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Ephraim Yuchtman-Yaar, Yasmin Alkalay and Tom Aival

Ethnicity and religious identity are two major interrelated cleavages within the Israeli-Jewish electorate. Previously, ethnicity’s effect had a stronger impact on voting patterns, while today religious identity is more influential. Former studies conceived religious identity in terms of levels of observance, such as Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox. We claim that each of these groups has unique characteristics independent of degree of religious identity. To test this hypothesis, we measure religious identity as a nominal variable, applying an interactive model that compares the effects of the pairings of religious identity and ethnicity to a common baseline. Data from before the 2015 elections reveal that religious identity has stronger effects than ethnicity: religious groups support the right more than the secular. However, the ultra-Orthodox tend to support the right to a lesser extent than other religious groups. In closing, we compare the role of religious identity in Israel to its status in today’s world.

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Ambivalent Atheist Identities

Power and Non-religious Culture in Contemporary Britain

Lois Lee

In Britain, most non-theists and atheists do not identify themselves as such in explicit terms, yet non-theistic cultural threads are interwoven through everyday discourses. This article calls for more extensive ethnographic engagement with these more diffuse—and therefore less visible and less commonly researched—forms of non-religious culture. Based on exploratory fieldwork conducted in South East England, it draws attention to one set of these indistinct non-religious forms: 'authentic' and 'inauthentic' ambivalent atheist and non-religious self-understandings and self-representations. It demonstrates how these identities may be subjectively meaningful and culturally significant and how they may be simultaneously empowering and disempowering. Scrutiny of ambivalent atheist identities points to complicated dynamics between non-religion and power and the value of attending to poorly or unmarked non-religious cultures through ethnographic work.

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The Women of the Wall

A Metaphor for National and Religious Identity

Pnina Lahav

The Women of the Wall wish to participate in communal prayer in the women's section of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Their practice is to pray as a group, wrap themselves in a tallit, and read from the Torah scroll. They represent Jewish pluralism in that their group includes Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular women. They represent openness to change in that they base their claims on Halakhic interpretation, thereby embracing the capacity of Jewish law to evolve. This article reviews the resistance of the religious and political establishment in Israel to their claim and their struggle, unsuccessful so far, to get recognition.

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Negotiating between Shi’a and Catholic Rituals in Iran

A Case Study of Filipina Converts and Their Adult Children

Ashraf Zahedi

Religious rituals, while comforting for believers, may be uncomfortable for those who do not share their manifold meanings. Catholic Filipinas who marry Muslim Iranian men face mandatory conversion to Islam, necessitating ongoing negotiations between Christianity and Islam. My research suggests that these Filipinas held their first religion dear while participating in – for them – unpleasant Shi’a Muslims rituals. Their Filipino/Iranian children, familiar from birth with Shi’a Islam, felt at home with both religions, no matter which one they chose for themselves. The discussion of converts’ perceptions of Shi’a rituals contributes to the literature on transnational marriages and marriage migration.

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The Eucalyptus Tree and the Talmud

The Return to a Jewish Literary Heritage as a Post-Zionist Jewish identity

Moshe Lavee

In this essay I wish partially to portray one aspect of the gradual dissolving of the clear-cut polarity of religious identity in Israel of the past three decades. The former dichotomy, which presented orthodoxy, identified with Torah study, faith and religious observance, on one side, and secularism, as the inverse identity of orthodoxy, on the other side, is changing. In order to demonstrate it I will present a collage of Israeli poetry, liturgical music and popular songs.

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Russian Christ

The Struggle of the Russian Orthodox Church to Introduce Religion into the Curriculum in the First Decade of the Twenty-first Century

Victor A. Shnirelman

Interest in the social role of religion, including religious education (RE), is on the increase in the European Union. Yet whereas Western educators focus mostly on the potential of religion for dialogue and peaceful coexistence, in Russia religion is viewed mostly as a resource for an exclusive cultural-religious identity and resistance to globalization. RE was introduced into the curriculum in Russia during the past ten to fifteen years. The author analyzes why, how, and under what particular conditions RE was introduced in Russia, what this education means, and what social consequences it can entail.

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Aidarbek Sulaimankulovich Kochkunov

This article is an ethnographic exploration of three topics regarding the practice of religion in contemporary Kyrgyzstan that provides insights into the spiritual life of Kyrgyz people in local communities. The topics are features of religiosity as expressed in rituals, the nature of personal and shared beliefs inherent in the performance of ceremonies, and the influence of religious identity on relationships among family, kin groups and communities. Through extensive research about religion and ritual in various areas of Kyrgyzstan, changes over time are examined. Although at times the differences among people adhering to more traditional versus the more newly emerging Islamic approaches to death ceremonies and monuments may cause conflict among relatives, in general such rituals and markers provide opportunities for social integration and common identity.

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Jonathan Elukin

The article explores Shakespeare’s secularized retelling of the Christian theological narrative of deceiving the Devil, with Antonio playing the role of Christ and Shylock as the Devil. The article argues that recasting the contest between Christ and the Devil in the world of Venice sets the stage for Shakespeare’s larger exploration of the pervasive nature of deceit in human affairs. Although it seems that Shakespeare’s characters are resigned to live in a fallen world where truth is obscured, Portia’s invocation of mercy may be Shakespeare’s attempt to offer some hope of an earthly salvation. The article argues that this portrait of a world filled with deception resonated with Shakespeare’s audience. Men and women in early modern England lived in a world where they often had to hide their religious identities and loyalties. This interpretation challenges more recent attempts to see the play as primarily concerned with race and tolerance.

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'I Am Muslim but I Am the European One'

Contextual Identities among Muslims from Western Macedonia in Everyday Practices and Narratives

Anna Zadrozna

Muslims have been present in the Republic of Macedonia for more than five hundred years, yet they remain constantly under discussion. Contemporary Muslims negotiate various ethnic or national identifications and differently evaluate their past. Moreover, while many Macedonian Muslims migrate to Western Europe and thus engage in transnational practices, many of them are trying to place themselves between what they conceive of as 'modern-European' and 'religious-traditional'. In this essay I present some of the everyday practices and narratives in which Muslims from the western part of the Republic of Macedonia discuss their religious identities. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork, I describe vernacular perspectives on 'Muslim identity' in relation to nationality, ethnicity, gender and local tradition, and I analyse the ways in which different modes of identifications are being performed and presented. By illustrating various contexts in which Muslim belonging is being emphasised and labelled by social actors, I envisage its symbolic meanings in perspective of local and global hegemonies.

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Interreligious Cultural Practice as Lived Reality

The Case of Muslim and Orthodox Shepherds in Middle Albania

Eckehard Pistrick

This essay provides grass-roots insights into interreligiosity in Middle Albania. I focus on two individuals, Muslim Arif and Orthodox Anastas, to show how notions of cultural intimacy prevail over hegemonic discourses on religious identity that have re-emerged in postsocialist and 'post-atheist' Albania. The process of religious revitalisation took place simultaneously with a pervasive reshaping of local cultural identity. These discourses give simultaneously an opportunity for religious differentiation and symbolic contestations, as well as for diverse collaborations on a social, cultural and economic level. I illustrate how cultural intimacy is performed and cultivated as a shared practice of multipart singing, and understood by the local shepherds not as a marker of difference but as common ground for mutual dialogue. By sharing the social activity of singing the shepherds do not only form a 'sonic community' but also celebrate an interreligious 'community of friends'.