Minorities and the media

The construction of religious identity in times of deep mediatization

Leader: Prof. Dr. Kerstin Radde-Antweiler
in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Dorota Hall, Polish Academy of Sciences

ZeMKI Lab "Medien and Religion"

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Mediatisation of religion has become one of the key themes in religious studies, especially the role of media in the construction of religious community, authority, and identity by believers and Churches alike. The reasoning behind it is that not only are mass media narratives powerful vehicles for conveying the covert or overt meanings of ‘religious identity’, but also that media use shapes and reshapes identity building processes. An example of this process is the ongoing marginalisation of Christian religious minorities in the media, which was deepened by the refugee crisis through extensive coverage in the mainstream news media of several European countries (such as the UK and Poland). This, in turn, has possibly affected the identity-building discourses of religious minorities. We will investigate the relationship between media production and religious identity construction within the conceptual framework of communicative constructivism. The main research question of the project is how Christian minorities construct their identity through religious media use. We argue that the representatives of minority Christian Churches use religious media (both intentionally and unintentionally) to construct the religious identity of their communities, and that this process is reflected in media use by religious actors, who create particular identity discourses by means of different outlets. The Orthodox and the 7th Day Adventist Church in Poland and the United Kingdom were selected as case studies by way of purposeful sampling within the ‘most different’ system design (Otner 2010). Neither of the Churches has been analysed with a similar comparative perspective. Deploying a combination of qualitative research tools and methods of data collection (media content analysis, episodic interviews) and data analysis (critical discourse analysis) will show what aspects of religious identity are crucial in the process of its construction, to what degree religious identities are related to the national religious milieu and the dominant religious identity narratives, and what power relations behind religious identity construction can be identified. This project will fill an existing void within religious studies, as it will investigate the relationship between media narratives and Christian minorities’ identity construction. Furthermore, the project will offer a comparative perspective, showing differences and similarities between the two countries, Christian minority Churches and religious milieus alike. International cooperation will benefit the project in three main domains: theory, method, and strengthening scientific relationships between Poland and Germany. First of all, the expertise of German partner within the topic of deep mediatisation, communicative constructivism and mediatisation of religion, merged with the expertise of the Polish partner in the domain of sociology of religion, and discourse analysis, will help build a complex and solid theoretical framework, which could be used for future projects analysing mediatised religion and religiosity. In the domain of method, the international cooperation in this comparative study will result in eliciting a reformulation of methodological tools and concepts adaptable to various mediatised contexts. In both cases, the expertise in method and empirical studies of both partners merged together will help develop solutions more appropriate to studying the changing media and religion landscape in Europe. Thus, the cooperation between Germany and Poland will help strengthen the scientific exchanges within the academia in both countries and will help disseminate novel theoretical and empirical approaches within both partner states.