Author(s):Vicky Skiftou, Ben Hintze, Caroline Knowles, Ingrid Gogolin

Conference:ECER 2008, From Teaching to Learning?

Network:7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education


Session Information

07 SES 04A, Pupils' Contested Identities

Paper Session


Room:BE 016

Chair:Ghazala Bhatti


Religion as a Social Force? The perspective of immigrant youth in urban areas

The proposed presentation is based on a research project which combines a focus on the spatial and architectural registration of religion in European cities, including acknowledgement of the urban impacts of migrant communities, with the present and future place of religion seen through the eyes of contemporary youth. The research is carried out by a complementary international team with strengths in relevant substantive areas - sociology of youth, educational science, multicultural theory. It is funded 2007-2009 by the NORFACE Programme. The project proposes grounded theoretical understandings of religion as a social force which it explores through innovative, high-yield methodologies encompassing visual ethnography and analysis. In our presentation, we will present first results of our research into young peoples’ attitudes and practices. By the architecture of contemporary transmission in our project title we mean ‘architecture’ in both the visible, physical sense – its presence particularly in the urban spaces with which we are concerned, and in the metaphorical sense of the structure of social relationships across which religious practices and beliefs circulate and have their embodied, social reality. The aim is to identify how far religion can be seen to be re-emergent amongst young people in three European cities: London, Hamburg and Oslo. We lay particular stress on the accounts and perceptions of young people in the 18-25 age band both inside and beyond religious affiliation.


We employ qualitative methods including visual sociological techniques. In each of the three research sites, 50 interviews with young people have been carried out. In these interviews we engage and adapt approaches of visual sociology, particularly visual ethnography, within elicitation procedures in in-depth interviewing, in capturing informant-determined perspectives through informants’ uses of photography, and in feed-back phases of the project. Our opening strategy was to take photographs of places of religious worship which were used in photo elicitation interviews. Following Harper (2002), we develop an analytical framework for analysing the data generated by photo elicitation. In the next steps of our project, we aim at participant visual ethnography with adolescents. Bourdieu’s Photography: a Middlebrow Art (1990) sets out what can be learned from the images people make. Our participants will make a vox-pop of reactions to religious sites through video and still photography. We use film footage to document our field site, and we will use video to present the final results of our analyses.

In our presentation we will focus on these methodological issues of the research project, and we will present our tentative interpretations of visual and verbal expressions of our informants.


Gogolin, Ingrid 2002. Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Europe: a challenge for educational research and practice. In: European Educational Research Journal (EERJ), Vol. 1, Nr. 1, S. 123 - 138
Harper, Doug 2002. Talking about pictures: a case for photo elicitation. Visual Studies, 17, 1, 13-26.

Hewitt, R. 2007. Governing Religious and Value Diversity in European Urban Spaces. In Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, vol. 10, 1.

Knowles, Caroline 2006. ‘Seeing Race through the Lens’. Special Issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies On Visual Ethnography, vol.29, no.2

Author Information

Vicky Skiftou
Goldsmiths College London, UK
Ben Hintze
University of Hamburg, Germany
Caroline Knowles
Goldsmiths College London, UK
Ingrid Gogolin
University of Hamburg
Faculty of Education