Axis 9 — Gender, Religions and Secularisations

In various political-religious configurations, both conflictual and more or less consensual, gender occupies a central place, which must be defined and explored in greater detail. The field of religion, of secularisation (in its different meanings) and secularism is in fact one of the least explored from the gender perspective, despite its importance in modern socio-political configurations. Opening up this interdisciplinary field is vital to our understanding of how gender is both the result and the tool of various forms of power and of negotiations in highly contrasting political and religious contexts. It is a structural element of political, social, religious and cultural power relations, which take on multiple forms; it is constructed in and through these relationships. Different actors employ gender as a language of identification and religious belonging. The religious variable blurs the lines between the private and the public, as evidenced by the controversial debate around the place of religious symbols in the public space or the questions of personal status.

These questions can be tackled on several different fields. Legislative processes, opinion debates and political demands show the political and religious stakes of gender and are likely to shed light on the different types of tensions that exists between individual societies, states, religious authorities and religious groups. The most obvious question concerns human rights: the rights of women (education, political rights, personal status which continues to be ruled largely by religious norms), reproductive rights (especially the right to abortion), sexual rights (see LGBT) and bioethics.

Gender at work in different societies is one of the key analytical tools to examine the relations between the process of laicisation (a separation between the state and the church, which is linked to political and state-level decision) and the broader process of secularisation, of the abandonment of religious norms on the cultural, cognitive and social level. The hypothesis of de-secularisation should be examined through a gender lens: what parts of the areas of "morality" and social regulation is the political sphere ready to cede to religion?

The questions of religious norms, their development and change should also be approached in terms of their inner consistency (theological, legal and symbolic), their goal of governing bodies and sexualities, their confrontation with gender mutations, their adaptability (especially regarding the processes of inner secularisation) or, on the other hand, their various fundamentalist tensions.

In this context, we must also raise the question of women’s access to religious authority and of theological readings that contest the unequal gender and sexual order. Finally, the question of representation and of the imaginary constantly interacts with the political and religious questions of gender. Religious legacies, which are reinvested and reinvented, produce gendered imaginaries that continue to have effects on the political sphere and the common sense. It is also useful to look at how religious symbols of femininity and masculinity — or symbols inherited from the world of religion — are reworked by cultural, literary and artistic productions, and understand the links between the de-sacralisation of the human body as a source of aesthetic pleasure and the different forms of secularisation.