Growing religious pluralism in early nineteenth-century Geneva: new methods for revealing hidden structures and dynamics from censuses

Michel Oris (University of Geneva), Gilbert Ritschard (University of Geneva), Olivier Perroux

Abstract

Growing religious pluralism in early nineteenth-century Geneva: new methods for revealing hidden structures and dynamics from censuses

This paper has a local, a general and a methodological ambition. We deal with a specific story, that of Geneva, the ‘Calvinist Rome’, which was obliged in the first half of the nineteenth century to open its doors to immigrants, including large numbers of Catholics. Learning to live together, to organize the coexistence of the ‘old’ rooted families and the ‘newcomers’, was a process marked by tensions and power relations. From that perspective, Geneva’s history documents an European experience in the early nineteenth century, whereas most existing studies are about nineteenth century America or European cities in the second half of the twentieth century. We discuss how stories of pluralism can be addressed using population censuses as an historical source. We use statistical implicative analysis, a powerful tool that reveals hidden patterns and the variables that polarize socioeconomic structures. Using this approach, we discover that the protestant religion remained the dominant structuring principle. While relatively stable protestant socioeconomic groups competed for power, Catholics did not take part in these struggles but grew demographically, remaining as invisible as possible. It is the opposite pattern of the space segmentation (with ghettos, «Little Italy», «Chinatown», etc.). This ‘strategy’ of invisibility is of great interest because it has been, and perhaps still is, quite common in past and contemporaneous societies experiencing inmigration.

DOI: 10.4424/ps2010-10

Keywords

Census; religion; Geneva; implicative statistics; immigrants