Cfp: 2015 ECPR Conference (Montreal) – Section on Religion and Foreign Affairs

The General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) this year for the first time will take place in Northern America, more precisely, in Montreal, Canada ( The ECPR Standing Group on Religion and Politics organizes a panel on Religion and Foreign Affairs (

We would like to invite you to chair a panel and/or submit a paper, or to pass on this invitation to colleagues who might be interested.

We envisioned four panels on:
– theoretical and conceptual questions
– religious actors
– EU External Relations
– International Religious Freedom

Please find below the initial section and panel proposals. Feel free to use them or formulate new ones. Please also don’t hesitate to contact Mariano Barbato or Anne Jenichen to assist with coordinating panels (3-5 papers each). We would also appreciate panel proposals on other issues.

The deadline for panel and paper proposals is February 16.

Please use the online form via MyECPR (​ to submit a proposal.

For panel proposals you will need the following information:
•​The title of the Section
•Panel title
•Abstract (300 words)
•3-8 keywords
•(if applicable) Panel Co-Chair email address as registered with MyECPR
•(if applicable) Panel Discussant email address as registered with MyECPR ​

Paper details for 3-5 Papers as follows:
•​Paper title
•Abstract (150 words)
•3-8 keywords
•Presenter email address as registered with MyECPR ​
•(if applicable) Co-author email address as registered with MyECPR ​

If prospective Panel Chairs/Co-Chairs/Discussants/Presenters and Co-authors do not already have a MyECPR account, they can create one here: Forgotten passwords can be retrieved here: Please do not create multiple accounts, but ensure your MyECPR account is correct and up to date, showing the correct institutional affiliation. The details in MyECPR will be what is used for communication purposes and also in the academic programme.

Section 49: Religion and Foreign Affairs

Section Chairs:
– Dr. Anne Jenichen (University of Bremen,
– Dr. Mariano Barbato (University of Passau,

Section Abstract:
The role of religion in the foreign affairs of states and regional organizations is still relatively unexplored. Religion can influence this policy field through different avenues. Certain understandings of religion and secularism, for example, can become part of a state‟s or organization‟s identity, affecting how it interacts with others. Religious groups might have different ideas about goals and strategies than (secular) governments, therefore trying to influence their foreign conduct. Differing attitudes within their constituencies, some of them driven by religious affiliation, as well as their own religiosity, might also affect how policy-makers in democracies formulate their external policies. Last but not least, foreign policies often differ in how they deal with issues of religion abroad, whether they ignore them due to a secularist bias or incorporate ideas on religion in their understandings of problems and definitions of appropriate solutions. These policies, however, are not always only motivated by normative considerations. Strategic interests often have their share as well, leading to intended as well as unintended consequences on the ground.
The section seeks to further our theoretical and empirical understanding of the role of religion in the field of foreign policy. It focuses on the intertwining between „the religious‟ and „the secular‟ in the foreign affairs of states from a theoretical perspective. It aims at assessing the organization and impact of religious actors as key transmitters of religious ideas into foreign policy. The section furthermore explores whether and how religion matters in the foreign conduct of the alleged „stronghold of secularization‟, Europe. Last but not least, it scrutinizes policies of international religious freedom, which have become prominent in the foreign conduct of many states in the last couple of years.

Panel 1 – Westphalia Under Siege? Conceptualizing Religion in Foreign Affairs.
In the Westphalian system foreign policy is guided by the principles of sovereignty and secularity. States decide internally about the good life that may or may not contain references to religion. Foreign affairs, in contrast, are about national interest understood as security and wealth but lack any religious or spiritual dimension. According to the Westphalian legacy, the lack of a religious dimension is a condition for peace as religious quarrels would lead to endless strife. This ideal type failed already to cope with the influence of antagonistic world views from the French Revolution to the Cold War. Globalization and the return of religion challenge the very basis of the Westphalian system and its concept of foreign affairs. Today, the boundaries between inside and outside are blurred. States are integrated in an emerging public sphere where religions and secular world views become the sometimes contested and sometimes shared context of cooperation and conflict. While the erosion of sovereignty has been discussed broadly during the last two decades, the return of religion as a “dimension of statecraft” (Johnston 1994) has attracted less attention in the conceptualizing of foreign affairs. Nevertheless, religion is part of foreign affairs, from offices for religious freedom in the USA and Canada to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Holy See who all directly deal with religion. As Stacey Gutkowski (2013) argued, religion is even part of secular warfare. It is a case of empery contradicting theory.
What strands of theorizing can avoid this contradiction? What concepts of foreign affairs do we need to grasp the influence of religions? The panel welcomes theoretical, methodological and empirical papers that address these questions from the perspective of IR theory, sociology of International Relations, foreign policy analysis and normative approaches of international political theory.

Panel 2 – Religionizing foreign policy? Religious actors and networks
Religious communities and interest groups are key actors in transmitting and channeling religious ideas into politics. They have long been politically active on domestic policy issues. Less noticed, they also organize and lobby for foreign policy goals. Sometimes they do so on a purely national basis, but on many foreign policy issues, transnational and cross-faith networks play an increasingly important role.
How and why do religious actors seek to influence foreign policy? How do religious activists form linkages across national and denominational borders? Are these alliances purely tactical or do they pursue broader aims and have more lasting effects on the participants, their organizations and faiths themselves? How do the activists‟ religious identities influence their lobbying tactics? How, if at all, do these groups and their tactics differ from secular groups in the foreign policy arena? What are the dimensions of conflict between religious and secular actors? How effective have religious interest groups and networks been in influencing foreign policy? What explains different degrees of effectiveness? How do political institutions, organizational structure, and mobilization capacities of religious institutions affect whether and how they influence foreign policy? The panel invites empirical contributions which analyze the organizing, networking, lobbying tactics and effectiveness of religious actors in the foreign policy arena to assess their features and impact on foreign policy-making. It particularly welcomes papers which bring together empirical evidence with the theoretical interest group and social movement literature.

Panel 3 – European External Relations: Does religion matter?
In European studies, religion has long been a blind spot because the social sciences deemed religion a negligible force in Europe. Only after the secularization theory had lost much of its previous plausibility, the analysis of the religious dimension of the European integration process entered the academic agenda. Meanwhile, a wealth of studies has demonstrated the still political relevance of religion within Europe. However, the field of European external relations, with a few exceptions such as the role of religion in EU-Turkey relations, has been largely excluded from this research agenda so far. This is surprising since much of the interest of the European Union in matters of religion has first emerged in its external relations. Both the EU and several of its member states, for instance, have recently introduced principles and institutions into their foreign policies to promote freedom of religion and belief and to engage with religious actors.
Thus, to what extent does religion matter in European external relations? How do the EU and its member states deal with issues of religion in their foreign, security, development or other external policies? What has been the role of religion in European enlargement and policies towards the European neighborhood? Which ideas on religion and politics inform European external policies, and how and why have these ideas become effective? Why and how has the
international religious freedom and engagement agenda in Europe emerged, how has it been implemented, and what are its challenges and potential pitfalls? How do European approaches compare with respective policies of other liberal democracies, such as the US or Canada, or other regional organizations, such as the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) or the Council of Europe? The panel invites papers that empirically analyze respective policy developments in Europe, both single case studies and comparative research, based on different theoretical and methodological approaches.

Panel 4 – Religious Freedom: Neo-imperialism or Common Ground?
In scholarly discourses and in practitioner‟s discussions alike, foreign policy debates on religion saw in the last years the rise of an old concept: religious freedom. Religious freedom became a core concept for dealing with the international resurgence of religions. However, religious freedom is a contested term. While advocates of religious freedom see it as remedy for religious strife others criticize it as a neo-imperial tool to promote Western values and interests – secular liberalism and Christian mission alike. Despite critical voices, the USA, Canada and others have integrated religious freedom into their human rights agenda of foreign policy.
Is the concept of religious freedom a bridge into a more peaceful world or does it go too far for traditional world views and not far enough for individual human rights? What kind of concepts and actors inform the discourses of religious freedom? Who is implementing this agenda and to what end? What world views and aims do the discontents share or are they a very diverse group of people? What institutions – governmental, non-governmental and international – are set up or influenced through the concept? Do they matter? What effect does the concept of religious freedom have on the ground? The panel welcomes papers that discuss the theoretical concept of religious freedom, analyze the normative approaches for or against it, scrutinize the background of the opponents or test the validity of the conceptual claims on the ground.

Leave a Reply