Constructing and Representing the New Religious Diversity with Old Classifications: ‘World Religions’ as an Excluding Category in Interreligious Dialogue in Switzerland

In: The Critical Analysis of Religious Diversity

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Since the early 1990s, in Switzerland numerous interreligious dialogue initiatives came into being. Usually, the initiatives assemble more or less the same spectre of religious traditions but, for various reasons, are far from reflecting the entire range of the religious landscape as mapped by academic Religious Studies. The contribution analyses the emergence and composition of different interreligious dialogue initiatives, based on interviews with key persons, and elaborates on the function of gatekeepers of these dialogue initiatives for representing local and national religious diversity. Furthermore, the chapter scrutinises the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion and highlights the specific understanding of ‘legitimate’ religion reproduced in these initiatives. It argues that the notion of ‘world religions’ coined in the late 19th century with underlying normative implications structure the limitation and power imbalance of interreligious dialogue initiatives usually not contemplated by its promotors and administrators.


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