Sacralizing Security: Religion, Violence and Authority (SACRASEC) ERC Consolidator Project

Postsecular Policing Workshop

Postsecular Policing Workshop, Friday April 16th 2021 (online)

Organizers: Martijn Oosterbaan and Tessa Diphoorn (Cultural Anthropology, SoSCo)

This workshop aims to analyze the role of religion in policing, placing special attention to instances when policing attains a religious character in contexts of secularist democracies. Effective policing of the public domain is one of the primary expectations that citizens have of the state and state sovereignty has often been defined in terms of the state monopoly on the use of force. Nevertheless, in societies across the globe we encounter a variety of in/formal security actors that police particular territories. These security actors range from vigilantes to private security companies and state (sanctioned) institutions (Diphoorn and Grassiani 2019). In a number of contexts, such security actors are connected to religious institutions, beliefs or practices, yet this is generally analyzed as something that is undesirable, negligible or dangerous, leaving secularist assumptions about the past and future of the state intact.

This workshop aims to reconsider these assumptions by questioning the relations between policing and religion. One fruitful way to do that is by adopting a postsecular perspective (Oosterbaan 2014), which proposes to treat the secular as a governmental category that informs our understanding of what religion is and what form it legitimately might attain in contemporary societies. Several proponents of postsecular thinking have argued that one of the effects of neoliberalist adjustments around the world is that governmental agencies that are constitutionally described as secular actively seek new collaborations with religious institutions in an attempt to regulate social life. While we agree that neoliberal transformations have profound effects, scholars have primarily focused on the ‘West’ and have analyzed issues pertaining to care and welfare. This leaves unanswered what kind of enmeshments between security actors, religion and the state we encounter in other contexts?

This workshop celebrates the kick-off of the ERC research project: Sacralizing Security: Religion, Violence and Authority in Mega-Cities of the Global South and features the team-members of the project. However, the workshop also seeks to go beyond its scope by including research on the relation between formal security actors and religion. The workshop centres on state and non-state security actors (and their collaborations) in an effort to understand better the role of religion in multiple forms of policing.

Below you may find the program of the workshop. If you are interested in joining, you can register here (registration form) and you will receive a link to the online location by email.

Friday April 16th (online, CET)

9:30-9:45:         Introduction and Opening. Martijn Oosterbaan & Tessa Diphoorn (Utrecht University).

09:45-10:15:     Policing with God’s Blessing: Religion in Indonesian ‘Security Groups’. Laurens Bakker (University of Amsterdam).

10:15-10:45:     When Communal Violence Turned into Terrorism: Policing, (in)Security and Religion in the Post-Conflict Poso, Indonesia. Muhammad Najib Azca (Universitas Gadjah Mada) and Moh. Zaki Arrobi (Utrecht University).


11:00-11:30:     Popular Cultures of Premanisme: Contesting and Converging Sovereignties. Andy Fuller (Utrecht University).

11:30-12:00:     Discussion, Faisal Umar (Ahmadu Bello University Zaria)


12:30-13:00:     Tiger Police and the Rise of Vigilante Governance in the Nigerian City of Jos. Ibrahim Murtala (Utrecht University).

13:00-13:15:     Navigating a Patchwork of Authority: Understanding the Role and Meaning of Yoruba-led Security Governance in the Context of Plural Order and Authority in Lagos, Nigeria. Lotje Krouwel (Utrecht University).

13:15-13:45:     Policing Misfortune: Pentecostalism, Law and Harm in South Africa. Marian Burchardt (Leipzig University).

13:45-14:15:     Discussion, Julia Hornberger (University of the Witwatersrand)


14:45-15:15:     From “love jihad” to “thoki raj”: the brutal communalism of Hindutva policing in north India. Beatrice Jauregui (University of Toronto).

15:15-15:30:     Between Punishment, Protection, and Redemption: Negotiating the Moral Authority of Religious Security Providers in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas. Jolien van Veen (Utrecht University).

15:30-16:00:     Between Civil Securitization and Civil Religion: Security Activism in the Israeli Countryside. Nir Gazit (Ruppin Academic Center) and Erella Grassiani (University of Amsterdam).

16:00-16:30:     Discussion, Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam) and closing.