Report: Seminar “ Secularization, Religion, State” 4th session

3 June, 2009 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

On 1st June, 2009, we held the forth session of the seminar “Secularization, Religion, State”.

In this session, Ms. Madoka MIZUBAYASHI, graduate student at the Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences, and Ms. Yoriko ODA, graduate student at the Graduate School of Education introduced and analyzed the following two works:
1. Yoko KUDO, Religion v.s. State: “Laïcité” in France and the Birth of Citizens [Shūkyō v.s. kokka: Furansu Seikyōbunri to shimin no tanjō ](Tokyo: Kodansha, 2007).
2. Régis Debray, “ Are You a Democrat or a Republican? ” [Anata ha Demokuratto ka soretomo Kyōwashugisha ka] (trans. Akira Mizubayashi), in Yoichi Higuchi et al. ed. The Idea of “The Republic” [Shisō toshiteno kyōwakoku] (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 2006).

First, Ms. Mizubayashi talked about Kudo’s work. In the first part of her work, Kudo surveys a lot of literature, which is her major concern, in order to analyze the estrangement between the faith of enlightenment intellectuals and the church in 19th century France In the later part, she describes the exclusion of “Congregations” from the sphere of education. She intends to explain the process of “Laïcité” namely the separation of churches and state in nineteenth and twentieth century France.
Ms. Mizubayashi pointed out the goals of this work. First, to show “what happened when the state whose official religion was Catholic was released from the religion.” Second, to reconsider “what is the value of citizenship which emerged from the battle between the Catholic Church and Republicanism. ” Thus the speaker focused on these two topics.
1. A kind of “secularization ” existed in France before the Third Republic, which means that the state controlled the church.
2. What is the feature of “Laïcité” during the Third Republic, which is a system in the sphere of law? And what is the difference between this and the secularization before the Republic?
In Mizbayashi’s view what is most important for a state (like France) which experienced great splits over religion, is the unity or inseparability of the nation. Thus the nation needs an educational system based on a universal curriculum which is controlled by the state. The speaker concluded that the Republic of France supported this inseparability through the notion of “Laïcité,” and thus defined the state.
On the other hand, the speaker pointed out that the meaning of the ideas of “Republicanism” and “citizens” are not clear in this work although they are fundamentally important to this discussion.

After the presentation, one of the participants suggested that when someone describes French “Laïcité” or the separation of church and state, there is often a lack of the analysis of the Catholic Church and the congregations. From the standpoint of the Catholic Church, the years of Laïcité in ninteenth century France are regarded as a period of passion and oppression. Another participant mentioned that it is possible that historical perspective is greatly depends upon the standpoint of one’s “identity” towards state or church. In addition, other participants wondered whether it is suitable to use literature for historical research.

The second discussion was based on Debray’s article, which is closely connected to the questions presented by Mizubayashi in the first part of this session.

Debray’s article explains the idea of Republicanism and citizenship concretely, even though this article is not purely academic. Debray argues that the idea of Republicanism forms a contrast with “Democracy” (in this article “Democracy” means economic liberalism and not the antonym of despotism or totalitarianism.)
The speaker, Ms. Oda classified the contents of Debray’s article from the viewpoint of this seminar and focused on the following three topics:
1. France is an exceptional state.
2. French Republicanism is weakening in the face of the spread of Democracy.
3. It is a “Republic” that would not be given to two external influences, i.e. “authority” and the temptation for consumption.
Oda argued that the author intends to warn against the weakening of France’s republicanism in light of the Americanized economic system and democracy.
On the one hand, the speaker doubted it is appropriate that religion in this article refers only to Christianity (i.e. Protestantism and Catholicism), since the author tends to focus on the economy, but in reality the issues that occurred in France were related to Islam and Muslims (mostly regarding wearing scarves in school). Furthermore, the speaker suggested that we should pursue a new framework of today’s religious issues, which is more complicated and diverse than the situation at the beginning of the twentieth century, on which the author based his article.

After the second presentation, one of the participants asked whether or not the terms “Republicanism” and “Republic” in this article apply only to France, and whether we should be more careful in considering what is the difference between other “Republics” and France.
Accordingly, another participant pointed out that the European countries, which tend to be regarded as one whole in Japan, vary greatly and thus we should investigate this diversity and variation more carefully.
In this seminar, we focused on France, whose backbone is “Laïcité” and we analyzed the concepts of “Republicanism” and “Republic” in France. We have thus achieved a good foundation for further discussion, and we expect to deepen it more.

(Reported by Naofumi ABE)

  • HOME>
    • Blog>
      • Report: Seminar “ Secularization, Religion, State” 4th session
//Page Top