Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Postfach 90 02 21
I studied theology and chemistry at Tübingen University, where I received my PhD in 2004, with a specialization on social and political ethics. 2001-2004 I worked as academic coordinator of the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW). In 2004 I joined Utrecht University, where I work as Associate Professor of Ethics at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. In 2008-2009 I was research fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies NIAS.
Civil Relations under Conditions of Religious Diversity
Liberal democracies are committed to ideals of freedom and equality. The commitment includes the aspiration to ensure that people can choose and practice their religion freely, and that their civil, economic, political, and legal status is not affected by their religion. Political philosophers have developed a wide range of theories that are important in this context. However, recent scholarship and public political debates have challenged liberal egalitarian political philosophical approaches to religious diversity from different angles:
Critical scholars of religion argue that liberal egalitarian political philosophies cannot deliver on their promise to guarantee equal liberty to members of different religions. Rather, these philosophies tacitly favour religions resembling Protestant Christianity, because conceptual tools that appear indispensable for political liberalism originate from and are informed by this particular religion.
Conservative or culturalist-nationalist contributors to academic and public political debate, on the other hand, argue that liberal egalitarian theories of religious freedom fail to consider a special status of a historically grown ‘national culture’ and an alleged right of long-established majorities to preserve this culture and its material manifestations, including (culturalised) religious objects of a particular religion, such as crucifixes (but not objects of other religions) in public buildings, or public holidays like Christmas or Easter.
A further limitation is that existing political philosophy addresses religious diversity mostly in terms of legal regulations, whilst everyday practices of religious people have received considerably less attention. Consequently, there is a danger that political philosophy develops sophisticated approaches to religious diversity and freedom of religion, but that these theories cannot adequately grasp religion as it is actually lived and experienced by many people in their daily lives.
So far there is no integrated theory that is able to provide answers to the critiques mentioned above, and at the same time develops further liberal egalitarianism so as to be able to adequately deal with everyday religion. In my project I aim to fill this gap. Based on an empirical analysis of a number of actual controversies about religion in the public realm of liberal and democratic societies (e.g., offensive or ‘blasphemous’ pictures, refusals to shake hand with people of the opposite sex, public religious holidays and religious objects in the public domain) I propose a new theoretical approach to religious diversity in liberal-democratic societies that a) integrates insights from and responds to critique; b) contributes to a deeper understanding of religious diversity in Western European societies by analysing actual controversies on the level of social interactions outside the courtroom; c) provides criteria for normative analyses and resolutions of such issues beyond the level of legal regulations.
My proposal consists of a theory of civil social-material relations under conditions of religious diversity that comprises a notion of democratic civility and a political concept of religion.
Baumgartner, C. (forthcoming). Liberal political philosophy of Religious Difference after Saba Mahmood. Sociology of Religion.
Baumgartner, C. (2019). (Not) Shaking Hands with People of the Opposite Sex. Civility and Accommodation. In: Jonathan Seglow and Andrew Shorten (eds.), Religion and Political Theory: Secularism, Accommodation and the New Challenges of Religious Diversity. London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 119-135.
Baumgartner, C. (2017) Islamophobie und die Kulturalisierung und quasi-religiöse Färbung von Bürgerschaft in den Niederlanden. In: Walter Lesch (Ed.): Christentum und Populismus – Klare Fronten? Freiburg i. Br.: Herder Verlag, 126-135.
Baumgartner, C. (2017). Is There Such a Thing as an Offensive Picture? In: Christiane Kruse, Birgit Meyer and Anne-Marie Korte (Eds.), Taking Offense. Religion, Art, and Visual Culture in Plural Constellations. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 317-339.
Baumgartner, C. (2014). Re-examining an Ethics of Citizenship in Postsecular Societies. In: R. Braidotti, B. Blaagaard & E. Midden (Eds.): Transformations of Religion and the Public Sphere – Postsecular Publics. Palgrave MacMillan, 77-96.
Baumgartner, C. (2013). Blasphemy As Violence: Trying to Understand the Kind of Injury That Can Be Inflicted by Acts and Artefacts That Are Construed As Blasphemy. Journal of Religion in Europe, 6(1), 35-63.
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien Universität Erfurt Postfach 90 02 21 99105 Erfurt