Religion and Right-wing Populism

During his fellowship, Tobias will be pursuing a comprehensive and pluri-disciplinary research project that aims to examine the relationships between religion, secularisation and the surge of ethno-nationalist populism throughout Western societies. Specifically, the project seeks to examine three sets of key questions:

  1. To what extent has secularisation and the erosion of religious group identities contributed to the transformation of Western societies’ social cleavage systems, and the emergence of a new identity politics that pits communitarians against cosmopolitans? How has this development facilitated and shaped the surge of ethno-nationalist populism in many Western societies?
  2. What are the consequences of the erosion of the institutional churches’ voices in the public sphere for the use of religious themes, symbols and language by political actors in this context? To what extent does religious de-institutionalisation and growing religious illiteracy facilitate religion’s politicisation as an exclusivist cultural identity marker?
  3. How does the institutional arrangement of church-state relations in a given country impact such developments, and which models are more likely to inhibit ethno-religious conflict in secularising and increasingly diverse societies?

Pluri-disciplinarity, knowledge exchange and outreach are critical for this project, and it has been largely designed in conversation with policy makers, religious leaders and academics from different disciplines. The project intends to provide research results that can concretely inform current public policy debates about how best to respond to the rise of the new identity cleavage, and about the role that public theology might play in responding to the politicisation of religion as an ethno-cultural identity marker in Western societies.