ISS: Legal Constructions of Religion and Nonreligion

The topic of this project is religion, nonreligion and the law. Nonreligion is increasingly present in public debates and legal regulations. 

Nonreligion and migration: Project logo


The topic of this project is religion, nonreligion and the law. Nonreligion is increasingly present in public debates and legal regulations. Topics connected to sexuality, the meaning of death and/or redefinitions of religious freedom are examples of public controversies where non-religious agendas are relevant. This project examines the constructions of religion and nonreligion through the lens of (some) public and legal controversies. The study will include Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

This project is part of the large international project “Nonreligion in a Complex Future”, which studies nonreligion in the area of law, health, education, migration and the environment in Canada, USA, UK, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Nordic Countries (see The project is based at University of Ottawa, Canada.

Key questions:

Public controversies

  • What is the social context? (religious landscape, histories, public discourse, laws)
  • What are acceptable public discourses? Who deploys religious/nonreligious language and when? What are the forms of that language (‘the secular’ ‘sanctity of life’ ‘freedom’ ‘harm’)
  • What are the conflicts and alliances between social actors?
  • What is the social impact of such public problems and their regulation?

Legal Construction

  • Who are the main actors and “experts” in litigation processes and/or parliamentary debates? Collaborations and conflicts
  • Which kind/type of public controversies get translated into legal terms? What is the process of moving from a public controversy to a legal one? (and the other way around)
  • How do these translation processes take place? What kind of arguments are presented during legislative debates and judicialization processes?
  • What impact does the transnational arena (the human rights discourses) have on these ‘national’ controversies?

Methodological aspects

I) Choosing the public/legal controversies

II) Levels of analysis /Data gathering:

A. actors: Civil society activists-NGOs, religious actors, politicians-parliamentarians, public officials, judicial fields-law professors, media (as an actor)

B. discourses: media coverage, judicial cases, parliamentary debates, policy implementation

Social sciences, law, humanities

The student should have a background in the social sciences, law or humanities.


This is a part-time Research Assistant position for a student, where you collect data for the project and use some of them for your Master´s Thesis. The position is on an hourly basis and you are paid St.ltr.51. You will be involved in the Nordic and international network of the project. The findings of the MA thesis will be communicated to the rest of the research team and the MA thesis will be published on the website of the project.

Project period

The project will last for one year.

Project leader

Inger Furseth

Professor, Institutt for sosiologi og samfunnsgeografi




The principal investigator of “Nonreligion in a Complex Future” is of Professor Lori Beaman at University of Ottawa, Canada. Professor Inger Furseth is a Co-Investigator who directs a Nordic research group. Furseth if professor in sociology at University of Oslo, who has conducted various research projects and written several books and articles in the sociology of religion. Her research focus is on religion and nonreligion, religious extremism, Muslim women, social movements, gender and social theory.

Emneord: Human Geography, Religionsvitenskap, Sosiologi, Samfunnsgeografi, Social Anthropology, Sosialantropologi
Publisert 20. nov. 2020 15:17 - Sist endret 20. nov. 2020 15:17