CERI (Sciences Po Paris) – GSRL (EPHE/CNRS) – IRSEM – CESPRA (EHESS)
Religious Actors in the International Sphere
3-4 December 2018 at the CERI and the Ecole militaire, Paris
Call for papers
Deadline for responses: 15 September 2018
The role of religious actors in the international public sphere is no longer easy to
define. We observe a growing involvement of such actors in international issues, be they
diplomatic, military, economic, social or cultural. Yet, at an analytical level, theories of
international relations do not always pay sufficient attention to them, considering that they
have only “supporting roles” in the global scene compared to the United-States, international
organizations or even to non-state armed groups.
Nevertheless, the modes of intervention adopted by religious actors are numerous,
varied and significant at the political level. What characterizes the presence of such actors is
the way in which they mobilize cultural, social and anthropological imaginaries while at the
same time elaborating different strategies to accentuate their religious claims. Therefore, the
question that arises is two-fold: In what ways do religious actors proceed in order to defend
their own agenda? And, how do States and international organizations use religions and
religious actors to reach their own objectives that are confessional as much as political?
When the Catholic Church talks about ecology, for instance, it implies an “integral”
ecology which understands fighting against the right to abortion or “trans-humanism”, as we
have witnessed during the papacy of Jean-Paul II and Benedict XVI. International institutions
as well become the centre of preoccupations for religious groups such as the Orthodox
Church, which attempt advancing critical stances against liberalism at the European Council.
The political actors themselves also capitalize on religious discourses: The interdependence
between the Wahhabi ideology and the Saudi diplomacy is as obvious as Iran’s determination
to extend its influence into Iraq, relying on the Shiite community which is historically close to
It is crucial to understand how religious or political leaders defend their ideas and
norms in the context of globalization, which favors not only their propagation but also their
fragmentation. How do these actors blend in the international arena fashioned by the States
and transnational organizations? In what manner do the States and transnational organizations
rely on religious factors having strategic and symbolic purposes?
The subject of this conference, organized by the Ph.D. candidates of CERI, GSRL,
IRSEM and CESPRA, consists in examining thoroughly this constellation of questions, a
constellation which is willingly kept comprehensive yet clustering around a common thread:
How can we conceptualize the re-composition of the place of religions within international
affairs and their connections to States and transnational organizations?
One of the main goals of the conference consists in better incorporating the
Francophone research into the international scientific debates on the place of the religious
factors in the international sphere and the process of globalization. We believe that this
essential issue in contemporary international relations and public debates does not attract the
deserved attention in the Francophone social and political sciences.
The three main axis of this conference are described below.
Axis of the Conference
1. Modes of visibility adopted by religious actors in the international sphere
This first axis aims at providing an overall picture illustrating the visibility of religious
actors in the international scene, paying particular attention to the following three points:
• The typology of the religious actors’ visibility in the process of globalization. We are
going to concentrate specifically on the diversity of actors making reference to
denominational themes and symbols: States (Iran, Saudi Arabia, and so on), Churches
(the Holy See, and so on), confessional NGOs, political parties (the Muslim
Brotherhood, among others). We would like to better comprehend different types of
religious actors, their sociological characteristics as well as their particularities.
• We would also like to point out the diversity of themes broached by the religious
groups such as gender, sexuality, and minority rights, to cite but a few examples. It is
also important to note that religious themes and symbols reappear in certain other
areas where they are less expected such as economic growth, cultural productions,
education, and environmentalism and so on. How do religious actors appropriate these
themes? For what purposes? What does the specifically confessional treatment of
these issues mean?
• Finally, we would like to study transnational regimes and organizations (the European
Union, European Council, UNO, UNESCO) in which these actors have become more
and more visible, to the extent that confessional networks within the transnational
organizations constitute one of the privileged spaces of action in the international
2. The registers with which religions are internationalized
The second axis explores the ways in which religious actors have imposed their agenda in
the global scene by deploying the means available in the international system. Hence, the
interlocking relations between the State of Law and liberalism should be illustrated in this
axis, considering that the area of Human Rights appears to be a platform of intervention as
well as an object of contestation. Several registers merit our attention:
• How do religious actors, faith communities or States that lean towards a confessional
diplomacy impose their concerns to transnational organizations in particular and to the
international scene in general?
• The Human Rights question appears to be fundamental in this context. Certain
minorities claim the freedom of religion in order to legitimize the visibility of their
practices. What does the concept of individual liberty come to mean in this context?
How can we explain the fact that religious claims mobilize the fundamental rights?
Furthermore, certain actors such as the Vatican proclaim to establish a religious base
for European societies coined as “subjectivist” or “relativist.” What kind of
interpretation is then proposed to define fundamental rights in this conjuncture? In
which frameworks can any public authority with a theological base intervene on the
questions related to Human Rights issues?
• In some circumstances certain religious actors reject the right to freedom of expression
in the name of refusing the antireligious critiques and in the name of “blasphemy.”
This strategy of contesting one of the building blocks of modern democracy has been
elaborated through multiple registers leading to questioning the principle of free
speech. What kinds of social constellations are at the origin of this contestation? What
are the modalities of their intervention in the public sphere? What are their intellectual
3. Religions, conflict and peace
Finally, we would like to contribute to a better integration of the religious factor into
strategic studies. The practical difficulties of States with regards to the globalized terrorist
groups (particularly Al-Qaeda) become very often the subject of debates. However, in a
complementary manner and to avoid usual readings that are strictly related to security issues,
it is also important to take into account the phenomenon of the mediation set about by
confessional NGOs or Churches and religious groups as a means of facilitating the exit from
armed conflicts (e.g. Sant’Egidio). Last but not least, from a normative point of view, we
would like to explore eventual venues through which it would be possible to improve the
training of political decision-makers or military staff faced with these phenomena. How can
we assure that the decision makers within the state apparatus could accede to scientific
information on religious phenomenon?
• Deadline for applications: 15 September 2018
• Proposals should be a maximum of 450 words, including the title and the central
problematic of the presentation.
• Send your proposals to the following email address: email@example.com
• The disciplines concerned are: Political Sciences, International Relations, Sociology,
Anthropology, Religious Studies, History and Law.
• The Area Studies specialists or those focused on a specific religion are invited to present
papers dealing with transnational aspects of the phenomena cited above.
• The time period covered in the papers should be between the 1970s to today.
• The language of presentations will be French and English.
• Established scholars as well as graduate students and post-docs are welcome.
Scientific committee: Alain Dieckhoff, Jean-Vincent Holeindre, Philippe Portier
CERI and IRSEM: Etienne Dignat (CERI/IRSEM), Isabel Ruck (CERI)
CESPRA: Zehra Cunillera
GSRL: Pierre Baudry, Lucian Cirlan, Maryam Mouzzouri