Seeing Otherwise : Renegotiating Religion and Democracy as Questions for Education


Rooted in philosophy of education, the overall purpose of this dissertation is to renegotiate the relationship between education, religion, and democracy by placing the religious subject at the centre of this renegotiation. While education is the main focus, the study draws its energy from thefact that tensions around religious beliefs and practices seem to touch upon the very heart of liberal democracy. The study reads the tensions religious pluralism seems to be causing in contemporary education through a post-structural approach to difference and subjectivity.

The purpose is accomplished in three movements. The first aims to show why the renegotiation is needed by examining how the relationship between education, democracy, and religion is currently being addressed in cosmopolitan education and deliberative education. The second movement introduces a model of democracy, radical democracy, that sees the process of defining the subject as a political process. It is argued that this model offers possibilities for seeing religion and the religious subject as part of the struggle for democracy. The third movement aims to develop how the relationship between education, democracy, and religion might change if we bring them together in a conversation whose conditions are not ‘owned’ by any one of them.

To create this conversation, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Derrida, Søren Kierkegaard, and Emmanuel Levinas are brought together around three themes – love, freedom, and dialogue – referred to as ‘windows.’ The windows offer three examples in which religious subjectivity is made manifest but they also create a shift in perspective that invites other ways of seeing the tensions between religion and democracy. The aim of the study is to discuss how education might change when religion and democracy become questions for it through the perspectives offered in the windows and what this implies for the particular religious subject.

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