Refugees and religion

Peter van der Veer

- completed -

This project concerns the role of religion in producing refugees and assimilating them. While the emergence of nation-states with territorial sovereignty constitutes the core issue in the production of refugees, the relation of this historical process to religious understandings of purity and danger, martyrdom, as well as conversion, is neither sufficiently discussed nor understood. The book will address the religious underpinnings of notions of human and humanity. It will also examine research on empathy and trauma. Understanding religion from a material and corporeal perspective, the project not only addresses the ways in which refugees practice their religion - Islam, Hinduism, forms of Christianity, Buddhism – and convert or develop new faiths, but also how secular institutions and political ideologies frame what is, and what is not, religion according to the law, and delineate the limits of religious authority, religious practice, and religious speech. The project focuses on three cases: (1) the connection between state formation and the production of refugees in Europe since the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Catholic Spain and Portugal. (2) The partition between India and Pakistan in 1947 and its aftermath until today. The emergence of religious (Hindu and Muslim) nationalism in South Asia raises a number of questions about modern citizenship. (3) The production of refugees in three Indo-China wars since the 1950s, and the role of Catholicism and Buddhism in it. 

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