Religion, Classification Struggles, and State Exercise of Symbolic Power

Sadia Saeed, University of San Francisco

The capacity to lawfully classify social groups is a central characteristic of modern states. Social groups, however, often resist their interpellation into the classificatory schemes of the state. This suggests the following questions: How do modern states exercise symbolic power in social arenas beset by acute classification struggles? And how do resisting social groups negotiate the symbolic power of modern states? My paper addresses this question through examining classification struggles centered on a number of “liminal” religious groups that have historically been perceived as being markedly different from mainstream religious groups. Specifically, I look at Falun Gong in China, Bahai's in Egypt and Iran, and Mormons in the United States. My analysis draws attention to three strategies through which states manage classifications struggles in a bid to enhance their symbolic power: coercive classification, juridical normalization, and symbolic erasure. I further argue that these strategies shape how religious groups accommodate or resist the regulatory and disciplinary powers of the modern state.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 61. Religion and State Formation