Tag Archive | conference

New Atheism, Open-Mindedness and Critical Thinking

The diary for 2012 is sure filling up! I’ll be presenting the following paper at Lancaster University as part of the (New) Atheism, Scientism and Open-Mindedness Conference, 2-3 April 2012.

New Atheism, Open-Mindedness and Critical Thinking

Based upon prevalent emic and etic presentations of “New Atheism” in the media and online, it is unlikely that one would feel inclined to describe the dominant discourse as ‘open-minded’. However, as I have argued elsewhere, the situation is much more nuanced than such a superficial overview would suggest. One of the key criticisms levelled at “religion” by four illustrative exemplars of “New Atheism” – Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens – is that it stands in the way of knowledge and progress, and fosters a “totalitarian” atmosphere of submission to unquestionable authority. This portrayal of closed-minded “religion” is contrasted with one of the key aspects of the worldview they promote, where fully naturalistic and rational education is presented as essential for the good of humanity, allowing individuals – according to Dennett – “to make their own informed choices”.

Drawing upon William Hare’s extensive writings on the subject of “open-mindedness” and Harvey Siegel’s subsequent clarification of the relationship between “open-mindedness” and “critical thinking”, this paper shall consider the following three interrelated areas of “New Atheist” discourse: a) their critique of religion, b) the worldview they promote, and c) the framework within which these occur. I shall demonstrate that “critical thinking” – described by Siegel as a “sufficient (but not necessary) condition of open-mindedness” – is a key epistemic virtue extolled throughout the “New Atheist” texts. This contrasts markedly with the “religion” portrayed in their critique. I conclude, with reference to Thomas Kuhn’s idea of “paradigms” (adapted by Wayne Riggs), that the “New Atheist” position cannot be understood as “open-minded” (and neither, following Siegel, as involving “critical thinking”) through their apparent failure to engage with “religion” on its own terms, and the tendency towards propaganda and rhetoric inherent in their texts.

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!

 

 

(Non)Religion and (In)Equalities in an Age of Austerity

As I have had a couple of abstracts accepted for conferences in the New Year, I thought I would share them with you so that you’d know what I’m up to. I am also currently working on editing an audio recording and powerpoint presentation together so that you can hear the presentation I delivered at the European Association for the Study of Religions in Budapest last September.

The first conference is the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group Conference on ‘Religion and (In)Equalities’, University of Chester, UK, 28 – 30 March 2012.

Here I shall be presenting the following paper:

The Inherent Inequalities of the Religion-Nonreligion Dichotomy: A Narrative Approach to Individual (Non-)Religiosity

Scholars of religion tend to focus upon individuals and/or communities that are demonstrably religious. However, existing relevant scholarly literature on the non- or non-traditionally religious in contemporary society portrays a complex system of mutual experiences of marginalisation and boundary demarcation amongst both the religious and the nonreligious (cf. Edgell, Gerteis, and Hartmann 2006; Cotter 2011a; Amarasingam 2010). This paper builds upon these observations, utilising empirical narrative evidence from a yearlong MSc project (Cotter 2011b) amongst the student body of the University of Edinburgh, focussing on ‘nonreligious’ undergraduates – whether explicitly irreligious/undecided, those occupying the ‘fuzzy middle’ (Voas 2009), or those potentially termed ‘nominal’ believers (cf. Day 2009; Davie 1994).

Firstly, I shall demonstrate that the academic study of religion institutionally marginalises the nonreligious – and unjustifiably so (cf. Fitzgerald 2000). Secondly, I shall show how an approach which allows individuals to present their (non)religious identity in their own terms presents a complex process of identity negotiation. Many students pragmatically ‘altered’ their (non)religious self-representations in a manner which suggested the maintenance of differentiated narratives in multiple internally demarcated habitūs, contained within an overarching narrative framework. Many of these fluctuations appear to be motivated by subjective experiences of belonging and marginalisation, and also testify to the limited usefulness and potentially inequality-creating effects of census-type survey methods (Day 2009; 2011). Finally, I propose that in every case the student’s personal (non)religious self-description was subordinated to other overarching ideals implicit throughout their narratives. When ‘religion’ is perceived to interact with these students’ narrative frameworks, it becomes the ‘other’ against which their personal perceptions of some disparate-yet-unified ‘nonreligious’ stance is defined. This suggests an alternative approach which takes individuals and groups on their own terms, and which avoids dichotomisation into majority/minority groups, whilst highlighting the important locations in which inequalities can emerge.

The next conference is the main conference of the British Sociological Association, entitled ‘Sociology in an Age of Austerity‘, University of Leeds, UK, 11–13 April 2012.

Here I shall be presenting the following paper:

Relocating Religion: An Alternative Perspective based on the Narratives of ‘Nonreligious’ Students

This paper builds upon my yearlong project amongst the student body of the University of Edinburgh focusing on (broadly defined) ‘nonreligious’ undergraduates. Through questionnaires and in-depth interviews, I explored this neglected area, and demonstrated that the limited number of current typologies of nonreligion – based on internally and/or externally selected and defined nonreligious identity labels – tend to be inadequate and inaccurate. In this paper, I show that nonreligious students are highly aware of the subjectivity of their interpretations of key self-descriptors, and in many cases maintain multiple self-representations simultaneously, in a situational and pragmatic fashion. Using their narrative frameworks, I propose a more nuanced typology of nonreligion, which both cuts across and is independent of ‘religious’ categories, and is rooted in the specificities of what individuals considered as important and significant in their lives. I demonstrate that these particular young people are neither indifferent to religion, nor overtly religious or nonreligious: ‘religion’ was not invested with any significant ‘meaning‘ in-and-of itself. However, when it was perceived to interact with their narrative frameworks, it became the ‘other‘ against which their personal stance is defined. This raises the possibility of a new approach to ‘religion’ which aims to understand individuals according to the narrative frameworks by which they articulate what really matters. In this ‘Age of Austerity’, this shift in focus to the different ways in which individuals are (or aren’t) religious could have profound implications upon how we approach social interactions and ‘religious’ conflict in a religiously diverse United Kingdom.

Transformations of the Sacred in Europe and Beyond

I could comment on the agenda which this very worthwhile conference seems to be pushing, and the lack of representation of non-religious or ‘indifferent’ positions being studied, but I’ll leave that to you…

I’d surely submit a paper if I had the funding. Enjoy…

The ESA Sociology of Religion Research Network’s First Bi-Annual Conference, Transformations of the Sacred in Europe and Beyond, will be Monday 3- Wednesday 5 September, 2012 at the University of Potsdam, Campus Griebnitzsee.

The mid term conference is coordinated by the RN34 Vice Chair, Heidemarie Winkel (Potsdam/Berlin).

Call for Papers

clip_image002 ESA Research Network 34 – Sociology of Religion
clip_image004 Call for papers – Mid-term Conference

University of Potsdam,, Germany

3-5 September 2012

Transformations of the Sacred in Europe and Beyond

The thesis of secularization, once sheer uncontested in the social sciences, is increasingly under fire. Secularization is nowadays often deconstructed as an ideology or mere wish dream that is intimately connected to the rationalist ambitions of modern Enlightenment. Such alleged blurring of morality and science, of what ‘is’ and what ‘ought’, informing sociological analysis obviously obscures clear sight on recent developments in the Western world.

Countless empirical and theoretical studies convincingly demonstrate that religion is alive and well in Europe and beyond. Particularly after the attacks of 9/11 in 2001, religious identities have become salient in a situation of cultural polarization and religious pluralization. Moreover, we are witnessing a trend towards ‘believing without belonging’ (Davie, 1994) and – particularly in those European countries that are most secular – a shift from organized religion to ‘spiritualities of life’ (e.g., Heelas and Woodhead, 2005), paganism and ‘popular religion’ (Knoblauch, 2009). And although the thesis of secularization has always been highly problematic from a non-European or global perspective, the rapid globalization of Islam and the Evangelical upsurge – especially in Africa, Latin America and East Asia – fly in the face of the long-held expectation that religion is doomed to be a marginal or socially insignificant phenomenon.

Evidently, then, the focus of sociological analysis has shifted over the last decades from religious decline to religious change. More than that: it is theorized that we are living in a “post-secular society” (Habermas, 2005) where religion is re-vitalized, de-privatized and increasingly influences politics, voting behavior, matters of the state and ethical debates in the public domain (e.g., Casanova, 1994). Motivated by such observations, the mid-term conference calls for papers addressing changes in the field of religion and, more in particular, transformations of the sacred in Europe and beyond. Particularly we welcome studies covering the following topics:

  • Studies on how and why conceptions of the sacred, religious beliefs, doctrines, rituals and organizations of long-standing religious traditions – such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism – transform under the influence of processes of globalization, individualization, mediatization as well as changing gender relations.
  • Studies dealing with trends of believing without belonging, i.e. non-institutionalized beliefs, personal ‘bricolage’ and privatized conceptions of the sacred outside the Churches, Chapels and Mosques. Encouraged are also studies addressing new, more informal ways of ‘belonging’, religious communication and collective effervescence, i.e. in loose social networks, discussion groups or virtual communities on the internet.
  • Studies covering popular religion and post-traditional spirituality, i.e., New Age, esotericism, paganism, occultism, discussing for instance an epistemological turn from belief to experience and emotion; a shifting emphasis from transcendence to immanence; from seriousness to playfulness; or a transition from dualism to monism.
  • Studies dealing with implicit religion, i.e. addressing a re-location of the sacred to seemingly secular domains in society such as self-identity, sports, modern science and technology. This avenue of research may also include the place and meaning of the sacred (i.e., religious narratives, symbols and images) in popular media texts – in novels, films, series on television or computer games.

These topics are rough guidelines; papers dealing with religious change and the transformation of the sacred in Europe and beyond other than these outlined above are also very welcome. Furthermore we invite PhD and post-doc candidates to contribute to a poster session, including work in progress; the best poster will get a – small, but nice – prize.

Dates & Deadlines in 2012

March 15 Submission of abstracts and online registration starts

April 20 Submission of abstracts ends

May 10 Acceptance of abstracts

June 30 Early-bird registration ends

September 3 – 5 Conference

For further information, please visit: http://www.esareligion.org

Contact: esa-religion@uni-potsdam.de

Religion and (In)Equalities

I have just heard that my abstract has been accepted for the following conference:

Religion and (In)Equalities: Sociology of Religion Study Group (SOCREL) Annual Conference, University of Chester, UK, 28 – 30 March 2012

Plenary Speakers: Professor Tariq Modood (University of Bristol), Professor Elaine Graham (University of Chester), Professor Sean McCloud (University of North Carolina)

Also featuring:

  • A roundtable discussion with Professor Linda Woodhead and Dr Rebecca Catto (Lancaster University), and Professor Kim Knott (University of Leeds), Professor Gordon Lynch (University of Kent], Prof. Grace Davie [University of Exeter] and Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster University) on the forthcoming volume Religion and Change in Modern Britain (Routledge)
  • Dr Karen Jochelson and Dr David Perfect (Equality and Human Rights Commission)

This interdisciplinary conference gathers academics and practitioners to discuss the complex ways religion interacts with systems of power and/or categories of difference that affect experiences of equality and/or inequality in individuals, groups and spaces. The intersections of gender, race and class are typically part of the mutually constitutive ‘matrix’ of social categories that contribute to identities and power relations, however religion is often overlooked. Such oversight can only result in limited analyses and leaves pathways to social inclusion and exclusion concealed. Through this conference we seek to bring together research that explores the ways religious beliefs, identities, practices, communities and institutions can contribute to both experiences of belonging and marginalization.

I shall apparently be presenting the following paper…

The Inherent Inequalities of the Religion-Nonreligion Dichotomy: A Narrative Approach to Individual (Non-)Religiosity

Scholars of religion tend to focus upon individuals and/or communities that are demonstrably religious. However, existing relevant scholarly literature on the non- or non-traditionally religious in contemporary society portrays a complex system of mutual experiences of marginalisation and boundary demarcation amongst both the religious and the nonreligious (cf. Edgell, Gerteis, and Hartmann 2006; Cotter 2011a; Amarasingam 2010). This paper builds upon these observations, utilising empirical narrative evidence from a yearlong MSc project (Cotter 2011b) amongst the student body of the University of Edinburgh, focussing on ‘nonreligious’ undergraduates – whether explicitly irreligious/undecided, those occupying the ‘fuzzy middle’ (Voas 2009), or those potentially termed ‘nominal’ believers (cf. Day 2009; Davie 1994).

 Firstly, I shall demonstrate that the academic study of religion institutionally marginalises the nonreligious – and unjustifiably so (cf. Fitzgerald 2000). Secondly, I shall show how an approach which allows individuals to present their (non)religious identity in their own terms presents a complex process of identity negotiation. Many students pragmatically ‘altered’ their (non)religious self-representations in a manner which suggested the maintenance of differentiated narratives in multiple internally demarcated habitūs, contained within an overarching narrative framework. Many of these fluctuations appear to be motivated by subjective experiences of belonging and marginalisation, and also testify to the limited usefulness and potentially inequality-creating effects of census-type survey methods (Day 2009; 2011). Finally, I propose that in every case the student’s personal (non)religious self-description was subordinated to other overarching ideals implicit throughout their narratives. When ‘religion’ is perceived to interact with these students’ narrative frameworks, it becomes the ‘other’ against which their personal perceptions of some disparate-yet-unified ‘nonreligious’ stance is defined. This suggests an alternative approach which takes individuals and groups on their own terms, and which avoids dichotomisation into majority/minority groups, whilst highlighting the important locations in which inequalities can emerge.

 References:

  •  Amarasingam, Amarnath. 2010. “To Err in their Ways: The Attribution Biases of the New Atheists.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 39 (4): 573-588.
  • Cotter, Christopher R. 2011a. “Consciousness Raising: The critique, agenda, and inherent precariousness of contemporary Anglophone atheism.” International Journal for the Study of New Religions 2 (1): 77-103.
  • ———. 2011b. Toward a Typology of “Nonreligion”: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students. Unpublished MSc by Research Dissertation, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, August.
  • Davie, Grace. 1994. Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without belonging. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Day, Abby. 2009. “Believing in belonging: An ethnography of young people’s constructions of belief.” Culture and Religion 10 (3) (November): 263-278.
  • ———. 2011. Big week for census Christians. Dr Abby Day. March. http://abbyday.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/census/.
  • Edgell, Penny, Joseph Gerteis, and Douglas Hartmann. 2006. “Atheists as ‘Other’: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society.” American Sociological Review 71 (2) (April): 211-234.
  • Fitzgerald, Timothy. 2000. The Ideology of Religious Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Voas, David. 2009. “The Rise and Fall of Fuzzy Fidelity in Europe.” European Sociological Review 25 (2): 155-168.

Nonreligion Panel at the European Association for the Study of Religions’ Conference, Budapest, 19 September

After a successful (I hope) first presentation at the British Association for the Study of Religions’ Conference in Durham this week, this is where I am off to next week:

New Movements in Religion, 10th EASR Conference, 18-22. September 2011. Budapest, Hungary
Location: Hungarian Culture Foundation, Budapest, Szentháromság tér 6.
See www. easr10.eu for more info.

Monday, 19. September 09.00 – 11.00 (Room: “Lecture I”)
Non-Religiosity, Identity and Ritual  Chair: Kovács, Ábrahám

  • Cotter, Christopher R.,: “Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students”
  • Mastiaux, Björn: “Non-Religious Identity and Attitudes toward Ritual of Members of Atheist / Secularist Organizations in Germany and the United States”
  • Catto, Rebecca and Eccles, Janet: “Investigating Young People in Britain’s Active Non-Religious Identities”
  • McKearney, Patrick: “What are you laughing at?” The Role of Ridicule in Non-religious Identity Formation”
  • Quack, Johannes: “From Antyesti to Organ Transplantation: The Secularisation of Death in India (in Comparison to Developments in Europe)”
  • Aechtner, Rebecca and Wesser, Grit: “Jugendweihe: A Non-religious Coming-of-age Ritual in Eastern Germany”

Call for Papers: Modernism, Christianity, and Apocalypse (18-20 July 2012)

CALL FOR PAPERS: Modernism, Christianity, and Apocalypse (18-20 July 2012)

A conference organised by the Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Bergen, Norway; funded by the Bergen Research Foundation through the ‘Modernism and Christianity’ research project.

Conference organisers:

  • Dr Erik Tonning
  • Dr Matthew Feldman

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:

  • Professor Paul S. Fiddes (University of Oxford)
  • Professor John Milbank (University of Nottingham)
  • Professor Hans Ottomeyer (Former Director of the German Historical Museum)
  • Professor Marjorie Perloff (University of Southern California)

INVITED SPEAKERS:

  • Professor C. J. Ackerley (University of Otago)
  • Professor Mary Bryden (University of Reading)
  • Professor Pericles Lewis (Yale University)
  • Professor Gregory Maertz (St. John’s University, NY)
  • Professor Shane Weller (University of Kent)

The modernist imperative ‘Make it new!’ posits a break with traditional artistic forms, but also with the entire mould of a civilization felt to be in a state of terminal decay (‘an old bitch, gone in the teeth’, as a second dictum by Ezra Pound has it). Modernism was steeped in the language of apocalyptic crisis, generating multiple (and contradictory) millennial visions of artistic, cultural, religious and political transformation. This conference will examine the continuing impact of Christianity upon the modernist thinking of Apocalypse in Western culture, covering the period of early-to-high modernism (c. 1880-1945), with glances towards the immediate aftermath of World War II and the Bomb. ‘Modernism’ is not here confined to the arts, and contributions are warmly invited from scholars across the humanities and social sciences. The modernist crisis is often depicted as emerging ‘after’ disenchantment and secularisation. Yet contemporary assessments of Christianity varied strikingly, as modernist thinkers, artists, writers and political ideologues confronted its entrenched authority and formidable capacity for self-reinvention. Certainly, as the historian Peter J. Bowler has shown, the effort to ‘reconcile’ science and religion was in no way abandoned in early twentieth century discourse. Nor, of course, did the efforts of theologians across the confessional spectrum suddenly cease: on the contrary, theology from Karl Barth to the Nouvelle Théologie and beyond delivered penetrating responses to modernity. More radical theorists and philosophers of the modern from Nietzsche onward also grappled with Christianity, often becoming further enmeshed even while prophesying the Death of God. Indeed, whether read through Frazer’s dying gods or Freud’s paternal totems, the Christian stories stubbornly resisted easy assimilation. Repeatedly, artists and writers exploring radically new modes of religious experience might find their works subtly infiltrated by biblical or liturgical language and iconography. Christianity also garnered modernist converts: for some, the promise of cultural resurrection would converge on a return to orthodoxy following the liberal dilutions of the nineteenth century; while others freely adapted the tradition to suit their spiritual needs. Even those chary of such a step, or actively hostile to Christian faith, continued to reinvent the cultural resources and imagery of the Christian past – if only in order to overturn it in favour of a new future. The political religions of the twentieth century (Stalinism, Fascism, Nazism) promulgated their own revolutionary visions of Apocalypse and a secular Kingdom, casting Christianity as a chief antagonist, or at least as subservient to a vitalist national-political will. Nonetheless, these alternative salvation histories, too, were undeniably linked to their paradigm in the Christian tradition.

The complexities and ambiguities involved in such historical transactions are obvious: and interdisciplinary insights are essential in mapping them. Modernism, Christianity, and Apocalypse thus invites contributions by scholars in all relevant fields. New archival information and empirical research on this period is welcomed alongside broader theoretical and historical re-evaluations of the modernist crisis, or novel readings of central texts. A concerted effort to recover the complex interwovenness of modernism, Christianity and the apocalyptic imagination is especially urgent today, as the very idea of a ‘post-secular’ culture is being interrogated anew in a global context. Indeed, the recent Norway terror by a self-proclaimed crusader for ‘European civilization’ is a horrifying reminder that the contestation of history, and the proclamation of eschatologies, can still turn bloody.

WRITERS:
Suggestions for individual papers/panels (others also welcome):

  • America, the UK and Ireland: W. H. Auden, Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, David Jones, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Virginia Woolf
  • France: Georges Bataille, Paul Claudel, André Gide, Charles Péguy, Simone Weil
  • Germany: Thomas Mann, Alfred Döblin, German expressionism
  • Russia: Anna Akhmatova, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy
  • Scandinavia: Knut Hamsun, August Strindberg

VISUAL ARTS
MUSIC
PHILOSOPHERS AND THEORISTS OF THE MODERN
THEOLOGY AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
MODERNISM AND THE BIBLE
SCIENCE – AND RELIGIONS OLD AND NEW
THE NEW MAN AND THE OLD ADAM: MODERNIST AND CHRISTIAN ANTHROPOLOGIES
MODERNISM AND POLITICAL RELIGION
ALTERNATIVE/NEW RELIGIONS
VITALISM, MODERNISM AND CHRISTIANITY
A CIVILIZATION IN CRISIS? MODERNISM, HISTORY AND APOCALYPSE
MODERNISM, CHRISTIANITY AND NIHILISM
APOCALYPSE AND THE FIN DE SIÈCLE
WAR, AND RUMOURS OF WAR, 1914-1945
REVALUATIONS OF THE APOCALYPSE AFTER WWII
APOCALYPSE NOW? CLOSING PLENARY ON CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE

Conference venue: Hotel solstrand (outside Bergen, Norway) http://www.solstrand.com/english/articles.asp?segment=3&ID=139
CONFERENCE FEE (early bird rate): NOK 3700: This covers all expenses, including conference pack; two nights at the hotel; three lunches, two breakfasts and two dinners at the hotel (famous for its food); access to excellent sauna, pool and steam-room facilities; and a direct conference bus (at c. 11 am, c. 25-30 mins) to the hotel from Flesland airport (18th), with a return on Friday afternoon (20th, at 4 pm). There is also a postgraduate rate of NOK 3200 available. PLEASE NOTE: This subsidized rate is offered through conference funding provided by the Bergen Research Foundation. Registration at this rate is therefore limited to 75 delegates. Once this number of total delegates has been reached, additional registrations will cost NOK 4400. All delegates registering after 1 May 2012 will also be charged at this higher rate. Early registration is thus strongly recommended.

To register: Please send your title, abstract (100-200 words) and biographical information to erik.tonning@if.uib.no for consideration. Upon acceptance of your proposed paper (20 minutes), payment details will be emailed back to you. You will then have three weeks to complete your registration by making your payment: after this time, your place may be offered to someone else. Should you wish to cancel your registration at a later stage, a refund will be available (minus a service charge).

Postsecular cities in an age of austerity: religion, spirituality, economic restructuring and urban change – a critical dialogue

Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New York City, NY (24-28 February 2012)

Conveners: Chris Baker (University of Chester, UK), Justin Beaumont (University of Grongingen, NL)

AAG Sponsorship – GORABS (Geographies of Religion and Belief Systems Speciality Group)

This session addresses a series of overlapping agendas that have emerged with growing force and significance in the early 21st century.

First, the global re-emergence of religion as a political and cultural force within the public domain has gained considerable attention across the social sciences and the humanities. Even within the ‘secular West’ the significance of religion as a tool of government social policy has increased, while patterns of immigration and the religious practices they bring to European cities problematize a straightforward ‘religion in decline’ thesis. Meanwhile, the growing re-enchantment of the West, as evidenced in the rise of spiritual practices and interest in non-material goods (such as wellbeing and happiness) has led to a vigorous debate about the emergence of a postsecular public space. Jurgen Habermas for example suggests the West has reached a point where ‘a postsecular understanding of society as a whole in which the vigorous continuation of religion in a continually secularising environment must be reckoned with’ (2005: 26). Charles Taylor amplifies Habermas’s ideas to the effect that the current secular age is characterized by the notion of choice. Although the main social and cultural frameworks in the West have moved from a Christian to a secular one, nevertheless religious belief persists and mutates but now within the context of multiplicity.

Second, the global recession affects everyone but clearly some parts of the world are adversely affected more than others. The escalating cost of essential commodities, the devastating impacts of climate change, competition for land and resources, and growing social and economic inequalities is placing huge strain on existing infrastructures of support, be they families, communities, the voluntary sector, local governments or nation states. Attention has therefore turned to alternative sources of resilience and values and the search is now on for sustainable, more just and more holistic forms of political economy within an age of austerity that creates the conditions for both human and non-human flourishing. The search for new partnerships based on more ethical forms of political economy and society clearly involve an increased role for religious individuals, institutions and communities to bend the public and urban agenda in this direction via practices and discourses that are both traditional but also groundbreaking.

Finally, when one reflects on these two drivers of public discourse (i.e. the postsecular and the age of austerity) then one observes that it is in urban spaces that the mutating relationships between the religious and the secular, the sacred and the profane, the public and the private and the growing inequalities between rich and poor are most starkly evidenced. There have also been, clearly, a number of spatial restructurings undergone by towns and cities since the early 1990s as the global economy shifts towards the production of knowledge, information, innovation and virtual forms of capital transfer and investment. Several of these religious, political and economic changes have been analysed in a number of recent publications (see Molendijk, Beaumont and Jedan 2010; Beaumont and Baker 2011; Atherton, Graham and Steedman 2010) in which the following features take a prominent role:

· The complexities of secularism as well as religion;

· The contested nature of religious space within secular jurisdictions (e.g. planning and urban management);

· New spaces of belonging, becoming and participation by religious groups within urban contexts;

· The new sacrality of the postmodern city;

· New practices of social care and justice by religious and spiritual groups;

· Theological critiques and visions for a better (or good or “just”) city;

· Crossovers (or rapprochements) between religious and secular discourses and practices on ideas of the common good, happiness and wellbeing and human/non-human flourishing.

Within this session we would therefore welcome papers from a range of interdisciplinary and critical perspectives on the following topics:

· Religion and political economy

· The role and form of religious buildings within urban space;

· Spiritual capital, moral freighting and neighbourliness;

· Resilience and addiction;

· Urban justice and social welfare;

· Symbolic representations of the sacred;

· Religious Identity and experiences of belonging;

· Counter-hegemonic spaces and alternative structures;

· Everyday religion in the mundane.

If you would like to participate in a session, please send a 200 word abstract (listing name, affiliation and contact details) as well as your PINs to both chris.baker@chester.ac.uk and j.r.beaumont@rug.nl by 15 September, 2011. You should consult the AAG website (www.aag.org) for online registration and abstract submission instructions.

References

Beaumont, J. and C. Baker (eds) (2011) Postsecular Cities: space, theory and practice, London and New York: Continuum.

Atherton, J. Graham, E. and I. Steedman (eds) (2010) The Practices of Happiness: political economy, religion and wellbeing, Abingdon: Routledge.

Habermas, J. (2005) ‘Equal treatment of cultures and the limits of postmodern liberalism’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 13(1): 1-28.

Molendijk, A., Beaumont, J. and C. Jedan (eds) (2010) Exploring the Postsecular: the religious, the political and the urban, Leiden: Brill.

Taylor, C. (2007) A Secular Age, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.

The Postsecular in International Politics (Conference)

I would totally be attending this conference if I weren’t on my way to present at another conference in the US. For those in the UK, it will definitely be worth checking out!

Welcome to the blog for the International ESRC-sponsored conference, The Postsecular in International Politics, taking place at the University of Sussex on 27th-28th October 2011. The Postsecular in International Politics will bring together a range of internationally renowned scholars. Speakers  include: Joseph Camilleri, Stephen Chan, Fred Dallmayr, Richard Falk, Jeff Haynes, Mustapha Pasha, Tariq Ramadan, Nick Rengger, Richard Sakwa,  Ole Wæve … Read More

via The Postsecular in International Politics

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