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Accepted Paper:

Rights and the Right: Rights-based Discourse and Conservative Christian Activism in Contemporary England  

Author:

Meadhbh McIvor (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper urges scholars of conservative social movements to attend not only to the elective affinity between (some) forms of Christianity, nationalism, and conservative socio-political platforms, but to the specifically legal mechanisms through which such ideas are often promulgated.

Paper long abstract:

Socially and theologically conservative Christian movements are often accused of being "against" the practices and assumptions entailed by inclusive human rights, particularly the rights of women, LGBTQ+ persons, and non-Christian religious minorities. This is certainly the case in the United Kingdom, where support for human rights tends to be associated with cosmopolitan globalism and liberal social values. Yet conservative Christian activists are also increasingly likely to rely on rights-based law in their efforts to remake the nation "in the image of the sacred" (Comaroff, 2009). Drawing on the author's fieldwork with conservative Christian activists in England, this paper explores the use of rights-based discourse by those longing to, in their words, "see the United Kingdom return to the Christian faith." It urges scholars of conservative social movements to attend not only to the elective affinity between (some) forms of Christianity, nationalism, and conservative socio-political platforms, but to the specifically legal mechanisms through which such ideas are often promulgated; mechanisms that, in the context of the European Union, often apply beyond national borders. Indeed, the use of these European instruments highlights the transnationalism of projects often defined by nostalgic nation-centredness. As such, the paper suggests that getting "the Right" right requires ethnographers to get rights right, too.

Panel P131
Getting 'the Right' right: Comparative ethnographies of neo-nationalist movements in Europe