Faith in community and communities of faith?: government rhetoric and religious identity in Urban Britain

This paper examines the concept of community and the discourse around it in the context of the religious diversity in urban areas in England. Sociology has a long history of working with, deconstructing, and at times rejecting the usefulness of the term ‘community' and many scholars have in the...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Journal of contemporary religion
Main Author: Smith, Greg
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: [2004]
In:Journal of contemporary religion
Year: 2004, Volume: 19, Issue: 2, Pages: 185-204
Online Access: Resolving-System
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Summary:This paper examines the concept of community and the discourse around it in the context of the religious diversity in urban areas in England. Sociology has a long history of working with, deconstructing, and at times rejecting the usefulness of the term ‘community' and many scholars have in the context of postmodernity preferred to talk about processes of identity formation and networking. Constructions of identity in which faith affiliation plays a salient role are probably becoming more common and more politically significant. However, an integrated theory of the relationship between religion, community, ethnicity, and identity remains to be developed and this paper attempts some tentative first steps. In their search for ‘feel good' terminology, politicians in democracies such as the UK have often turned to the language of community and continue to do so. Faced with the task of managing local conflicts and delivering services which are responsive to the demands of users, contemporary governments have increasingly adopted communitarian positions and the language of social capital. In recent years in the UK, religion has moved up the political agenda and an official discourse and policy initiatives structured around the notion of ‘faith communities' have emerged. The New Labour government has indeed put its faith in community and sought to co-opt communities of faith into its ‘project'. However, it is far from clear that there is a coherent understanding of the notion of faith community or of the two words that make up the phrase. One may question whether the government discourse resonates with the understandings of community and identity in the major faith traditions found in the contemporary city. An examination of some of the official discourse set alongside the changing and conflicting identities of some ‘faith communities' in London and other British cities suggests that the British State's current simplistic approach to engaging with religious diversity is an inadequate basis for policy development.
ISSN:1469-9419
Contains:Enthalten in: Journal of contemporary religion
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1080/1353790042000207700