Warsaw conference – keynote speakers

Siniša Zrinščak

University of Zagreb


Religious and Secular Organizations in Political Constellations: Challenges for the Scientific Study of Religion

It is well established that studying religion in contemporary social processes faces theoretical and methodological challenges due to the definition problem and shifting boundaries between religious and secular. However, other challenges relate to how various disciplines treat the “religious factor” and take different expertise into account. The paper's main aim is to look deeply into some of these challenges in three aspects.

The first one is the relation between religion and politics. While much of the literature on politics still tend to ignore religion as a relevant factor, there is a tendency also to overemphasize the “religionization of politics” process. Both standpoints do not consider the profound transformation of both politics and policymaking, inside which religion becomes inextricably connected with other social factors. The second one is the legal outlook, mainly about how states regulate religion. While one pole sees religious organizations as strictly confined to legally drawn and easily observed and respected lines, the other is inspired by the notion of a state-church mixture, which allegedly helps in legitimizing actions. The issue here is acknowledging the role of different stakeholders that increasingly regulate religions (from the judiciary to local actors) and the need for a more detailed account of stakeholders’ involvement (well-known secularism-secularity/ies dilemmas). The third one is the outlook of organization theories which include seeing religious organizations as well-defined and straightforward forms to applying the organization models without considering specificities of religions, or at least a hybrid character of the majority of contemporary organizations.

Looking into these challenges may help reflect on the benefits and shortcomings various disciplines and theories bring while studying the religion-secular-politics intersections.


Siniša Zrinščak Siniša Zrinščak is Professor and Head of the Chair of Sociology at the Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb. His main scientific interests include religious and social policy changes in post-communism, Church-State relations, and gender. He served as President (2006-2014) and Vice-President (2001-2006) of the ISORECEA, Vice-President of the ISA RC 22 (2006-2014), General Secretary of the ISSR (2013-2017), coordinator of the ESA RN34 (2019-2021). Currently, he is a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), of editorial boards of various scientific journals, and is involved in the Joint PhD on Human Rights, Society and Multi-level Governance (Universities of Padua, Zagreb, Nicosia, and Western Sydney).

More information at: https://www.sinisazrinscak.com/


Agnieszka Kościańska

University of Warsaw/University of Oxford


The Power of Conscience: Catholicism and Abortion in Poland

In October 2020, a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal effectively ending legal abortion incited massive protests across the country. Despite the demonstrations being directed at both the government and the Catholic Church, many devout Catholics joined the protests against Church opposition to family planning being enacted through state-imposed prohibition. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, this lecture will address a number of issues relating to Catholicism and abortion: how it is possible that so many Catholics decided to take part in pro-choice marches openly opposing official Catholic teaching on birth control? What were their motivations? And – finally – what are the genealogies of the concepts underpinning these motivations?


Agnieszka Kościańska Agnieszka Kościańska is Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw. She is the author and (co)editor of several volumes on gender and sexuality, including To See a Moose: The History of Polish Sex Education (Berghahn Books 2021, Polish version 2017, Wydawnictwo Czarne), Gender, Pleasure, and Violence: The Construction of Expert Knowledge of Sexuality in Poland (Indiana University Press 2021, Polish version 2014, University of Warsaw Press), Kobiety i religie (co-edited with Katarzyna Leszczyńska, Nomos, 2006).