Tentacles of the Leviathan? Nationalism, Islamophobia, and the and the Insufficiency-yet-Indispensability of Human Rights for Religious Freedom in Contemporary Europe

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Is the institutionalization of religious freedom through human rights jurisprudence simply a means by which the modern nation-state manufactures and regulates “religion”? Is the discourse of religious freedom principally a technology of state governance? These questions challenge the ways that scholars conceptualize the relation between states, nationalism, human rights, and religious freedom. This article forwards an approach to human rights and methodological nationalism that both counters and explores alternatives to the prevailing conceptions of human rights, nationalism, and state sovereignty in the discourse on the putative impossibility—and, by some accounts, insidiousness—of religious freedom. I first explicate the interpretive and contestatory dimensions of human rights discourse concerning religious freedom. I then explore cross-cutting ambivalences within the nationalisms that states need and cultivate in effort to transmute their monopoly upon coercive force (i.e. power) into legitimated authority. I argue that these provide two dimensions in and through which state sovereignty may be opposed, criticized, held accountable, and subject to change.
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