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Religion and Education in Romania: Social Mobilization and the “Shadow” of the European Court of Human Rights

  • Mihai Popa (a1) and Liviu Andreescu (a2)

In this article, we discuss the relation between the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and its jurisprudence and social mobilizations around the place of religion in the society. We focus on the struggles to define the intersection of religion and public education in Romania after the fall of communism. We show that secularist and counter-secularist civil society activists contending for the place of religion in public education in this country have made strategic use of the ECtHR and its case law, both in legal battles and in debates within the national public sphere. We argue that, since references to the ECtHR and its jurisprudence can be used in discursive battles as a form of symbolic “capital”, the strategies of mobilizing actors are at times more important than the strict doctrinal content of the ECtHR's judgments for understanding if and how the ECtHR's “shadow” is cast over religion-related mobilizations.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mihai Popa, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Advokatenweg 36, 06114, Halle/ Saale, Germany. E-mail:
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This analysis is based on data generated in the Grassrootsmobilise research program funded by the European Research Council (GA No. 338463). The authors thank their colleagues from the Grassrootsmobilise team, Nicholas Tampio, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on the manuscript. The first author additionally acknowledges the support granted by the Centre for Citizenship, Social Pluralism and Religious Diversity at the University of Potsdam through a visiting research fellowship during which parts of this analysis have been developed.

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Politics and Religion
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