Religion and the Politics of Identity
This chapter begins by briefly reviewing the two standard approaches to religion often regarded as the most widely discussed alternative perspectives on the relationship between religion and society: secularization theory and rational choice theory. It then discusses how practice theory and an emphasis on lived religion have focused attention on the intricacies of religious practice both outside and inside of religious institutions at the micro level of individual and small-group behavior and yet have failed to provide strong linkages with the macrolevel social structures and processes that interested scholars in earlier studies. The third section draws on studies of race and ethnicity to emphasize how the concept of symbolic boundaries serves as a useful way of thinking about religious categories and identities. The fourth section outlines the processes through which the identities defined by symbolic boundaries change over time and suggests how to bring in consideration of the influences on these processes of political arrangements, demographic factors, and social institutions. Finally, it suggests applications of this multilevel perspective to the analysis of religious actors' strategies of institution building, the dynamics of church and state relations, connections of religion to racial and ethnic politics, and the restructuring of religion.
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