About us

Presentation of the Observatory for Religious Phenomena

Director: Raphael Liogier, Professor, Aix University and at the Institute for Political Science/Policy Studies (IEP d'Aix-en-Provence)..

The Observatory for Religious Phenomena (World Religion Watch) was founded in 1992, within the framework of a research contract, under the guidance of Bruno Etienne, ground-breaking emeritus Professor at the Institute of Political Studies and former Fellow at the University Institute of France. After having obtained the status of "seed team", it has since acquired ongoing impetus as a widely acknowledged study group focusing on the sociology and political analysis of religious phenomena.

Read more: Presentation of the Observatory for Religious Phenomena

Présentation de l'Observatoire du Religieux

L'Observatoire du Religieux (équipe d'accueil 2211) a été créé en 1992, dans le cadre d'un contrat de recherche, par Bruno ETIENNE, Professeur émérite à l'Institut d'études politiques et ancien membre de l'Institut Universitaire de France. Après avoir obtenu le statut de "jeune équipe", il s'est imposé comme un groupe reconnu en sociologie et politologie des religions.

Directeur : Raphaël LIOGIER, Professeur des universités à l'Institut d'études politiques

Read more: Présentation de l'Observatoire du Religieux

Research fields

The Sociology and Anthropology of worship through religious fact-finding on the national and local levels.

  • The main traditional world religions
  • New Religions Movements
  • Death (a field of study addressing among other issues Islamic, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist practices surrounding death, enabling to highlight the traditions, behaviour patterns and methods for regulation of religions communities.)
  • Food
  • Catechism and transmission
  • Endogamy/ exogamy
  • Forms of mysticism, music and therapy
  • The body and the different religions
  • Rituals, Myths and Symbols

Political, legal and ethical sciences

Political Science
  • Religion and politicalculture
  • Religion and ideology
  • Religion and political institutions - Religion and political parties
  • Religion and Globalisation - Religious Geopolitics
  • Religion and colonisation/decolonisation
  • Neo-traditionalisms: strategies and networks (more especially around the Mediterranean sea)
  • The Secularism of the Republic and Cultural /Ritual pluralism
  • Religion, social movements and the repertoires of collective action. - Religion and political competence
  • Religious dçnomination as an eleçtoral variable - Religion and political socialization
  • Religion and minority strategy
The Ethical and Legal Sciences
  • Compared status of forms of worship(Morp especially in France, Europe and the Mediterranean countries)
  • Religion, bipethics and Law - Religion and Human rights - Religion and citizenship
  • Sects and official religions - Inter-religious exchange
  • Internal legislation for religions
  • Religion and the neutrality of Public Service

The Observatory Team

     
   

Raphaël Liogier is a political scientist and Religious sociologist. Since 2006, he has served as director of the “Observatoire du religieux” (Observatory of the Religious Phenomenon), currently associated with CHERPA, a laboratory branch of  Sciences-Po Aix (formerly Institut d’Etudes Politiques >IEP) at Aix-en-Provence. A fully tenured French University Professor, Raphaël Liogier also teaches at the Institut de management public et de gouvernance territorial, at Aix-en-Provence, while directing the second year Master’s program in Culture, Religion and Society at Sciences-Po. His main teaching subjects include the Social Sciences, the Sociology of Religion, Anthropology, Philosophy and Ethics.

Liogier wrote his doctoral thesis in political science under the direction of Bruno Étienne, professor emeritus at the Institut d'études politiques d'Aix-en-Provence. He successfully defended this doctoral thesis, “An Introduction to a political approach to the westernization of Buddhism”, in September, 2000 at the University of Aix-Marseille III.

He is now intensely pursuing his work on belief systems, values, the theory of knowledge, Religions, Buddhism, new religious movements (NRMs), cults and cultural globalization. He has written several articles on the subject of religion, Pentecostalism, Catholicism and the Soka Gakkai, a Japanese Buddhist sect. In 2006, he published a book on French secularism in which he analyses how the French government’s stance on secularism has evolved from a form of self-declared "incompetence" in religious matters through to the concept of becoming the self-appointed ‘guardian’ and arbitrator of religious neutrality. While claiming not to intervene in religious affairs, the French State interferes in Religious life regularly and to a significantly higher degree than in countries which do not make such claims, for instance, Great Britain, where there is a higher degree of openness to religious diversity. Raphael Liogier critically highlights this contradictory stance, including in the public arena, by addressing the issues of cults and Islam on some of the country’s most widely diffused Media.

On the subject of Islam, through a series of surveys conducted with his students at the Observatoire du Religieux, Raphaël Liogier describes how the French secular state authorities have used faulty evidence (for instance, the findings of the Stasi Commission) to push through a law against the Islamic veil, stating that such veils are “imposed” on young French Muslim women. On the contrary, Liogier’s findings show that in the majority of cases, the wearing of the Islamic veil by Muslim women in France has indeed been the result of a deliberate choice, and that it is numerically more common among new converts, including women of western origin, than among first or second generation immigrants.

Raphaël Liogier met the Dalai Lama for the first time, during the latter’s visit to Marseille in 1994. In 1997, Raphaël Liogier attended a week-long conference given by Dalai Lama in Karma Ling in Savoie, and in 2008, published a book on this, the 14th Dalai Lama, presenting him as the most revolutionary Dalai Lama of his lineage: as a Democrat, a modernist and a humanist, he includes in his public persona all the ingredients required to make China’s rulers nervous and feed Westerners’fantasies.

Bibliography

-Jésus, Bouddha d'Occident (Jesus, the West’s Buddha), Calmann-Lévy, 1999

-Le Bouddhisme mondialisé (Buddhism Globalized), Ellipses, 2003

-Géopolitique du christianisme (The Geopolitics of Christianity), with Blandine Chelini-Pont, Ellipses, 2003

-Être bouddhiste en France aujourd'hui (Being a Buddhist today), with Bruno Étienne, Paris, Hachette, 2004.

-Une laïcité « légitime ». La France et ses religions d'État, (A « legitimate » laïcité. France and its State Religions), Médicis,  Entrelacs, 2006-03-13

-Le Bouddhisme et ses normes (Buddhism and its norms), Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2006-10-23

-A la rencontre du Dalaï-Lama (Meeting the Dalaï Lama), Flammarion, Paris, 2008

-Sacrée médecine : Histoire et devenir d'un sanctuaire de la Raison (Holy Medicine : the History and Development of one of Reason’s Sanctuaries), with Jean Baubérot, Entrelacs, 2011

-Souci de soi, conscience du monde. Vers une religion globale? (Self-concern, Planetary Awareness, The Global Religion to Come), Armand Colin, 2012-06-13

-Le Mythe de l'islamisation, essai sur une obsession collective (The Islamisation Hoax, a study in Collective Hallucination), éd. du Seuil, 2012-10-11


Excerpts from Self-concerned, Globally Aware :

p. 247, Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Illusion’, the international reorganization of roles: The few hundred million people who enjoy material security today (who, out of a global population of 7

billion, represent a small minority) find themselves becoming the principal agents (voluntary or involuntary) of liberal globalization. Individuals of this minority belong to the most educated societies of the planet (culturally dominant), which are also the most wealthy societies (materially dominant), and, while they enjoy the greatest mobility, they also live in the most economically advanced societies. All of these factors easily explain how their culture has become the dominant world culture.

p. 249, Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Ilusion’, Universal Appeal

The individuo-global myth constitutes a new attitude towards desire, towards that which is desired to appear on the stage of one’s life. Even if a complete version of this scenario can be played out by a small fraction of the world population, as we have said before, it nevertheless determines categories of interest and dynamics at the global level. Schematically speaking, inhabitants of the rich, global North leave to live exotic experiences in the poor, idealized and dominated global South, while inhabitants of the latter seek to emigrate towards the idealized, dominant global North. The notions of “north” and “south” used here are, it goes without saying, very schematic; a bit like the way in which notions of the “Orient” and the “Occident” do not refer strictu sensu to an east-west distinction: the Maghreb, though geographically located to the west of Europe -which is what the word “Maghreb” means in Arabic - is nonetheless considered “Oriental” by the European (particulary French) mind-set. The same applies to the North/South distinction which today refers more to different levels of economic and social development. Australia, by this definition, being situated geographically in the south (as its name even signifies), would not qualify to be considered as a Southern country!

p. 251 Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Illusion’, Universal Appeal

The form of culture, which Michel Foucault calls l’épistémè, is the knowable and desirable form situated in a given time period and society. This is the particular surface which allows for a mythical attachment to form prior to any intellectual attachment. Intellectual attachment only adds itself to mythical attachment. Rational arguments only offer the latter an a-posteriori confirmation. This is why an ethic which depends on a rational “horizon of mutuality,” as the first Habermas might have written, is inoperative, unable to provide the fundamental attachment necessary for daily behavioral motivation, concrete choices of life -- simply because no matter how hard such an ethic tries to satisfy thought, it does not satisfy the issue of desire. More recently, Habermas seems to have become aware of this problem in his later works where, long the dogged defender of communicative rationality, he attempts, in a surprising and somewhat bizarre palinode, to rehabilitate religion in order to save ethics.

p. 251, Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Illusion’,

Postmodernity? It doesn’t exist. Mythical attachment prevents us from falling into a narrative void, and configures the horizon of our desires (thus desirable, since it is a horizon), and which presents itself before us as a set of existential possibilities; what we want to be for ourselves and for others (this is also why it may be said that the desire for being is never far from the desire to appear). This explains why, for example, the 2010-2012 media campaign led by the French Minister of Defense to encourage young Frenchmen to join the army, itself a culture of uniformity (though perhaps only justly called uniform in military apparel!) and obedience, adopted the slogan “Become yourself.” -A campaign which was supposed to enable a “positive transformation of the individual.” This also explains the evolution of the structure of the Labour Market, with key sectors becoming increasingly centered on humanitarianism, the environment, human rights, and which young, highly qualified engineering school graduates choose to enter, preferring to accept salaries which are three-times lower than their fellow graduates in favor of having a “reason to wake up in the morning.”

p. 254 Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Ilusion’, At the school of leisure

One can easily understand how our hypothesis stands in firm opposition to the idea that the advent of  post-industrial societies represents the same phenomenon as postmodern cultures. Not only is modernity not surpassed, but intensified, even if, in reallity, labor or industriousness is no longer valued as formerly, because today modernity manifests itself beyond labor, the industrial world being only a phase, the period in which it provided itself with the means of its own destruction, a phase of structural development, a phase of construction for its means of production. Contrary to the analyses of Hannah Arendt, for whom the animal laborens (laborious animal) is posited as an ideal type for the modern age, modernity does not glorify labor, but aims to overcome its physical necessity by efficient organization, which is so productive that man can shrug off crude labor. In this sense, the remunerated unemployment benefit policy that industrial societies have adopted and accepted to fund is a sign of the success of this project, as is the advent of a society of leisure,whatever the critiques may be, however justified; for example the interpretation that such phenomena represent a new form of class division.

Research Contracts / Funding Sources

Research Contracts

  • IEP Four-Year Contract
  • Contract with the Ministry of Defence (Centre for studies in social science, Ministry of Defence)
  • Co-operation with the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Culture
  • Consulting for French and European Official Bodies

Funding Sources

  • IEP
  • General Delegation for Scientific and Technical Research (Government)
  • Contracts for finalised Research
  • Partnerships
  • Collaboration with UMR 7012 PRISME (CNRS - National Centre for Scientific Research/Robert SchumanUniversity and Strasburg 1 University.

Raphaël Liogier, teacher and writer

Raphaël Liogier is a political scientist and Religious sociologist. Since 2006, he has served as director of the “Observatoire du religieux” (Observatory of the Religious Phenomenon), currently associated with CHERPA, a laboratory branch of  Sciences-Po Aix (formerly Institut d’Etudes Politiques (IEP) at Aix-en-Provence. A fully tenured French University Professor, Raphaël Liogier also teaches at the Institut de management public et de gouvernance territorial, at Aix-en-Provence, while directing the second year Master’s program in Culture, Religion and Society at Sciences-Po. His main teaching subjects include the Social Sciences, the Sociology of Religion, Anthropology, Philosophy and Ethics.

Liogier wrote his doctoral thesis in political science under the direction of Bruno Étienne, professor emeritus at theInstitut d'études politiques d'Aix-en-Provence. He successfully defended his doctoral thesis, “An Introduction to a political approach to the westernization of Buddhism”, in September, 2000 at the University of Aix-Marseille III.

He is now intensely pursuing his work on belief systems, values, the theory of knowledge, Religions, Buddhism, new religious movements (NRMs), cults and cultural globalization. He has written several articles on the subject of religion, Pentecostalism, Catholicism and the Soka Gakkai, a Japanese Buddhist sect. In 2006, he published a book on French secularism in which he analyses how the French government’s stance on secularism has evolved from a form of self-declared "incompetence" in religious matters through to the concept of becoming the self-appointed ‘guardian’ and arbitrator of religious neutrality. While claiming not to intervene in religious affairs, the French State interferes in Religious life regularly and to a significantly higher degree than in countries which do not make such claims, for instance, Great Britain, where there is a higher degree of openness to religious diversity. Raphael Liogier critically highlights this contradictory stance, including in the public arena, by addressing the issues of cults and Islam on some of the country’s most widely diffused Media.

On the subject of Islam, through a series of surveys conducted with his students at the Observatoire du Religieux, Raphaël Liogier describes how the French secular state authorities have used faulty evidence (for instance, the findings of the Stasi Commission) to push through a law against the Islamic veil, stating that such veils are “imposed” on young French Muslim women. On the contrary, Liogier’s findings show that in the majority of cases, the wearing of the Islamic veil by Muslim women in France has indeed been the result of a deliberate choice, and that it is numerically more common among new converts, including women of western origin, than among first or second generation immigrants.

Raphaël Liogier met the Dalai Lama for the first time, during the latter’s visit to Marseille in 1994. In 1997, Raphaël Liogier attended a week-long conference given by Dalai Lama in Karma Ling in Savoie, and in 2008, published a book on this, the 14th Dalai Lama, presenting him as the most revolutionary Dalai Lama of his lineage: as a Democrat, a modernist and a humanist, he includes in his public persona all the ingredients required to make China’s rulers nervous and feed Westerners’fantasies.

Bibliography

-Jésus, Bouddha d'Occident (Jesus, the West’s Buddha), Calmann-Lévy, 1999

-Le Bouddhisme mondialisé (Buddhism Globalized), Ellipses, 2003

-Géopolitique du christianisme (The Geopolitics of Christianity), with Blandine Chelini-Pont, Ellipses, 2003

-Être bouddhiste en France aujourd'hui (Being a Buddhist today), with Bruno Étienne, Paris, Hachette, 2004.

-Une laïcité « légitime ». La France et ses religions d'État, (A « legitimate » laïcité. France and its State Religions), Médicis,  Entrelacs, 2006-03-13

-Le Bouddhisme et ses normes (Buddhism and its norms), Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2006-10-23

-A la rencontre du Dalaï-Lama (Meeting the Dalaï Lama), Flammarion, Paris, 2008

-Sacrée médecine : Histoire et devenir d'un sanctuaire de la Raison (Holy Medicine : the History and Development of one of Reason’s Sanctuaries), with Jean Baubérot, Entrelacs, 2011

-Souci de soi, conscience du monde. Vers une religion globale? (Self-concern, Planetary Awareness, The Global Religion to Come), Armand Colin, 2012-06-13

-Le Mythe de l'islamisation, essai sur une obsession collective (The Islamisation Hoax, a study in Collective Hallucination), éd. du Seuil, 2012-10-11


Excerpts from Self-concerned, Globally Aware :

p. 247, Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Illusion’, the international reorganization of roles: The few hundred million people who enjoy material security today (who, out of a global population of 7

billion, represent a small minority) find themselves becoming the principal agents (voluntary or involuntary) of liberal globalization. Individuals of this minority belong to the most educated societies of the planet (culturally dominant), which are also the most wealthy societies (materially dominant), and, while they enjoy the greatest mobility, they also live in the most economically advanced societies. All of these factors easily explain how their culture has become the dominant world culture.

p. 249, Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Ilusion’, Universal Appeal

The individuo-global myth constitutes a new attitude towards desire, towards that which is desired to appear on the stage of one’s life. Even if a complete version of this scenario can be played out by a small fraction of the world population, as we have said before, it nevertheless determines categories of interest and dynamics at the global level. Schematically speaking, inhabitants of the rich, global North leave to live exotic experiences in the poor, idealized and dominated global South, while inhabitants of the latter seek to emigrate towards the idealized, dominant global North. The notions of “north” and “south” used here are, it goes without saying, very schematic; a bit like the way in which notions of the “Orient” and the “Occident” do not refer strictu sensu to an east-west distinction: the Maghreb, though geographically located to the west of Europe -which is what the word “Maghreb” means in Arabic - is nonetheless considered “Oriental” by the European (particulary French) mind-set. The same applies to the North/South distinction which today refers more to different levels of economic and social development. Australia, by this definition, being situated geographically in the south (as its name even signifies), would not qualify to be considered as a Southern country!

p. 251 Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Illusion’, Universal Appeal

The form of culture, which Michel Foucault calls l’épistémè, is the knowable and desirable form situated in a given time period and society. This is the particular surface which allows for a mythical attachment to form prior to any intellectual attachment. Intellectual attachment only adds itself to mythical attachment. Rational arguments only offer the latter an a-posteriori confirmation. This is why an ethic which depends on a rational “horizon of mutuality,” as the first Habermas might have written, is inoperative, unable to provide the fundamental attachment necessary for daily behavioral motivation, concrete choices of life -- simply because no matter how hard such an ethic tries to satisfy thought, it does not satisfy the issue of desire. More recently, Habermas seems to have become aware of this problem in his later works where, long the dogged defender of communicative rationality, he attempts, in a surprising and somewhat bizarre palinode, to rehabilitate religion in order to save ethics.

p. 251, Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Illusion’,

Postmodernity? It doesn’t exist. Mythical attachment prevents us from falling into a narrative void, and configures the horizon of our desires (thus desirable, since it is a horizon), and which presents itself before us as a set of existential possibilities; what we want to be for ourselves and for others (this is also why it may be said that the desire for being is never far from the desire to appear). This explains why, for example, the 2010-2012 media campaign led by the French Minister of Defense to encourage young Frenchmen to join the army, itself a culture of uniformity (though perhaps only justly called uniform in military apparel!) and obedience, adopted the slogan “Become yourself.” -A campaign which was supposed to enable a “positive transformation of the individual.” This also explains the evolution of the structure of the Labour Market, with key sectors becoming increasingly centered on humanitarianism, the environment, human rights, and which young, highly qualified engineering school graduates choose to enter, preferring to accept salaries which are three-times lower than their fellow graduates in favor of having a “reason to wake up in the morning.”

p. 254 Conclusion, ‘The Postmodern Ilusion’, At the school of leisure

One can easily understand how our hypothesis stands in firm opposition to the idea that the advent of  post-industrial societies represents the same phenomenon as postmodern cultures. Not only is modernity not surpassed, but intensified, even if, in reallity, labor or industriousness is no longer valued as formerly, because today modernity manifests itself beyond labor, the industrial world being only a phase, the period in which it provided itself with the means of its own destruction, a phase of structural development, a phase of construction for its means of production. Contrary to the analyses of Hannah Arendt, for whom the animal laborens (laborious animal) is posited as an ideal type for the modern age, modernity does not glorify labor, but aims to overcome its physical necessity by efficient organization, which is so productive that man can shrug off crude labor. In this sense, the remunerated unemployment benefit policy that industrial societies have adopted and accepted to fund is a sign of the success of this project, as is the advent of a society of leisure,whatever the critiques may be, however justified; for example the interpretation that such phenomena represent a new form of class division.