How Does Secularity “Travel”? Policy Mobilities of Laïcité from France to Québec

Efe Peker, University of Ottawa

As secularity studies began expanding its focus beyond the North Atlantic world, there has been an increased interest in how secularity “travels” through global entanglements. This literature paid particular attention to the historical spread of secularity via European colonialism, engendering culturally specific, path dependent ideational-institutional arrangements in the non-West (Burchardt, Wohlrab-Sahr, and Middell 2015, Taylor 2016, Künkler, Madeley, and Shankar 2018). What remains underexamined is how contemporary secular policymaking may also be shaped through cross-national interactions and influences, both within and outside the West. To advance the theorizing of secular flows, this article deploys a policy mobilities approach to examine the impact of France’s laïcité framework on Québec’s changing secular policy agendas in the past decade. Incorporating geography, political science, and sociology, the policy mobilities literature offers diverse methodological tools to study the movement, translation/mutation, and assemblages of policies across borders (Clarke et al. 2015, McCann and Ward 2013, Temenos and McCann 2013). Applying this interdisciplinary perspective to the case of Québec, the article scrutinizes the province’s restrictive legislative action, led by different political parties at different times, on conspicuous religious garments. These include the 2014 Charter of Values (Parti Québécois), 2017 burqa ban (Parti liberal du Québec), and the 2019 state secularism bill (Coalition avenir Québec). The qualitative data rests on parliamentary debates, government declarations, policy documents, and related think tanks reports and conferences. Via these multifaceted policy artifacts, the analysis scrutinizes Québec’s competing political actors’ mobilization of France’s policy programs concerning laïcité as a “best practices” model to inform and legitimize their agenda setting. It also sheds light on how the mobilized policy frameworks metamorphose in the transfer process to create novel arrangements specific to the Canadian provincial context. The policy mobilities outlook holds a vast potential to study the dynamic and globally interconnected nature of contemporary secularities.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 25. Comparative secularity: Concepts and Methods