Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
SP08: Symbolic Boundaries: Barriers or Belonging(s)? - with Sabine Trittler and Gert Verschraegen
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Anna-Mari Almila, University of the Arts London
Session Chair: Peter Holley, University of Helsinki
Location: BS.G.35
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road

Session Abstract

organised by RN07 and RN15


Religious Boundaries of Belonging as a Source for Perceived Discrimination Among Religious Minorities: A Specific Case of Muslims in Secular Europe?

Sabine Trittler

University of Konstanz, Germany

Drawing on the concept of symbolic boundaries, this paper examines the consequences of religious and secular boundaries of national belonging among the majority population for the integration of religious minorities in Europe. It directly relates to and extends previous research, which reveals that Muslims report higher levels of perceived discrimination on religious grounds in secular contexts than in regions where Christianity is a more salient marker of national belonging. Three continuative issues are raised and analyzed: Firstly, the point that the results might represent the specific case of Muslims is addressed by extending the analysis to other Christian and non-Christian minorities. Second, the restriction to Western Europe as a highly secular context is overcome by also including Eastern European countries, where in some countries religion constitutes a highly salient marker of the nation. The third part then sorts out other explanatory factors that might influence perceptions of discrimination among religious minorities focusing on the institutional relationship between state and church. To analyze the linkage between religious notions of belonging and perceived discrimination, data from the ISSP pertaining to the majority population have been combined with data related to religious minority respondents from the ESS. Overall, the results of the multilevel models show that secular contexts are perceived as more exclusionary by each of the religious minority group while Muslims represent the most vulnerable. On the other hand, the results suggest that the symbolic boundaries may have different mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, depending on the religious homogeneity of the majority.


Sabine Trittler is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Konstanz, Germany, who received her doctorate in Social Sciences from the University of Göttingen in 2017. Her research interests lie at the intersection of sociology of religion, nationalism, and integration research and focus on the role of religion as a marker of national belonging in cross-national comparison. As such she is interested in the formation of religious and secular boundaries of belonging, their relationship towards the toleration and integration of immigrants, as well as the perceptions of these symbolic boundaries among the minority populations in Europe. Her work has been published in Nations and Nationalism, European Sociological Review and Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Status Struggle, Belonging and Symbolic Boundary Work Among Refugees, Established Immigrants and Belgian Natives

Gert Verschraegen

University of Antwerp, Belgium

Symbolic boundary work can be seen as a crucial component in the competition between social groups. By producing symbolic boundaries different groups can produce, maintain, or rationalize status differences and social divides. But symbolic classifications can also be used to bridge existing social boundaries. In recent years numerous studies have documented the “equalisation strategies” individuals use to bridge social and cultural divides, especially when their identities have been spoiled by social stigma (e.g. Lamont, et al., 2016). In this paper I discuss some boundary as well as bridging strategies that are used by (Syrian) refugees, established immigrants and natives in Belgium. Drawing on in-depth interviews, I will describe how different respondents use ‘comparative strategies of selves’ (Sherman, 2005) to construct a dignified, deserving position for themselves by making implicit or explicit comparisons with other groups. The paper shows how different symbolic markers can be used to brighten or blur group boundaries and how boundary work can best be interpreted in the light of the structural positions in which specific groups find themselves, as well as the cultural repertoires they can draw on. It also highlights how people in relatively similar, disadvantaged structural positions (in the eye of the sociologist) do not form alliances as they derive part of their dignity from the moral and cultural differences they perceive between them.


Gert Verschraegen is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), where he also serves as the head of the department of sociology. His main research interests are in social theory, cultural sociology, the sociology of science and knowledge and the sociology of European integration. His work has appeared in Poetics, Citizenship Studies, Journal of European Social Policy, Futures, Innovation, Journal of Law and Society, Current Sociology and many other journals. His most recent books include Divercities: Dealing with Diversity in Deprived and Mixed Neighbourhoods (2018, Policy Press, edited with Stijn Oosterlynck) and Imagined Futures in Science, Technology and Society (2017, Routledge, edited with Frédéric Vandermoere, Luc Braeckmans en Barbara Segaert).