Tirana Conference – Keynote Speakers

Marian Burchardt
Leipzig University

Fabricating Difference: Religious Diversity, Nationalism, Populism.

Religious differences have shaped human societies across history to different degrees. But these differences have become subject to more systematic regulation and manipulation in contemporary nation-states, placed as they are at the intersection of multiple social forces. In my lecture, I explore the fabrication of religious differences within contemporary regimes of religious diversity, focusing on the role of nationalism, populism, migration and the global human rights framework. At the same time, I look at the ways in which these regulation affect the very ways in which people use religion as a category of classification in everyday life. My approach is premised on the idea that religious diversity is a form of neoliberal governmentality.

Marian Burchardt is Professor of Sociology at Leipzig University, senior research partner of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, and associate fellow of the Humanities Center of Advanced Studies “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities”. As a cultural sociologist he is interested in how diversity shapes institutions and everyday life. His research engages with the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of religion, urban sociology and theories of modernity, and draws on qualitative and ethnographic methods. He is especially interested in how notions of diversity influence social life and public space through nation-state regulations, law and urban policy. He is the author of Regulating Difference: Religious Diversity and Nationhood in the Secular West (Rutgers University Press, 2020) and Faith in the Time of AIDS: Religion, Biopolitics and Modernity in South Africa (Palgrave Macmillan 2015).



Halina Grzymala-Moszczyńska
Jesuit University Ignatianum in Cracow

The image of refugees as one of the factors influencing the social cohesion: insights from the psychology of culture and  religion

The image of refugees appearing in the public space through the media often precedes an actual encounter with these individuals by the citizens of a given country. The aim of this presentation is to point out the elements of this widespread image that a priori determine a negative attitude towards individuals who are absent in reality. Images of various refugee groups will be presented, which to varying degrees influence the formation of such negative attitudes. The approach to refugees, viewing them as victims, will be contrasted with portraying them as those who have shown resilience and agency despite traumatic experiences. The role of academics, NGOs, and politicians in shaping such an image will be presented, as well as the role of religion as a factor influencing the larger or shorter distance between refugees and the (potentially) receiving society.

Halina Grzymala-Moszczyńska is Full professor of psychology at the Jesuit University Ignatianum in Cracow, Poland. Chair of Department of  Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Professor emerita Jagiellonian University.

Research and teaching areas:, psychology of culture, psychology of migration,  (with 25 years of experience in refugee research); psychology of religion and spirituality.

Visiting professor in USA (at Santa Barbara University and Rochester University), in Norway (Hamar Research Institute). Guest lecturer in the majority of European universities. President of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (2019-2023).


Johann Hafner
University of Potsdam

Where does a rainbow end? - Some aspects on religious diversity

In a first step I will address methodological questions during mapping the religious diversity of a city or a region. Which groups do we count as parts of the religious spectrum (yoga-studios, free-masons, free-thinkers)? What might seem divers from afar is very homogenous on a neighbourhood-level. And how do we assess the so-called esoteric sector that consists of courses and seminars but do not form congregations?

Secondly, I will discuss the relation of religious among other groups within a diverse environment. In contemporary societies religions take part and suffer from functional differentiation. Many agents (art, sports, entertainment) compete for the scarce resource ‘time’. This superdiversity has been special for urban areas, but with the ubiquitous presence of social media it overgrew any Lebenswelt. This fact forces religious congregations either to sharpen their profile as religious or to limit connections with the surrounding world. Diversity doesn’t lead to dialogue automatically.

In a third step I will contextualize religious groups within to the ongoing decrease of religious activity and life-long affiliation. These tendencies Secularization is observed in many countries in middle and Eastern Europe, even after the forced secularization ended in 1990. My hypothesis is that the dialogue between diverse religious groups gets easier the more majority-religions loose their top-dog-position and the more secularization is perceived as the challenge to all groups.

Johann Hafner. Born 1963. Studies in Philosophy and Catholic Theology in Augsburg, Munich, Vigan (Philippines). Masterthesis (1990) on Heidegger’s influence on philosophy of religion. Dissertation (1996) on the philosophical concept of living beings. Habilitation (2001) on systemtheory applied to Gnostic and Catholic groups in 2nd cent. CE.

1996-97          Visiting Lecturer at the University of Dayton (USA)
2002-04          Associate Professor at the University of Augsburg
since 2004      Full professor for “Religious Studies with a focus on Christianity” at the University of Potsdam
2009-14          Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
2016-17          Visiting Researcher at the University of Southern/Los Angeles
since 2018      Director of the Centre “Forum Religionen im Kontext”

Cooperations and exchange-programs with universities in Dayton/USA, Bangalore/India, Qom/Iran, Erbil/Irak.

Fields of research: local religious communities, history of angels and heavens, systemtheory of religion, religious and physical cosmologies