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Why “culture” presents scholars with no less difficulty than “religion”

While preparing a paper for a conference next month, I have been revisiting one of my supervisor’s books. Within, I found I had highlighted a great articulation of the problem I feel with some scholars who seem to advocate throwing away the term “religion” due to its ideological baggage, whilst wishing to retain other concepts and remaining seemingly blind to their ideological baggage. I have pasted below… but haven’t included the various footnotes…

“Whilst I appreciate Fitzgerald’s analysis, I draw the same conclusion as Carrette who concludes that ‘the idea of religion needs to be challenged… but it does not necessarily have to be eradicated’. Its eradication from the disciplinary agenda might very well mask ideological forces – liberal theological – of the kind that Fitzgerald is keen to identify, as well as those inherent within the secularist discourse of cultural studies. It would certainly remove a powerful – if contested – conceptual tool from the scholarly workshop. The proposed construct ‘culture’ is itself ideological charged and presents us with no less difficulty than ‘religion’ for an examination of Western spaces. Carrette calls for the strategic operation of ‘religion’ rather than its dissolution, on the grounds that the Western conception of religion provides ‘a location for understanding a regime of knowledge-power’. This brings me directly to my preferred perspective, one that elects to focus explicitly on the tension between the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’, a major ‘binary constitutive of modernity’.”

Knott, Kim. The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis. London and Oakville CT: Equinox, 2005. p. 83.

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How to be an academic failure

This week I have come across two articles on how to not go about being an academic.

One of these is about how we need to learn to unlearn a lot of the things we learn as undergraduates: Undergraduate Baggage?

The other is absolutely hilarious – a tongue in cheek guide for beginners on how to guarantee becoming an academic failure.

The Academic Résumé: Some Recommendations

The Academic Résumé: Some Recommendations

By L. W. Hurtado, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

The following remarks are intended to give some assistance to the candidate who is perhaps applying for the first academic appointment. They are based on the writer’s experiences as applicant and (as a result of successful applications!) as a participant in the selection and hiring process at academic institutions (on both sides of the Atlantic). I do not claim that these remarks are comprehensive, but I do hope that they may be of help. I should also mention that these observations have to do particularly with the application and hiring processes in a North American setting.1 The procedures are somewhat different in the UK. E.g., British universities tend not to ask for references at application stage, but only for those applicants whom they short-list. Also, whereas you will likely apply directly to the academic department or to the search committee in North America, in the UK you may be asked to send the application through the university’s personnel office.

Continue here

Toward a Typology of Nonreligion (Parts 1 and 2)

I’ve decided to enter the world of YouTube. Not because I had any burning desire to do so, but because I had some material and thought it couldn’t hurt to share it. The following two videos are audio recordings with the accompanying PowerPoint presentation of a paper I presented at the European Association for the Study of Religions’ Annual Conference in Budapest on 19 September 2011. I’m not in the habit of recording my presentations, but as I am writing a conference report on our panel session for the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, it made sense for me to record the full panel. Unfortunately I cannot share the full six-paper panel, or the ensuing discussion, as that would be a breach of privacy/copyright etc etc.

If you have 15 minutes… have a listen. Tell me what you think… and if you would like to read something more substantial, I can send through the full 25,000-word thesis. Feel free to cite this as you will – if you do can you use the following format:

Cotter, Christopher R. 2011. “Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students”, European Association for the Study of Religions Annual Conference, 19 September. Budapest. Available here: <URL>

Enjoy!

 

 

What do you read when studying religion (and nonreligion)?

Many people seem to think that I am a bit of a paradox as far as religion is concerned. Maybe this is true, maybe this isn’t. But I thought it would be amusing to share photographs of the bookshelf immediately above my desk – this should give you an idea of the sort of things that I read, or am meant to be reading at the moment. Of course, there are hundreds of journal articles and library books… but these  I actually ‘own’ myself. What do you think? Have you read any? Am I missing any classics? Answers on a postcard…

 

Teaching and Studying Religion

It seems to be that time of year when numerous ‘gig’s get confirmed. I’ll be doing this in December… enjoy!

Teaching and Studying Religion: Choices and Challenges

 BSA Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, London, 15 December 2011, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

 Religion is not a neutral subject. As with other significant constituents of identity, such as sexuality, gender, ethnicity, or class, the subject of ‘religion’ as a topic for study is not straightforward. And yet, we study it, deconstruct it, analyse, and measure it, recognising as we do that definitions are bound to be contested, fluid, and sometimes slippery. What are the particular challenges and choices this presents in different disciplines, in different places and times? And what are the ethical, political and methodological implications of this?

To find out more about how participants from a variety of disciplines and contexts have engaged with the choices and challenges of teaching and studying religion, join us on December 15 at the BSA Meeting Room in London, for a BSA Socrel symposium, chaired by Abby Day (Department of Religious Studies, University of Kent and Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex) and Anna Strhan (Department of Religious Studies, University of Kent). We are grateful to the Higher Education Academy, for funding. It won’t be your usual ‘stand-and-deliver’ event. Our presenters are working hard to condense their work into short summaries that will be distributed to all participants in advance of the day via e-mail. All participants will be expected to read the summaries and come prepared for a full day of engaging in vibrant exchanges across disciplines, countries, methods and other conventional boundaries.

Total delegate numbers are restricted to 30. Registration for the symposium is now available on the BSA website at http://bsas.esithosting.co.uk/public/event/eventBooking.aspx?id=EVT10172

 Information on the venue location and transport links, is available here.

For any further information, please contact Abby Day (a.day@sussex.ac.uk) and Anna Strhan (as702@kent.ac.uk). The full programme for the day will be published on the BSA Socrel website: http://www.socrel.org.uk/

Keynote lecture by Adam Dinham, Director of Goldsmiths Faith and Civil Society Unit and Programme Director for the ‘Religious Literacy Leadership in Higher Education’ programme

Confirmed Speakers

Discussants: Paul-Francois Tremlett (Department of Religious Studies, Open University), Chris Cotter (Department of Religious Studies, University of Edinburgh) and Anna Strhan (Department of Religious Studies, University of Kent)

Presenters:

  • Alison Scott-Baumann (Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, University of Lancaster), Sariya Contractor (Faculty of Education, Health, and Sciences, University of Derby), Women-led Curriculum Development for Modern British Islam
  • Saeed A. Khan (Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literature and Cultures, Wayne State University), Current Challenges Facing Instructors of Islamic Studies: a Minefield or Marketplace of Ideas?
  • Stephen E. Gregg (School of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies, University of Wales, Trinity St David), Lynne Scholefield (School of Theology, Philosophy and History, St Mary’s University College, Twickenham), “But is it Hinduism?” Changing the Subject in Religious Studies
  • Saeko Yazaki (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge), Teaching Religion: Far From Spurious Objectivity and Unrestrained Subjectivity
  • Anna Van der Kerchove (Institut Européen en Sciences des Religions, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne), Teaching about religious issues in France: from University to classroom. Some remarks about curricula and their implementation in classrooms
  • Slawomir Sztajer (Department of the Study of Religion, Adam Mickiewicz University), Teaching Religion and Teaching about Religion in Today’s Poland
  • Christina Davis (Forum of Religious and Spiritual Education, King’s College London), Discriminating Tolerance and Religious Education: Dealing with incompatible truth-claims in the classroom
  • Janet Eccles and Rebecca Catto (Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, University of Lancaster), Pre-University Experiences of Lived Irreligion
  • Jeroen Bouterse (Institute for Philosophy, University of Leiden), Religion in the Scientific Revolution: Concepts and Theories in Historiography
  • Sahaya G. Selvam (Psychology of Religion, Heythrop College, University of London), Positive Psychology: a viable theoretical and methodological framework for the psychological study of religion?
  • Emma Bell and Scott Taylor (University of Exeter Business School), Spiritual Management Education: Tensions and Contradictions
  • Cosimo Zene (Department of the Study of Religions, SOAS), Studying and Teaching the Religion of the Subalterns: a Critical Gramscian Perspective

The Semiotics of Professor Email Signatures…

I’m quite pleased to discover where I stand on this chart with most academics :)

Upcoming Conferences on Secularities, Information & Religion, Multi-Faith Spaces, and Antropology of Religion

Multiple Secularities and Global Interconnectedness, University of Leipzig, 13 – 15 October 2011

In this conference, we further the debate on secularism and secularity by focusing on the challenges arising from globalization and different forms of interconnectedness. Discussing these challenges from an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective, the conference addresses, amongst other topics, path dependencies and their transformations; vernacular secularities and the vexing question of translatability and interculturality; the usefulness of the ‘Multiple Modernities’ approach as well as the complex interfaces between secularism, colonialism and post-colonial culture.

The conference will start with an opening session on Thursday, 13 October, at 18:00 and end with a plenary session on Saturday, 15 October, at 17:00. The conference is open to all interested participants. Registration can be done through the conference website. The participation fee is 25euro, which includes coffee in the breaks.

http://www.uni-leipzig.de/~cas/de/annual-conference

Second Annual International Conference on Information & Religion

Theme: Preservation and Access: Facilitating Research in Information and Religion
Keynote: Carisse Berryhill, Ph.D., Special Collections Librarian, Abilene Christian University
May 18-19, 2012 ~ Kent State University, Kent, OH

Call for Papers and Posters


The Center for the Study of Information and Religion (CSIR) will host its Second Annual International Conference on Information and Religion in May 2012. This call for papers seeks original contributions in all areas related to information and religion. The conference theme invites participants to share their work in a variety of areas in which scholars are exploring the intersections of religion and information. Topics that might be addressed include but are not limited to the following:

  • Preserving and making available religious texts and information objects associated with communities of faith;
  • Social uses and appropriations made of these texts and objects;
  • The information-seeking behavior of clergy;
  • The role of the sermon as an influential communication medium in society; case studies in the sermon preparation task;
  • Information in its application to local congregations as communities of practice;
  • Faith and many types of intelligence (e.g., emotional intelligence);
  • Dissemination of  faith messages;
  • Intersections of interests in the study of information and religion, where different disciplines might find it worthwhile to collaborate in research.


Prospective participants are encouraged to submit abstracts that report on recent research and scholarship. Contributions to this call for papers should not have been previously published. We also welcome proposals for poster presentations. There are no restrictions on research methodology.

Instructions for submitting refereed paper or poster extended abstracts: The abstract should be no longer than 250 words (including research question, methods, results). Include the title of the paper/poster, names, affiliations, and contact information of the authors (with one author to be designated as the contact for the paper). Submit abstracts in PDF or Word format by Dec. 31, 2011, to Dr. Rosemary Du Mont, CSIR Associate, at rdumont@kent.edu. Notification of acceptance: February 1, 2012.

Papers accepted for presentation at the conference will be considered for publication in ASIR (Advances in the Study of Information and Religion). Details regarding submission of full papers will be given to those whose abstracts are accepted for conference presentation. Please note: Presenters are responsible for their own expenses related to the conference, including but not limited to registration fees, lodging, transportation and meals.

For more information, please contact Dr. Don Wicks (dwicks@kent.edu), Interim Director of SLIS and Director of CSIR, or Dr. Dan Roland (droland1@kent.edu), CSIR Primary Researcher.

http://csir.slis.kent.edu

International Conference on Multi-Faith Spaces, 21st – 22nd March 2012, University of Manchester, UK
This conference will bring together key outputs from the three year research project Multi-Faith Spaces: Symptoms & Agents of Religious and Social Change, funded by the AHRC/ESRC under the Religion and Society Programme. The project considers how individuals from different religious and cultural backgrounds might be brought together, concretely, within new types of ‘faith space’ that are often simultaneously religious, spiritual and secular. The conference will coincide with the launch of a touring photographic exhibition.
Further details can be found at: www.manchester.ac.uk/mfs
In addition to presenting our findings, we hope to encourage contributions from stakeholders within the extended project, alongside a number of individuals working in the area of multi-faith provision (from academic, professional or practitioner backgrounds). To facilitate conversations across disciplinary boundaries, we envisage a range of attendees and contributors from academia, architectural practice, chaplaincy, interior design, public policy, and a host of other fields.
We are currently preparing our programme, and would welcome expressions of interest within the following areas (note: this list is not exhaustive, and other contributions are encouraged):
– Multi-faith theologies and spatial practice
– Theorising multi-faith space
– The architecture of multi-faith space
– Design and ‘best practice’ issues in multi-faith space
– Public policy around multi-faith space
– Multi-faith space as sacred space
– The management of multi-faith space
Please indicate whether you would be interested in:
     Contributing a long paper (20 min. presentation)
     Contributing a short paper (10 min. presentation)
     Taking part in a panel
     Contributing to a workshop
     Attendance only
Further information regarding registration and programme will be sent in early October 2011. We currently envisage that there will be no cost for the conference itself, with limited bursaries for meals/refreshments, travel and accommodation, considered on a case-by-case basis.
Researching Religion: Methodological Debates in Anthropology and the Study of Religion
When: October 18-19, 2011
Where: Aarhus Universitet
Website: http://aal.au.dk/antro/conference-2011-researching-religion/Invited speakers from abroad include:
  •    Joel Kahn, La Trobe University
  •    Joseph Bulbulia, Victoria University of Wellington
  •    Webb Keane, University of Michigan
  •    Ann Taves, University of California-Santa Barbara
  •    William Waldron, Middlebury College
  •    David Wulff, Wheaton College
  •    Michael Lambek, University of Toronto (keynote speaker)
Local participants will likely include:

  •    Sally Anderson, Educational Anthropology
  •    Martijn van Beek, Anthropology
  •    Jørn Borup, Religion
  •    Nils Bubandt, Anthropology
  •    Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger, Religion
  •    Armin W. Geertz, Religion
  •    Else-Marie Jegindø, Religion
  •    Hans Jørgen Lundager Jensen, Theology and Religion
  •    Jeppe Sinding Jensen, Religion
  •    Maria Louw, Anthropology
  •    Anders Klostergaard Petersen, Religion
  •    Andreas Roepstorff, Anthropology
  •    Marianne Schleicher, Religion
  •    Jesper Sørensen, Religion
  •    Cameron David Warner, Anthropology

For more information, please contact Cameron David Warner, etncw@hum.au.dk

Two Excellent Resources

Just a quick post to alert you to two excellent resources I have discovered today.

One is the new documentary series from the BBC, entitled The Life of Muhammad. The first episode was just aired this week and it seems to balance informed but accessible scholarship with a respectful but not deferential tone. Thoroughly recommended to anyone who is interested… and indeed those who are not. I just wish everyone could see this sort of programme. Viewers in the UK can click the link and watch it on BBC iPlayer, where it is available until August 1 2011 (duration 60 mins).

The other resource is a website that I have stumbled across and will have to check out in much greater detail over the coming weeks. It is patheos.com, which describes itself as:

the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information or resources about religion. Patheos brings together the public, academia, and the faith leaders in a single environment, and is the place where people turn on a regular basis for insight into questions, issues, and discussions. Patheos is unlike any other online religious and spiritual site and is designed to serve as a resource for those looking to learn more about different belief systems, as well as participate in productive, moderated discussions on some of today’s most talked about and debated topics.

Whilst I haven’t had much of a chance to look around it, and whilst always being slightly irked at seeing religion being treated as distinct entities and institutions to which a specified number of adherents belong etc (the good old ‘world religions’ paradigm raises its head once more), there seem to be a huge number of resources here, with vast amounts information on certainly all the major religions in the world… and resources for teachers, students, academics, religious leaders, interested laypeople and more…

I hope both of these ‘tips’ prove useful :)

UCC offers new MA in Contemporary Religions

I received the following information through a mailing list last night, and thought that it might be of interest to some of the readers of this blog:

A new MA Contemporary Religions programme will be offered by the Study of Religions department at UCC Cork from September 2011. This is the first programme of its kind in Ireland.

The MA may be taken full-time (12 months) or part time (over 2 or 3 years) and will be taught in the evenings. The closing date for applications this year is July 1st. Applications received after this date will be considered if places are still available.

Details of the new MA programme can be accessed from the MA Contemporary Religions link on the dept website at http://www.ucc.ie/en/studyofreligions/ or at http://www.ucc.ie/en/studyofreligions/PostgraduateStudies/

For queries about the programme content and delivery or an informal discussion about study options at MA or other levels please contact me or any member of SoR staff (details at http://www.ucc.ie/en/studyofreligions/Staff/ .

Enquiries about the MA application process (online, via PAC, the Postgraduate Applications Centre) should be directed to the UCC Graduate Studies Office – details of the new MA Contemporary Religions and of the PAC application procedure are at the GSO website http://www.ucc.ie/en/study/postgrad/what/acsss/masters/religion/

Kind regards

Prof. Brian Bocking, Study of Religions Department, CACSSS University College Cork (UCC), Ireland