The Moods of Marianne
Of Hijabs, Nikes, Implicit Religion and Post-Modernity
Keywords:Jean Bauberot, French legislation, religious symbols, Stasi Report
This paper discusses the question of secularity in France, in the perspective of the new law passed by the French government in 2004 (inspired by the Government-commissioned Stasi Report), that sets out to prohibit the presence of all religious symbols in the public sphere, notably in the country’s public schools. The paper does not intend to discuss the political tenets of the debate. It rather raises an issue that is at once more limited and essentially theoretical—yet with important consequences. A well-known French sociologist of religion, Jean Baubérot, argues that ‘wearing a Muslim veil, today, is neither more nor less than wearing Nike running shoes’. This paper suggests that the perspectives opened by the notion of ‘implicit religion’ should bring us to inverse Baubérot’s idea and to consider seriously that, today, for a growing number of individuals, wearing Nikes is not essentially different from wearing a hijab—and that it is therefore potentially just as important and significant, from the perspective of implicit religion. Thus it questions the very limits of the definition of religion that, at least implicitly, underscores the French legislation and, more generally, the very conception of modern secularity.