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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: David M. Barry
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: Popular Perceptions of the Relationship between Religious and Ethnic Identities: A Comparitive Study of Ethnodoxy in Contemporary Russia and Beyond
Dr. Vyacheslav Karpov, Chair
Dr. Elena Lisovskaya
Dr. David Hartmann
Dr. Jerry Pankhurst
Date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
2526 Sangren Hall
The relationship between religion and ethnicity is well documented. However, previous efforts have usually approached these relationships as the converging of two socially constructed categories (i.e., religion and ethnicity). In doing so, the subjectivity, or the actor’s own understanding, is ignored from analysis and conclusions about them are drawn based on broader generalizations of particular groups, processes, and patterns. This study fills this gap by exploring popular perceptions about group identities and the imagined affiliation to ethno-religious communities. To accomplish this, a concept developed by Vyacheslav Karpov and Elena Lisovskaya is applied that captures the belief that affiliation to an ethnic group’s dominant religion is essential for constructing and maintaining the group’s identity. The empirical component of this study examines the scope of this belief system and how its beliefs correlate with other social, religious, and political orientations.
To apply this concept, a case was selected: post-communist ethnic Russians. The conflation of religion (i.e., Russian Orthodoxy) and ethnicity throughout Russian history makes this an ideal context. However, similar ethno-religious relationships are explored among other ethnic and national groups in Russia and beyond as well, thereby providing a comparative dimension to the analysis. Data from a Russian National Survey (2005) and several cross-national survey programs (i.e., International Social Survey Programme and World Values Survey) are used to test these relationships. Two major conclusions can be drawn from these analyses. First, the belief that an individual must affiliate with their ethnic group’s dominant religion is wide spread and deeply embedded among ethnic Russians. Moreover, there is evidence of such ethno-religious linkages beyond ethnic Russians as well, spanning different religious traditions, political economies, and socio-historical contexts. Second, belief in this specific ethno-religious ideology is significantly correlated to social, religious, and political orientations that emphasize intolerance, xenophobia, and protectionism. In sum, these findings support the usefulness of this concept as a valuable explanatory tool for understanding the popular perception of the relationship between religion and ethnicity and offers insight into the role of religion in modern society.