My study makes a theoretical contribution by adapting the concentric model for Diakonia developed by Erik Blennberger (1946 – 2018), based on this empirical finding.
Lena is a Deacon in the Church of Sweden and during spring 2020 was based at CRS working on the report and master’s thesis detailed above collating and analysing Nordic diaconal research. Her full thesis can be found here
CHRONICLE NR 3, MAY 2020
CONTEMPORARY RELIGIOUS-ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE AND THE IMPACT OF THE MARKET
My research focuses on the effects of ongoing processes of marketization on religious organizations in the contemporary Western world. Propelled by the spread of neoliberal economy since the early 1980s, marketization has developed into one of the most socially consequential “megatrends” of late modernity. The concept of marketization generally refers to the process whereby late-capitalist and economistic values and imperatives make their ways into social and cultural domains and sub-systems that have traditionally been viewed as “non-economic.” Examples include the educational, charitable, nonprofit, and religious-organizational fields.
Starting from an understanding that social and religious change are always deeply interrelated to each other, I approach marketization as principally involving the penetration of market-associated discourse and terminology into new social organizational domains, including the religious-organizational domain.
In light of this perspective, I direct particular focus at the ways in which religious organizations have striven to respond to, align with, and adapt to new market-centered discourses and imperatives of organizational “effectivity” and “performance” by instigating their own internal processes of “religious-organizational marketization.”
Religious-organizational marketization refers to the process whereby particular religious organizations 1) adopt market-associated discourses, 2) integrate these as naturalized components of their own orders of discourse, and 3) varyingly strive to operationalize these discourses in actual practice.
Religious-organizational marketization is therefore to be understood as the result of a combination of mounting (both actual and perceived) external pressures and a series of active and conscious efforts on the part of religious-organizational actors themselves. As a result, the official discourse of religious organizations becomes increasingly marked by terms, notions, and imperatives such as “marketing,” “customer orientation,” “management,” “cost-effectiveness,” and “flexibility,” to name just a few. From the perspective of religious organizations themselves, such discourse is typically seen to offer new imaginaries for tackling a whole host of issues associated with continuing decline.
As a crucial complement to an examination of the proliferation of market-associated discourse, I also explore the concrete ways in which new market-associated discourses become tangibly materialized in the establishment of new administrative offices, working groups, working routines, training programs for personnel, etc.
To date, my research has mainly focused on processes of organizational marketization within the context of traditional, large, and long-established Western Christian churches who maintain extensive bureaucratic organizations and retain close structural ties to states and core social establishments. Cases include the Nordic Lutheran majority churches, the Church of England, and the seven denominations that comprise the traditional United States Protestant “mainline.” While remaining attentive to context-specific peculiarities and variations, my research ultimately aims to provide a theoretical framework on religious-organizational marketization that can be applied and tested on a trans-national and trans-denominational scale. As such, it also aims to provide a firmly empirically grounded investigation of a highly notable, but thus far largely overlooked, aspect of contemporary religious-organizational change.
Academy Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor Sociology of Religion, University of Turku
Guest researcher at CRS spring 2020
CHRONICLE NR 2, MARSCH 2020
WILL OUR CHILDREN LIVE IN DEMOCRACIES WHERE THEIR VOTING RIGHTS DEPEND ON HOW MUCH MONEY THEY MAKE, ON THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE STATE?
In the project “Contributivism: On Practices, Debates and Attitudes About Grounding Democratic Inclusion on Economic Contributions”, at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Research on Religion and Society at Uppsala University, a multidisciplinary research group studies contributivism, the idea that economic contribution grounds political influence in the form of franchise.
This idea may pave the way for greater economic inequality turning into political inequality, but, on the contrary, it may also lead to economic equality grounding claims for political equality. How do our attitudes towards voting rights, to whom should vote, for example, change when migrants’ financial contributions are often stressed, or when an increasing number of states sell citizenship, introduce investment visas and other golden ways into the citizenry at the core of democracy?
We want to find out if contributivism is making a comeback. We suspect it may. We aim to study its revival in Europe today by investigating: its institutional embodiments, i.e. practices making economic contributions a ground for enfranchisement directly or indirectly (e.g. practices involving golden citizenship policies or investor immigrant statuses); and then, its political prospects. The latterwill be studied in a two-fold way by focusing on what lawmakers claim and what the electorate believes. As for the first aspect, we probe partisan views on contributivism by studying parliamentary debates regarding laws and policies directly or indirectly regulatingfranchise. As for the second aspect we study popular attitudes on contributivism.
Contributivism may matter for the future of democracy and it is challenging to study. It requires both methodological innovation and theory development and, foremost, to see the elephant in the room: because citizenship is linked to franchise, when we choose who is allowed to enter a country, who is allowed to stay, who becomes a citizen, at the same time we determine indirectly who will constitute the electorate of tomorrow. Who is entitled to vote is a constitutional matter: the number of enfranchised members in a community determines whether we live in a democracy. It is ultimately a question concerning constitutional identity. Migration and citizenship policy affect the form of government, i.e. democracy, in a causal context that researchers have mostly failed to grasp in its entirety, let alone systematically studied. Perhaps because a different way of working is needed to see the big picture?
As a multidisciplinary research group, developing analytical tools, testing novel hypotheses to bridge the gap between methodologically different, but substantially contiguous outlooks on contributivism, we opted for a research design that builds on theory developmentpaired with systematic empirical studies: in-depth comparative studies of the laws enabling “citizenship for sale”, cross-national analysis of parliamentary debates and surveys on popular attitudes by means of conjoint analyses. This methodology was chosen because we need a multidisciplinary approach and cross-national comparisons to understand how contributivism is currently practiced and if it is making a comeback.
Patricia Mindus, Professor - Philosophy Department, Wallenberg Academy Fellow. Director Uppsala Forum for Democracy, Peace and Justice, Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University,
For more information about the project, please see Constributivism
CHRONICLE NR 1, FEBRUARY 2020
SAMVERKAN, TRO OCH ENGAGEMANG
Tro och religion är en privatsak. Så har vi lärt oss tycka i Sverige. Det gör att det finns dem som saknar förståelse och blir tagna på sängen när religion blir synlig i offentligheten. Min övertygelse är att tro och religion har en omistlig plats i samhället. Tro är mer än enskilda individers uppfattningar, mer än traditioner. Tro är för många människor oskiljbar från livsstil, livsval och värderingar. Det går inte att lägga det som genomsyrar en människa åt sidan, likt ett ytterplagg. Det är inflätat med allt det vi gör och är.
Det går förstås inte att acceptera alla uttryck för tro, vare sig de benämns som kristna eller relaterar till andra trosåskådningar. Tro kan vara ett kraftfullt sätt att ta makt över människor. Men att avfärda allt eller marginalisera en viktig del av samhällslivet är inte rätt väg att gå. Att kritiskt granska är en viktig del i arbetat med att förstå vår omvärld och vår samtid. Det är att ta människors religiösa upplevelser och identiteter på allvar. Här är teologi en forskningsdisciplin som uttolkar och granskar de religiösa traditionerna och bidrar till deras utveckling.
Centrum för mångvetenskaplig forskning om religion och samhälle är en plats där vi med akademins många arbetssätt ägnar oss åt studier av de sammanvävda föreställningarna om liv och mening, om Gud och skapelsetanke, om människans plats och uppgift i universum och hur det samspelar in i det vi kallar samhälle både i en lokal och mer global mening. Det mångvetenskapliga är en nödvändig akademisk kollegialitet. Tro och religion i samhället är så mångfacetterat att det inte räcker med en enda metod, en teori eller ett perspektiv. Som centrumbildning har vi också möjligheten att vara en bra samverkanspart både inom universitetet och forskningen, och till aktörer i samhället – arbetsplatser, intresseorganisationer, trossamfund och andra – som på olika sätt konkret formar människors gemensamma liv.
Samverkan är viktig inte främst för att synliggöra och begripliggöra tro och religion, inte heller endast för en kritisk granskning. När det är tyst i det vi kallar offentligheten om dessa frågor, när religionen förväntas ”hålla sig på sin kant” skapas ett utrymme för bilder som föder och göder misstänksamhet. Den uppfattningen krymper också synen på vad som är ett samhälle. Det vi i dag behöver är det motsatta: att lyfta fram mångfasetterade bilder av troende människor och verksamheter.
Det som kan ta sig uttryck som vardagliga liv som rymmer medmänsklighet, förundran inför det skapade, vikten av ansvar och omsorg, sång och bön mitt i det liv som levs på arbetsplatser, skolor, i mataffären och i fritidsengagemang. Likaväl som det handlar om strategiska beslut, om manifestationer för hållbart liv, om aspekter i folkrörelser. Engagemang, tro och religion finns invävt i det samhälle som vi lever i tillsammans. Frågan är hur vi kan göra det för det gemensammas bästa. Där bidrar forskning med klarsyn och eftertanke.
Cecilia Nahnfeldt, vetenskaplig ledare (CRS)
CHRONICLE NR 6, December 11TH 2019
To The Future and Back!
By Christina Lloyd
Meaning and meaning-making are heading into the future with speed in psychological and medical disciplines. A sense of meaning in life and a functional existential meaning-making process have been linked to both mental and physical health in much past research. As a licensed psychotherapist working with young people, my research area focuses on existential aspects of young people’s mental ill-health, with special attention to existential meaning-making, and emotion regulation. In line with this, my doctoral dissertation project (Lloyd, 2018) explored protective and risk factors for existential vulnerability among young women with mental ill-health concerns, in a clinical population.
Professor Wong in Toronto, Canada, has dedicated his life’s work and research to much the same field as I, though, building on logotherapy, and existential and positive psychology, where I build on contemporary relational psychoanalysis and the Scandinavian model of existential meaning-making. I quoted Wong’s work in my papers, and he also developed an interest in my research, and invited me to his summer school in 2019 to present my findings. Scholars from around the world, attended the summer school, titled: Transforming Trauma to Resilience through Meaning Therapy hosted by The International Network on Personal Meaning and The Meaning-Centered Counseling Institute. Many of the scholars taking part were practising psychologists and existential psychotherapists as well as researchers working in a variety of contexts. Several of those, including Professor Wong and his wife Dr Wong, work, in Canada, China and other countries, with young Chinese people suffering from mental ill-health problems. Problems often related to the former one-child policy and an early separation from parents, due to placement in boarding schools at an early age. Eating disorders and concerns related to meaning and crisis of meaning in particular were described to be present among this socio-culturally related group of young people. To meet the needs of this young patient group, facetime or internet-supported communication is often used for meaning-centered counseling and therapy. Professor Wong’s Meaning Therapy, is an integrative, positive existential approach to counseling and psychotherapy. In his teachings, Professor Wong emphasizes that Meaning Therapy focuses on the positive psychology of making life worth living in spite of the suffering and limitations, which are a part of all of our lives, and though that turning vulnerabilities to resilience and well-being.
After discussing my research with Professor Wong and colleagues from around the world, I am even more convinced that there is an urgent need for more research on existential aspects of young people’s mental-ill health in the Swedish cultural context. Specifically I see a need for defined meaning-interventions, following Professor Wong’s model, but based on contemporary relational psychoanalysis and the Scandinavian model of existential meaning-making, to be implemented and evaluated. Therefore, in cooperation with researchers at the Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre (CRS), Uppsala University, I am now planning a research project in this direction that will include institutions and organizations from both public and civil society, and representatives from different religious orientations.
Are you interested in this research project, please contact Christina Lloyd
For more details of the research presented briefly above see the following publications: Lloyd, af Klinteberg, & DeMarinis, 2015, 2016, 2017.
chronicle 5, october 7 th 2019
The Press release “Hotspot” approach is NOT the solution!
By RESPOND Project Consortium
The EC-funded international research project “RESPOND: Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond” calls for human-rights responses to the explosive situation at the refugee camp “Moria” and in the Aegean region.
After another fire in which a woman was burnt to death, on Sunday 29 September 2019, the inhuman and volatile situation of the “hot-spot” Moria on the Greek island, Lesbos attracted further worldwide publicity. The woman’s death on Sunday was the third in the last two months. An Afghan teenager was killed in a fight in August and a five-year-old boy was run over by a truck while playing in a cardboard box outside the camp in September. The camp, which is supposed to host just 3,000 asylum seekers, is notoriously over-populated, and now houses 13,000 people. The appalling condition of Moria camp is known and has been made public by a number of academic studies and NGOs including Doctors without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the Greek health service.
In the context of our own year-long academic commitment and research on the governance of the recent mass migration movements to central Europe, we have personally observed how this place has changed. It has turned into an area where aggression, violence, despair, depression, human trafficking (especially of young women) and a high suicide rate are dominating the everyday life of the arriving migrants. The “hot spot” Moria was established by the EU and the Greek government to bring order to the refugee migration movements in 2015 and 2016. However, instead of providing good governance, the hotspot approach has by-and-large failed. In fact, it has led to a highly chaotic legal and social situation where the dignity of the asylum-seeking migrants - as enshrined in international human rights and humanitarian laws such as the Anti-Torture Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Asylum System - is being trampled into the dust of the camp.
The hot-spot approach is described in the European Agenda on migration as one of the cornerstones of the new EU migration and asylum policy. It has failed due to the way it has been implemented within the EU-Turkey-Deal of 2016, which was mainly designed by the German government to stop the mass movements of asylum-seeking refugees through the Balkan route to northern European countries such as Austria, Germany or Sweden. The number of people returning to Turkey has been relatively small - the deal has never worked in the way that its originators intended. Instead, the deal, in connection with the hot spot system, has turned the Greek islands into a zone of deterrence and immobilization.
RESPOND project, consisting of 14 partner institutions, has conducted research in 11 countries in order to provide in-depth analysis to the responses given to the 2015 so-called “refugee crisis” both at policy and practice levels and to analyze the governance structures at both national and local levels within the EU. RESPOND had a specific focus on the narratives of asylum seekers and refugees and endeavored to understand the impact of mass migration on the lives of people. After almost two years of our research we have to summarize that the situation in the Aegean region is deteriorating again; the measures and policies like the EU-Turkey deal and the hot spot approach have failed to bring order to the forced migration flows, and in particular they are lacking essential human rights standards and legal (procedural) norms.
We have to remind all governments, especially the EU Member States, that refugee rights are an intrinsic part of human rights which have been clearly formulated in international conventions. It is not acceptable that people fleeing war and destruction in their countries of origin now face inhuman conditions on European territory.
We appeal to the governments and the EU Commission to go back to their own conventions and directives; develop human rights-based migration policies and long-term solutions for the governance of global migration. The Hotspot approach is NOT the solution!
Image above: Fire in Moria Camp through a cable burn on 29th of Septemer 2019. (image: RESPOND Project Team)
CHRONICLE 2, JuNE 5th 2019
A window to a new religious cosmopolitan world
It is a common thought that Sweden is becoming more and more secularized. That people and organizations are becoming less and less orientated towards religious beliefs and religious ways of living. However, simultaneously to this process, a religious revival is taking place right in front of us. In big cosmopolitan cities like London, Paris and Stockholm, Pentecostal migrant congregations are multiplying. In the Stockholm area we currently find among 100 Pentecostal migrant churches, of which approx. 70 have sprung up in the city stage since the year 2000.
In a newly started research project, Pentecostal Migration in Secular Sweden: Influences and Challenges, at the Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre, we will study this charismatic revival, that is a part of a global movement affecting cosmopolitan cites all over the world. http://www.crs.uu.se/pentecostal/
These churches, their growing numbers in Sweden and their global connections, has not yet attracted much attention. This research will therefore open a new window by investigating this religious revival in the capital of Sweden. This window will also make visible the many and diverse contacts these churches have in other parts of the world, both through the migrant’s nationalities and the profound international character of these churches.
The project is multi-disciplinary, with researchers from anthropology, church history, eccesiology, sociology of religion, theology, and constitutional law. This broad competence and scope will provide a comprehensive map of this unknown religious revival. But we will also provide an immense understanding of the life and faith of the new Swedes that form these churches.
Starting this fall, we have initiated field work in three churches in the Stockholm area, one Latin-American, one Arabic and one African church. Interestingly enough, in each one of them several nationalities are intermixed. It is a fascinating journey that has started to unfold, both the ones told by the Pentecostal migrants and the one undertaken by those of us who do the research. We visit services, meetings and conferences, conduct personal interviews with pastors and members, we follow their social media feeds and other outreach activities. Through this, the window that has opened slightly offers a rich material.
During the summer the growing number of migrant churches – of different denominations – will be highlighted during a seminar at Almedalen. Two of the project members– Magdalena Nordin and Torbjörn Aronsson – will take part and discuss religion as an important aspect of the integration of migrants. The question for the seminar: What is the role of religion in integration in Sweden today?, is a hot topic of the day and also of deep importance for the project. It is however not the only view that will be visible through this new window being opened, but that is a story that will be able to be told later on… http://www.crs.uu.se/pentecostal/
CHRONICLE 1, December 3th 2018
Philosophical analysis of the world-view of anthroposophy
by Oliver Lee
In September I received a one-year scholarship from Axel Margaret Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse for a philosophical analysis of the world-view of anthroposophy.
In the past century, anthroposophy has been one of the most well-known and influential alternative spiritual movements. There are worldwide over one thousand Waldorf schools, nearly two thousand kindergartens, and some six hundred social therapy facilities working in accordance with ideas from the anthroposophical worldview. Furthermore, ideas from anthroposophy have influenced and inspired ecological farming, alternative medicine, religion, the arts and architecture leading for example to the method of biodynamic farming or the foundation of Christengemeinschaft.
Anthroposophy does not regard itself as a religion or religious world-view. Steiner often emphasizes that the claims made in his world-view are based on a method close to the methods of natural science. This claim is for example reflected in the subtitle Some results of introspective observation following the methods of Natural Science of his foundational book The Philosophy of Freedom. Nevertheless, many features such as the distinction between the physical body, an etherical body, an astral body, and the "I", the use of the concepts of reincarnation and karma, meditation practices, implicit recommendations related to the way of living, or Steiner's esoteric teachings prompt associations of a supernaturalistic or a religious world-view. Given the clear and massive impact of anthroposophy on modern societies mainly in the Western hemisphere, but also elsewhere, a philosophical analysis including a constructive dialogue of the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of anthroposophy is well motivated. In recent years it has also been suggested to widen the scope of philosophy of religion which often has been restricted to the Christian tradition.
The aim of this project is to identify major epistemological and metaphysical claims within anthroposophy, to identify how Steiner originally argued for and justified these claims, to analyze and critically asses them, and also to attempt to engage in a constructive dialogue between contemporary academic philosophy of religion and anthroposophy.
At present, an article, which identifies and analyses ideas about reincarnation and karma within anthroposophy has been submitted for peer-review. Studying the epistemological approach in the early philosophical works by Steiner and the credibility, plausibility, and epistemological status of the results of Steiner's esoteric path of knowledge will be the next step in this philosophical analysis.