Banal (Non)Religion: Secular Imaginaries in Contemporary Pop-Culture

In this project, we will answer the question of how secular imaginaries and worldviews are transmitted in popular culture through analysis of podcasts, comedy, films as well as qualitative interviews. Importantly, we aim to explore three key themes: 1) anti-religious discourse present in humorous expressions which mocks or expresses indifference towards religion, 2) the irrelevance or sidestepping of religion in depictions of death, a topic which in the past has been heavily associated with religious institutions and rituals, and 3) science as a central component in secular worldviews which is often posed as in opposition to religion.

The project will make at least two important contributions. First, it will contribute with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how secular worldviews are transmitted and how secularism is understood and expressed in contemporary Scandinavia. Secondly, the project will develop a new, innovative methodological approach for studying secular and nonreligious populations. The project thus offers new empirical insights of secular worldviews in Scandinavia, an innovative methodological approach, and taps into the young and burgeoning field of nonreligion studies as well as the study of popular culture.

The proposed project is structured around three work packages which combine media analysis with recipient studies of social media. The three work packages focus on analysis of i) religion-related humor, as expressed in stand-up comedy and podcasts, ii) secular depictions of death, funerals and rituals in Nordic films and iii) the transmission of secular and scientific worldviews through popular science podcasts and documentaries. The secular perspectives presented in these popular productions will then be teased out, and used as a basis for scraping social media data from public platforms analyzing how secular imaginaries are dispersed on social media. Using this social media data as a basis, key influencers and participants in these discourses will be identified and interviewed (with the aim of interviewing a minimum of 8-10 people per studied country).

About the project

The project runs between 2023-2026

Banal (Non)Religion: Secular Imaginaries in Contemporary Pop-Culture is funded by NordForsk.

Researchers and affiliated

Dr. Sara Evelina Lundmark (project leader)

Professor David Herbert, Bergen University

Associate Professor Sofia Sjö, Donner Institute

Dr. Anne Ludahl Mauritsen, Århus University

Senast uppdaterad: 2023-12-04