General aims and research questions | russian version  



The Postsecular Conflicts project has two general aims:

The first aim is to explore the agenda and transnational networks of traditionalist moral conservative actors and the role of Russian Orthodox actors therein with regard to the three main areas where religious-moral conflicts emerge:

  • Religious freedom (questions regarding religious symbols in the public sphere & free speech);
  • Family (questions regarding gender and generational equality);
  • Life (questions regarding bioethical questions and challenges in biotechnology).

The project will look study these issues by looking at debates among political actors and civil society actors across four international institutional settings:

  • the United Nations Human Rights Council and other UN institutions;
  • the Council of Europe;
  • the European Court of Human Rights;
  • and forums of inter-religious and civil society dialogue.

Special attention will be paid to the role which the Russian Orthodox Church, which is a newcomer to these debates in several respects, plays in transnational moral conservative alliances.

The second aim of the project is to develop on the basis of theoretical insights drawn from this case-study a new political theory of moral conflicts which innovates the framework of political liberalism.

Today’s moral conflicts take place both on the domestic and on the international level simultaneously, and are driven by transnational conservative alliances that create specific dynamics of contestation not yet captured by existing theories of liberal democratic accommodation. I believe this gap in the theory can be filled by contextualizing and developing further theories of political liberalism and theories of modus vivendi in view of developing a reflexive political pluralist model of moral conflicts.

Research Design

This project wants to undertake a thorough analysis of transnational traditionalist networks and of the place of Russian Orthodox actors therein. In order to do so, the project adopts a methodologically pluralist research design: Team-members in this project will collect data[1] on traditionalist actors, their alliances, arguments, and political agenda across different international institutional settings. The data collection will be done through interviews and document analysis. The obtained data will feed into a qualitative network analysis of the actors and their alliances and a content analysis of their arguments. The project adopts the methodological approach of contextualized political theory, combining normative political theory with empirical methods of data-collection and analysis, and it seeks to make a generalizable contribution to the field of political theory on the basis of an empirical case-study. In keeping with this approach, this project asks, at each step of the empirical work, how our findings about the global moral conservative network in the three policy fields under study compare to assumptions about religious agency, arguments and justifications that we find in available political theories in view of working out a more adequate political theory of moral conflicts.


Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5
WP 1 - Problem Description & Starting Conference
WP 2 - Fieldwork & Data Collection
WP 3 - Zooming in on "Traditional Values"
WP 4 - Mapping Transnational Conservative Networks
WP 5 - Analyzing Conservative Discourses and Ideas
WP 6 - Placing the Findings and Theory in Comparative Perspective

[1] The project follows strictly the highest standards of ethical research as laid out by the Ethics Board of the University of Innsbruck and the Ethics Board of the European Research Council and it proceeds in keeping with the Austrian Law on Data Protection (2002). For more information on the protection of private data and rules of confidentiality, please contact the Principal Investigator.

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