Scholar Spotlight on Knut Lundby: Media Dynamics of Cultural Conflicts

Religion has become a topic of growing controversy and an avenue for differing opinions and discussions. The ways that the media interacts with issues regarding religion can be complicated and difficult.

Knut Lundby, Professor Emeritus, discussed mediatization research and the study of media and religion in the book, "Contesting Religion: The Media Dynamics of Cultural Conflicts in Scandinavia.” He conducted this study out of a “long-term cooperative researchers’ engagement with mediatization of religion among Scandinavian scholars and a pressing need to understand growing conflicts over religion”, especially to study Muslim immigration into secular societies with a strong Lutheran church affiliation. Primarily, they conducted research due to funding received from the program on The Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change at the Research Council of Norway.

This book explores research conducted by Swedish researchers regarding the radio program People and Belief and the commonly debated topics regarding Islam. This program’s goal is to create an alternative to the pessimistic media issues typically addressed. However, this program leans towards reconstructing the frames of Islam in society and discussing the relationship between strong and weak voices in public discourse.

Lundby believes that “Despite a general awareness among media producers and teachers to overcome the negative media framing of Islam and Muslims, the case studies in the CoMRel (Conflict, Media and Religion Studies) project show that the frame is difficult to overcome: the dominant images of Muslims and Islam are continuously reproduced and remediated in all of the Scandinavian settings.” To support this claim, Islam can be seen as a threat to culture by approximately 50% of Scandinavian respondents, according to a 2015 survey from CoMRel. However, a majority of Scandinavians reported that hostile positions toward foreigners should not be tolerated.

Lundby sees the conclusions contributing to current research in religious studies by portraying a nuanced theoretical comprehension of the mediatization of religion and “through discussions of the media dynamics as well as of the conceptualization of religion.”