A number of commentators have begun to focus on subtle shifts in language and meaning as Vladimir Putin re-purposes the Russian project.  The claim to Crimea is rooted in a more “ethnically-pure” vision of “Russian-ness.”  As Homi Bhabha has noted with regard to the crisis in Balkans in the 1990s, such projects of purification (and this, thankfully, seems to promise only to be a rhetorical, rather than a physical process of “purification”) in fact require a great deal of cultural “work.”

As in the Balkans, this cultural work will necessarily involve religion.  This role for religion, as a “marker” of national or ethnic identity, illustrates the complexity of accounting for “the religious” in contemporary public culture.

It will be interesting to see how journalistic coverage of the crisis treats the role of “religion” if at all.  Will it consider it to be important enough?  Will it convey the subleties?   Prior experience does not make one hopeful.

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