Journal Article

Behind the Ethnic Marker: Religion and Social Identification in Northern Ireland

Claire Mitchell

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 66, issue 1, pages 3-21
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Behind the Ethnic Marker: Religion and Social Identification in Northern Ireland

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Reducing religion to a mere ethnic marker has stifled the debate about its social and political significance in Northern Ireland. This article puts forward a constructivist argument, which understands religion as a dynamic of personal and group identification, as the key to illuminating its social significance. Drawing on analysis of in-depth interviews it finds four main ways in which religion informs processes of social identification and community construction in Northern Ireland: where it acts as an identity marker; where religious rituals play a practical role, or religious ideas play a symbolic role, in the construction of community; and, where doctrine can legitimize oppositional social identifications. In fact, specifically religious structures and religious ideas remain socially significant beyond the confines of the most devout. Thus, rather than just marking out ethnic identities, this article argues that religion generally provides some substantive content to processes of categorization and social comparison in Northern Ireland.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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