Religion and Civil Society

To facilitate comparison and contribute to an overall picture of the postsocialist religious landscape, all researchers are expected, in addition to the specific concerns of their own project, to gather at least basic data on the following subjects:

Religious practices in the socialist period - how are they remembered, for different periods and for different social groups?
Recent legislative changes - what is the legal status of religious congregations? Are they all treated alike? Is it necessary to register? What exactly are the criteria applied?
International aspects - do people look abroad for their models of proper religious practice? What new religious currents have appeared on the national scene in the postsocialist period? How do people perceive them, and explain their relative success or failure?
How far can religious observances of all kinds be linked to changing socio-economic conditions? Which marginalized elements take refuge in organized religion? Do they also have more diffuse recourse to religion outside organized congregations?
Is religion in general, a force promoting positive or at least negative tolerance in postsocialist societies? Are some of its organized currents more conductive to 'civil society' than others?

Whereas data on this last topic may be pertinent to several projects under way in Department I of this Institute ("Integration and Conflict"), the data on the legal status will be pertinent to work in the project group on legal pluralism. In the latter case we do not assume that changes in state law have necessarily worked through to other levels; several of our projects will investigate how local officials, both religious and secular, may counter or undermine the ideals, in both religious and secular law, which they are formally required to support and enforce.
In addition to contributing to postsocialist studies and several branches of anthropology, these projects will address numerous issues of still wider concern in the social and political sciences, among them how to define "civil society" and "public sphere"; and how to reconcile religious human rights with respect for traditions and the need to maintain social cohesion. Finally, the postsocialist countries may be an instructive setting in which to revisit the concept of "civil religion".

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