Religious controversies and the public sphere: rethinking the religions as discourse

This text proposes to accept the challenge posed by Cristina Pompa in her introductory text of the seminar "Religion and Public Space", held at the XXXV Meeting Anpocs 2011. The author urges us to rethink approaches and concepts that guide the current studies on contemporary religious phenomena. Firstly it is important to reiterate the terms that underlie the justification of the general proposition of that meeting which I fully share. Namely: the debate on the religious sphere in Brazil has been articulated, roughly around two readings, one of a more anthropological, and other more sociological that just don't communicate one to another. The first favored the cosmological interpretation of religious universes and the definition of "sacred," while the second dealt with the problem of secularization and modernization of contemporary societies. In order to combine the two perspectives into a new theoretical framework, I argue in this paper that, to overcome the normative bias implicit in the theories of secularization without falling into the sacred valuation of cosmologies, we propose to rethink the problem of relations between the religious sphere and public sphere form the perspective of the discursive practices of the actors, emphasizing how they interact in specific disputes. Thus, we will treat the notion of public sphere, not as an empirically observable entity, but as a space for dialogue that gains visibility, in part, through controversy and conformes itself in contrast to other spheres.

Public Space; controversy; Secularization; discursive practices

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