What is IMPACT?
The Impact of Religion: Challenges for Society, Law and Democracy is a research programme at Uppsala University, taking its point of departure in the following observations:
- religion is increasingly visible in public life;
- this visibility should be seen in the context of human rights, global migration and continuing technological and general social change;
- the nation state and – more specifically – the Nordic welfare state is in the process of change; this in turn affects a wide variety of actors, including religious communities;
- taken together, these factors provoke new cultural and religious questions, which challenge our understandings of democracy, international co-operation, law, healthcare and existing outlooks on life;
- the study of religion requires both multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches
Since the start IMPACT has involved around 80 researchers from six university faculties and more than 30 academic disciplines, exploring how the increased visibility of religion translates into substantive changes in Swedish and Nordic society. The changing place of religion is analysed in relation to the complex social, cultural, legal, political and economic transformations taking place in Sweden, in Europe at large, as well as globally. IMPACT studies both how religion is affected by, and how it affects, the rapidly changing societal context. Around 70 shorter or longer research projects has been accomplished.
The uniqueness of IMPACT lies in the rich interdisciplinary approach, the combination of issues studied, and the diverse methodologies and theoretical positions applied to understand the issues at stake.
Results are expected to be relevant for the notion of religion in legal, political and social policy contexts as well as for future research on e.g. secularisation, democracy, minorities, law, welfare organisation, health and identity formation.
In the mid-term evaluation report after the first five years, the international panel stated:
“IMPACT brings together innovative development of theoretical and analytical frameworks and practical relevance….Considerable time is required to engage in genuinely innovative interdisciplinary activity becoming transdisciplinary. IMPACT is spearheading a paradigm shift in the respective fields….The IMPACT research environment is poised to make a highly significant contribution to research on religion and society in Sweden and beyond.“
The evaluation report recognised the IMPACT research environment as a Centre of Excellence. This research environment will after the ten year IMPACT-programme continue to be managed by Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre (CRS). Building on experiences and results of the six thematic areas, multidisciplinary research will be developed and accomplished for many years ahead, thereby contributing to continuous new knowledge and insights in the field of religion, law and society.
This website gives a brief overview of the broad research of IMPACT and the researchers involved at the time of printing. We invite you to contact the researcher(s) in your field of interest for possible exchange and collaboration!
The aim of IMPACT
The aim is to examine these issues, both individually and together, seeing them as integral parts of the social, legal and religious transformations of Sweden and the Nordic countries, at the beginning of the 21st century. The basic question concerns how the increased visibility of religion translates into substantive changes in Swedish/Nordic society. The essence of IMPACT lies in the complex economic, social, political, legal and cultural transformations currently taking place in Sweden. Religion both influences and is influenced by these changes.
Sweden is an advanced, post-industrial society where individual autonomy and human rights constitute core values. Sweden, however, is also part of the European integration process and of a turbulent global community. As a result, global flows of people, capital, technology and ideas are transforming the political, legal and religious landscape of Sweden.
These transformations have resulted in growing uncertainty about the nation state, established institutions and accepted values. More precisely, increasing levels of migration have introduced “new” social and religious values into Sweden, which in turn raise new and difficult questions. These relate to individual and collective rights, to the foundation and function of the family, to the role of the churches and religious organisations in public life, to the definition of health and well-being and to the construction of both secular and religious worldviews.
Sweden and the other Nordic countries have in a comparatively short space of time developed from poor farming communities, with well integrated state-churches, into modern industrial societies and further into late-modern societies. The Swedish service-based society of today is characterised by progressive legislation and an emphasis not only on secular-rationalism and self-expression but also on consensus decision-making. A relatively homogeneous Sweden is however undergoing a process of change, which raises new cultural and religious questions, challenging deeply held assumptions. The answers to many of these questions are far from clear and require solid empirical research and careful legal analyses.
IMPACT addresses these developments and challenges from a wide range of disciplinary approaches; political and social sciences, law and legal studies, theology and religious studies, philosophy of religion, history of ideas and medicine, etc. Different disciplines come together within as well as between the themes. Similarly diverse are the methodologies employed: these vary from quantitative analyses through a range of qualitative methods, analyses of international agreements, legislation, case law, comparisons of different systems of law and historical analyses.
Issues of the significance of religion are examined a) at a philosophical meta-level, e.g. in the field of religion and science, b) at a macro-level concerning economic and infrastructure changes e.g. in the fields of state and religion and media and religion, c) at a meso-level, e.g. in the field of law and religion and civil society and religion, d) at a micro-level, e.g. in the field of health and religion and values and religion. The research critically examines both existing and alternative paradigms. It challenges the often rather narrow and stereotypical conceptions of the relationship between religion and modern democratic society found in media and political discourse.
The adopted interdisciplinary approach has been seen as ground-breaking and attracted positive international attention from an early stage. For several of the participating disciplines the inclusion of the notion of religion or faith is innovative, which has meant the introduction of new research questions, new sources and new methods. This is particularly the case in relation to the area of law, in which questions relating to religion have received renewed attention and increased in importance. The final few years of the programme will entail a deepening of interdisciplinary research cooperation, in particular in the form of joint publications and other forms of dissemination/outreach.
With its broad range of researchers, comprehensive research activities and long-term organisation, IMPACT is an active international collaborative partner. The different thematic areas are all involved in a wide variety of collaborations as is IMPACT as a whole.
IMPACT receives many enquiries from international researchers and doctoral students regarding collaboration and/or visits to Uppsala and work places are reserved at Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre (CRS) for guest researchers to facilitate such visits.
One particular initiative undertaken by IMPACT is the creation of an international network for the research directors of major research programmes/centres focusing on the role of religion in society, called the “Uppsala Religion and Society Research Directors Colloquium”. The Colloquium is arranged by personal invitation every other year, providing a forum for on-going collaboration at programme/centre level in order to discuss theories, methods, new developments, scientific challenges and new forms of research collaboration.