EXC 2060 A3-30 - Secularism as a (Post-)Colonial Challenge? Religion and Republicanism in Marseille, 1946-1989

Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
Type of Funding
Subproject in DFG-joint project hosted at WWU
  • Description

    This project examines the relationship between religion and republicanism in (post-)colonial France with a focus on the debates and negotiation processes around the key concept of "laïcité". A case study of Marseille from 1946 to 1989 forms the core of the project. This should decentre the view of the history of secularism in France in two ways. Firstly, we expect spatial decentring, by placing Marseille, a supposedly peripheral city, at the centre. The city not only represents extraordinary religious diversity, it is also located at the intersection of different processes of transfer and entanglement and, moreover, is a pivotal connection point between France and its (former) colonial empire. Secondly, this project is temporally decentring. It shifts the focus from the two peaks in French debates on secularity, at the turns of the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, and places it instead on the second half of the twentieth century. At this time, the "old" conflicts between Catholicism and the state had seemingly been put on hold but the "new" tensions between republicanism and Islam had not yet come to the fore of the agenda. Two other major developments in the relationship between religion and politics took place within this period: firstly, the transformation processes of the post-war decades, often labelled "secularisation" in the social sciences, and, secondly, the decolonisation that accompanied various migration movements. Both processes changed the religious landscape in France and brought a wide range of different beliefs and experiences in the relationship between religion and politics into play. This project explores how these shifts affected the ideas and practices around secularism and the extent to which the decades between the end of the Second World War and the late 1980s can be considered a formative period for the current struggles over religion, republicanism, and secularism in France. A study of this hitherto neglected period in the history of secularism allows us, so the thesis goes, to contextualise today's debates and conflicts historically and classify them in a more nuanced way.
  • Persons