SISP Conference (Florence, 12-14 Sept. 2013)

The standing group on ‘Politics and Religion’ of the Italian Political Science Society (SISP) organizes four panels in English at the next annual conference of the association that will be held in Florence (Italy) on 12-14 September 2013.
Conference website:
Deadline: 15 May 2013

To propose a paper, send an abstract of about 200 words to the chairs (see addresses below, for each panel).
1) Religious organizations in the local political sphereChairs: Xabier Itçaina ( and Alberta Giorgi (
: The relationships between religion and politics are a topic usually dealt with from a national or international perspective. Nevertheless, the changes in the contemporary political systems, in Europe and abroad, reshaped the hierarchies between the local and the national spheres on a number of policies. Specifically, the processes of devolution and subsidiarization of policies, as well as the cooperation between private and public organizations (especially in the field of social services) under the horizontal governance perspective, increased the importance of local politics. For instance, the local scale is particularly relevant as constituting the arena where public authorities, private actors, religious and secular “third sector” organizations manage – or not – to constitute efficient
networks of governance in the welfare field. These local arrangements constitute an implicit form of regulation of public life by religious actors that, in some cases, might not coincide exactly with the sociopolitical preferences of the religious central authorities. In addition, politicized controversies on symbolic issues often take place at the local level –the debates over the localization of mosques in Italy, for example, and, more broadly, the issues dealing with religion in public life. Moreover, grassroots religious organizations and associations have an important and increasing political role – in Italy (movements for public water and against discrimination, renewed engagement of religious associations in politics,…), and abroad (Indignados, Arab Spring…). This panel aims at exploring the political involvement of religious associations and organizations at the local level. Papers’ topics include (but are not limited to): religious associations and political movements, third-sector religious organizations and local policies, interactions between religious and political identities. Papers dealing with empirical cases are more than welcome.

2) Religion in Secular International Contexts: Religious Norm Entrepreneurs and International Institutions
Chair: Gregorio Bettiza (
Abstract: Over the past decades an exponential growth in religious advocacy and lobbying has occurred towards international institutions that are deeply embedded and anchored to the secular structures of the ‘international liberal order’ (Ikenberry). These institutions range from the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Financial Institutions. This panel theoretically interrogates and empirically investigates the discourses, strategies and mechanisms adopted by transnational religious norm entrepreneurs to advance their concerns within secular international institutions. The panel seeks to address, among others, the some of the following questions. When, under what circumstances, and which religious norm entrepreneurs succeed in their advocacy efforts? Which type of religious norms have, and have had, the greatest chances of being diffused and why? In which ways and how have international institutions changed, if al all, to accommodate religious norm entrepreneurs? What distinguishes international institutions that are more accommodating to the claims of religious actors from those who are less?

3) Religion and democracy in Italy’s ‘second republic’
Chairs: Luca Ozzano ( and Marco Marzano (
Abstract: Italy is a very interesting case in terms of relation between religion and democracy, both because of the presence in Rome of the Vatican (which has always implied peculiar relations between the Catholic Church and the Italian state) and for the decades-long rule of the Christian Democracy (DC) party. In the latest decades, however, the role of religion in the Italian political system has experienced changes that have been only partially acknowledged by the literature: both as a consequence of wider socio-economic processes, such as secularization and migration flows (which have turned the country from predominantly Catholic to increasingly pluralistic); and as a consequence of the demise, at the beginning of the 1990s, of the old party system (including DC) because of a wide bribery scandal. With the collapse of the party, and the fragmentation of Catholics in left-wing and right-wing factions and parties, a new era seemed to start. To begin with, the Catholic Church started to play a direct role in politics through the so-called ‘cultural project’ of the CEI, the organization of the Italian bishops. On the other hand, new political actors, both from the left and from the right wing of the political spectrum, started to exploit religious and moral issues (albeit with different frames) in order to garner the votes of the Catholic constituency. Several moral issues, from the presence of the crucifix in public offices, to gay unions, have thus become points of contention in the Italian public debate. The panel will take into account these subjects, in order to cast a new light on the role of religion and religious issues in Italian democracy after the beginning of the
so-called ‘second republic’. Qualitative as well as quantitative empirical studies are welcome, as well as comparative ones, both written in English and in Italian.

4) Islamism in the Arab world: between elections, street politics and armed struggle
Chairs: Francesco Cavatorta
Abstract: The Arab Spring has once again led analysts and policy-makers to focus their attention of Islamist movements and parties, which have become the main beneficiaries of the changes of the last two years in the region. However, different groups have responded differently to the new opportunity structures that the Arab Spring opened up. The purpose of this panel is to examine the theoretical and comparative perspectives on the ways in which Islamist groups acted in the wake of the Arab Spring and what explains their specific strategy and choices. How have some movements come to the decision to participate in elections? Conversely how have other movements in a similar setting decide to continue with street protests, refusing to engage with the new institutions being built? What explains the choice of military struggle as in Syria? Was it the inevitable response to regime’s repression or did other factors come into play?