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Prof. Dr. Marian Burchardt

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Religious diversity
  • Secularity and governmentality in immigrant societies
  • Sociology of knowledge
  • Sociology of religion
  • Urban sociology and theories of modernity

Regulating Difference. Religious Diversity and Nationhood in the Secular West

In my project I explore how religious diversity is regulated and examine the processes whereby religious diversity is becoming part of the institutional realities and administrative landscapes of nation-states and how divergent understandings of secularity underwrite these regulations. Suggesting that concepts of nationhood are central for understanding the governance of religious diversity, I employ a transatlantic comparison – focused on the Spanish region of Catalonia and the Canadian province of Quebec – to show how ongoing processes of nation-building and the mobilization of divergent interpretations of secularism are co-implicated in shaping religious diversity.

Across the Western world, as well as beyond it, transnational migration has contributed to the rise of religious diversity and has led – in tandem with processes of secularization especially among host populations – to profound changes in the religious make-up of society. As a result, societies and nation-states have faced the challenge to craft ways of accommodating new religious communities into existing institutions and the legal frameworks that define the place of religion in the public sphere. This has led to controversial public debates surrounding a multitude of questions: Should Muslim women be allowed to wear face veils in public? Do municipalities have the duty to provide land for minority places of worship? To what extent are displays of Christian symbols on the part of the state authorities, or the maintenance of institutional privileges for majority religions, discriminatory or exclusionary of religious minorities and atheists, rather than being legitimate ways of maintaining national cultural heritage and producing social cohesion? In dealing with religious diversity, states are typically caught between rising demands for greater religious freedom or equal treatment from religious minorities and world-societal pressures around human rights, on the one hand, and the emergence of nationalist, sometimes xenophobic, mobilizations against these demands, on the other. Fundamentally, what is at stake here are the ways in which religious identities are promoted or constrained through concepts of nationhood and national citizenship. In order to move away from monolithic and ahistorical understandings of secularism in the analysis of such processes, I draw on and further elaborate the concept of “multiple secularities”.


since 2018

Professor of Sociology, Centre of Area Studies / Institute of Sociology, Leipzig University

2017 - 2018

Senior Researcher, KFG "Multiple Secularities - Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities", Leipzig University

2012 - 2017

Postdoctoral Research Fellow,, Göttingen (Germany)

2010 - 2012

Research Associate, “Multiple Secularities“ project at the Institute for the Study of Culture, Leipzig University

2009 - 2010

Lecturer, Development Studies, University of Bayreuth (Germany)


Research Fellow, Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB), Berlin (Germany)

​2000 - 2009

Consultant, German Development Assistance

Relevant Publications

  • Burchardt, Marian. “Is religious indifference bad for secularism? Lessons from Canada,” in Religious indifference: New perspectives from studies on secularization and nonreligion. Edited by Johannes Quack and Cora Schuh, (pp. 83-99). Heidelberg: Springer, 2017.
  • Burchardt, Marian. “Diversity as neoliberal governmentality: Towards a new sociological genealogy of religion.” Social Compass, 2017.
  • Burchardt, Marian. “State Regulation or ‘Public Religion’? Religious Diversity in Post-apartheid South Africa,” The Politics and Practice of Religious Diversity: National Contexts, Global Issues. Edited by A. Dawson, 187–204. New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Burchardt, Marian. “Does Religion need Rehabilitation? Charles Taylor and the Critique of Secularism,” in Working with a Secular Age. Edited by F. Zemmin, C. Jager, and G. Vanheeswijck, 137–158. Berlin: De Gruyter. 2016.
  • Burchardt, Marian, I. Becci, and M. Giorda. “Religious super-diversity and spatial strategies in two European cities.” Current Sociology, 2016.
  • Burchardt, Marian and H. Hovhannisyan. “Religious vs secular nationhood: ‘Multiple secularities’ in post-Soviet Armenia.” Social Compass, 2016.
  • Burchardt, Marian. “Should Public Space be Secular?” in Religious Plurality and the Public Space. Joint Christian-Muslim Theological Reflections. Edited by S. Sinn, M. Khorchide, and D. El Omari, 155-165. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2015.
  • Burchardt, Marian, S. Schenk, and M. Wohlrab-Sahr. “Religious diversity in the neoliberal welfare state: Secularity and the ethos of egalitarianism in Sweden.” International Sociology, 30/1 (2015): 3-20.
  • Burchardt, Marian, M. Wohlrab-Sahr, and M. Middell (eds.). Multiple Secularities Beyond the West. Religion and Modernity in the Global Age. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015.
  • Burchardt, Marian, M. Griera, and G. García-Romeral. “Narrating liberal rights and culture: Muslim face veiling, urban coexistence and contention in Spain.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2014.
  • Burchardt, Marian. “Faith-Based Humanitarianism: Organizational Change and Everyday Meanings in South Africa.” Sociology of religion, 74/1 (2013): 30-55.
  • Burchardt, Marian. “Equals before the Law? Public Religion and Queer Activism in the Age of Judicial Politics in South Africa.” Journal of Religion in Africa, 43 (2013): 237–60.
  • Burchardt, Marian, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. „Über die kulturellen Bedeutungen religiös-säkularer Kontroversen in der Gegenwart,“ in Neue Räume öffnen. Mission und Säkularisierungen weltweit. Edited by G. Buß and M. Luber, 33-55. Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 2013.
  • Burchardt, Marian and M. Wohlrab-Sahr. “Von Multiple Modernities zu Multiple Secularities: kulturelle Diversität, Säkularismus und Toleranz als Leitidee in Indien.“ Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 38/4 (2013): 355–74.
  • Burchardt, Marian and M. Wohlrab-Sahr. “‘Multiple Secularities: Religion and Modernity in the Global Age’ – Introduction.” International Sociology, 28/6 (2013), Special Issue: 605–11.
  • Burchardt, Marian, M. Wohlrab-Sahr, and U. Wegert. „‘Multiple secularities’: Postcolonial variations and guiding ideas in India and South Africa.” International Sociology, 28/6 (2013), Special Issue: 612–28.
  • Burchardt, Marian, José Casanova, and Irene Becci (eds.). Topographies of Faith: Religion in urban spaces. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
  • Burchardt, Marian and M. Wohlrab-Sahr. “Multiple secularities: toward a cultural sociology of secular modernities.” Comparative Sociology, 11/6 (2012): 875–909.
  • Burchardt, Marian, C. Schuh, and M. Wohlrab-Sahr. “Contested Secularities: Religious Minorities and Secular Progressivism in the Netherlands.” Journal of Religion in Europe, 5/3 (2012): 349–83.
  • Burchardt, Marian and M. Wohlrab-Sahr. “Vielfältige Säkularitäten. Vorschlag zu einer vergleichenden Analyse religiös-säkularer Grenzziehungen.“ Denkströme, 7 (2011), 9-27.