CfP: Nation, State and Religion – Shifting Relations and Changing Loyalties in the Political Modernity

The National University of Public Service and the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies call for papers for the conference ‘Nation, State and Religion – Shifting Relations and Changing Loyalties in the Political Modernity’ to be held in Budapest on 3-4 June 2024.
Deadline for submissions: April 21, 2024

The keynote lecture will be delivered by DANIEL STATMAN / University of Haifa, whose many seminal books include State and Religion in Israel: A Philosophical-Legal Inquiry (with Gideon Sapir, Cambridge UP, 2018) and War by Agreement: A Contractarian Ethics of War (with Yitzhak Benbaji, Oxford UP, 2019).

Nation, State and Religion – Shifting Relations and Changing Loyalties in the Political Modernity

While the processes of state-building (in both imperial and non-imperial forms) and the institutionalisation of confessionalism have interacted for centuries in Europe, modern (cultural) nationalism as a new phenomenon has dynamized their cooperative and/or competitive relationship. In those regions (e.g. Central and Eastern Europe) where multi-ethnicity, multi-confessionalism and the malleability of state frameworks were simultaneously present, these three intertwined processes resulted in an even more complex interplay.

It is well known that one of the main factors in modern bureaucratic state-building was the desire to eliminate religious wars for good. The emerging bureaucratic states in Europe created different models of tolerance, state religion, subordination, and even subjugation. Finally, the political modernity, represented by liberalism, created a radically new framework for this centuries-old system of relations through the rigid separation of church and state. The emergence of modern states and the rise and spread of modern nationalisms – both transforming old empires and absolutisms, pointing increasingly towards the nation-state model that was slowly becoming the dominant one – had a profound impact on the role that religion had traditionally played as the main paradigm to interpret and shape the world in the West.

It is not just the overall phenomenon, as Benedict Anderson, among others, has pointed out, that nationalism is not so much a modern ideology as it is close to the religious dimension in the sense that it functions in ways that correspond to the needs previously met by religions. Broadly speaking, two complementary aspects of the same process must be stressed. One is the trend towards the re-politicisation and nationalisation of religion, the infusion of modern political concepts and values into religious language, and the nationalisation of religion in the service of national goals. The other side of the coin is the sacralisation of nationalism and the increasingly nationalised political discourse, the incorporation of sacral, even transcendental, dimensions into political language and messages. Both phenomena can be observed, for example, in state and religious propaganda during periods of military (mass) mobilisation, at least since the French revolutionary wars.

In addition, the relationship of individual denominations and churches to the state changed fundamentally compared to the early modern period. Nor can we expect a homogeneous process in this respect, since we cannot simply speak of the fulfilment of 19th and 20th century predictions that with the advance of modernisation, science and the secular state, religiosity would be pushed into the background. From the mid-eighteenth century, and the state-building efforts of at the latest, we can observe different responses to the challenges posed to religion by political and bureaucratic modernisation, as well as by nationalism, which can be broadly grouped into two main trends. Alongside secular nationalism, there were from the outset manifestations and political forms of religious nationalism, which can only superficially be interpreted as a reaction to the liberal principle of the neutrality of the state: at a deeper level, they can also be seen as manifestations of the interconnections that exist between the fundamental nature of religious and nationalist paradigms

The aim of the conference is to discuss the historical background of all these modern processes in the Western world (including Judaism and Zionism): how did the relationship between state and nation-building processes and the overall role of religion, as well as of denominations evolve in the 19th and 20th centuries? We are primarily interested in the thematic, temporal, and spatial aspects of these processes within the Western civilization, from the late eighteenth century to the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.

Not only proposals with a historical approach are welcome, but all relevant disciplines such as political philosophy, theology, social sciences.

Suggested topics:
– from tolerance to emancipation
– religious persecution
– secularization and religious revival
– denominational conflicts and cooperation
– religion in emerging nation-states and declining composite empires
– the problems of multiconfessionalism
– state religion and laicité
– civil and political religions
– the political use of religious symbolism
– religious elements of political languages
– nationalizing religions and sacralising the nations (e.g. Zionism)
– relations between religious and state/national loyalties and identities
– religious patriotism/nationalism
– confrontation, oppression, and resilience in the relations of religious minorities
and the modern (nation)state
– religious and public education
– patterns of cultural struggle (Kulturkampf)
– church, religious communities, self-government, and state intervention

The conference has no registration fees. For a limited number of participants who cannot benefit financial support from their institution, accommodation bursaries may be available. Interested
applicants should state this clearly in their paper proposals.

Abstracts of 300 words for 20 minute papers should be submitted to, along with the applicant’s name, a contact email address and a short (max. 200 words) biography.

All applications are welcomed and will be reviewed by the Organising Committee.


Nation, State and Religion – Shifting Relations and Changing Loyalties in the Political Modernity., In: H-Soz-Kult, 25.03.2024, <>.