Tag Archive | Higher Education

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.

Advertisements

Underground Student Atheist Groups

Something which might be of interest, from Kimberly Winston @ USA Today:

Late one night over pizza, University of Dayton students Branden King and Nick Haynes discovered neither of them believed in God. Surely, they thought, they couldn’t be the only unbelievers at the Roman Catholic college.

Last year, King and Haynes and a couple of other like-minded students applied to the administration to form the Society of Freethinkers, a student club based on matters of unbelief.

The university rejected their application — and rejected them again in September. Without university approval, the group cannot meet on campus, tap a student activities fund, participate in campus events or use campus media.

For now, they meet at a Panera cafe off campus, relying on word-of-mouth to draw members, up to about 15 now. And they are appealing the rejection.

“A religious campus can be a lonely place for someone who doesn’t subscribe to faith,” said King, now 23 and a graduate student in biology. “We want to reach out to these people.”

The Dayton students are not alone. The Secular Student Alliance, a national organization of nontheistic students with 320 campus chapters, reports at least two other religious universities —Notre Dame and Baylor — have rejected clubs for atheist, agnostic, humanist and other nontheistic students. Students at Duquesne, a Catholic school, say they have little hope of approval on their first application this year.

All the schools say they rejected the clubs because they conflict with their Christian mission _ which perplexes some students who note that Duquesne, Dayton and Notre Dame approved Muslim and Jewish student clubs. Dayton and Duquesne have also approved gay student groups.

“The only difference between us and them is our club’s agenda does not assume the existence of the Judeo-Christian God,” said Stephen Love, 21, a Notre Dame student whose application was rejected twice. “I think those clubs should be allowed, but if they are going to use that line of reasoning to reject us they should be consistent.”

The Rev. James Fitz, Dayton’s vice president, said the school can support a gay student club without condoning the members’ sexual orientation. Approving non-Catholic religious clubs is acceptable, too, because faith in God is involved.

“As a Marianist university we aspire ‘to educate for formation in faith,”‘ he wrote in an email, quoting Marianist principles.

Many students say their peers are supportive of their nontheistic clubs. Others have asked why, if they do not believe in God, they chose a religious school in the first place.

Haynes and King came to Dayton after attending Catholic high schools. Andrew Tripp, president of DePaul University’s Alliance for Free Thought, liked DePaul’s urban setting and its service to Chicago’s poor. Brandi Stepp said as an atheist she worried about choosing DePaul, but was drawn to its theater department’s reputation.

“I thought I might have to keep my mouth shut about a lot of things,” she said. “I was really interested in finding a community of like-minded people. I saw the SSA ad, showed up and had a great time.”

Not all religious schools reject nontheist clubs. California Lutheran University has an active group that regularly cooperates with religious groups on campus, and DePaul has a thriving group that meets with administration support.

“Once they realized we were not going to march on the president’s office demanding the de-Catholization of the university they were very amenable to our goals,” said Tripp.

Suzanne Kilgannon, director of DePaul’s Office of Student Involvement, said the club’s goal of open inquiry into matters of faith — and non-faith — conforms to the school’s Catholic mission.

“We looked at it as we are the marketplace of ideas, so how could we not have an organization like this?” she said. “Because it is important to study all sides of the subject — regardless of the subject — we felt like this club belonged here.”

Other religious schools have arrived at the same conclusion. There are sanctioned Secular Student Alliance chapters at Southern Methodist University, Luther College, Presbyterian College and Iowa’s Central College as well.

Jesse Galef, SSA’s communications director, said some religious universities misunderstand the purpose of nontheist clubs. It isn’t to promote atheism, he said, but to provide “a safe place” for students exploring nonbelief.

“Secular student groups promote discussion, and community and compassion,” Galef said. “If the University of Dayton and other schools value these things they need to stop refusing secular students the same rights religious students have.”

Galef has heard from Baylor students who said they felt threatened with expulsion because of their lack of faith. The Baylor Atheist/Agnostic Society, continues to meet, organizing through a private Facebook page with 69 members. No one in the group agreed to be interviewed.

Nick Shadowen, a philosophy major who proposed a secular society at Duquesne and is currently awaiting the administration’s decision, sees a gap between religious and nonreligious students.

“A lot of students come from small, conservative towns centered around church where there is not a lot of discussion about atheists and so they are sort of forced to keep their opinion to themselves,” he said. “This group is a chance to show the rest of the student body we are just like everyone else.”

20 Reasons Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere

This somewhat belatedly came through an email list that I read regularly… and it still rings true 9 months later. Of course it is a big generalisation, and filled with spelling errors, but I particularly agree with the emergence of the new ‘unemployed graduate’ group…

Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere

Paul Mason | 19:07 UK time, Saturday, 5 February 2011

We’ve had revolution in Tunisia, Egypt’s Mubarak is teetering; in Yemen, Jordan and Syria suddenly protests have appeared. In Ireland young techno-savvy professionals are agitating for a “Second Republic”; in France the youth from banlieues battled police on the streets to defend the retirement rights of 60-year olds; in Greece striking and rioting have become a national pastime. And in Britain we’ve had riots and student occupations that changed the political mood.

What’s going on? What’s the wider social dynamic?

My editors yesterday asked me put some bullet points down for a discussion on the programme that then didn’t happen but I am throwing them into the mix here, on the basis of various conversations with academics who study this and also the participants themselves.

At the heart of it all are young people, obviously; students; westernised; secularised. They use social media – as the mainstream media has now woken up to – but this obsession with reporting “they use twitter” is missing the point of what they use it for.

In so far as there are common threads to be found in these different situation, here’s 20 things I have spotted:

1. At the heart if it all is a new sociological type: the graduate with no future

2. …with access to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and eg Yfrog so they can express themselves in a variety of situations ranging from parliamentary democracy to tyrrany.

3. Therefore truth moves faster than lies, and propaganda becomes flammable.

4. They are not prone to traditional and endemic ideologies: Labourism, Islamism, Fianna Fail Catholicism etc… in fact hermetic ideologies of all forms are rejected.

5. Women very numerous as the backbone of movements. After twenty years of modernised labour markets and higher-education access the “archetypal” protest leader, organizer, facilitator, spokesperson now is an educated young woman.

6. Horizontalism has become endemic because technology makes it easy: it kills vertical hierarchies spontaneously, whereas before – and the quintessential experience of the 20th century – was the killing of dissent within movements, the channeling of movements and their bureaucratisaton.

7. Memes: “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.” (Wikipedia) – so what happens is that ideas arise, are very quickly “market tested” and either take off, bubble under, insinuate themselves or if they are deemed no good they disappear. Ideas self-replicate like genes. Prior to the internet this theory (see Richard Dawkins, 1976) seemed an over-statement but you can now clearly trace the evolution of memes.

8. They all seem to know each other: not only is the network more powerful than the hierarchy – but the ad-hoc network has become easier to form. So if you “follow” somebody from the UCL occupation on Twitter, as I have done, you can easily run into a radical blogger from Egypt, or a lecturer in peaceful resistance in California who mainly does work on Burma so then there are the Burmese tweets to follow. During the early 20th century people would ride hanging on the undersides of train carriages across borders just to make links like these.

9. The specifics of economic failure: the rise of mass access to university-level education is a given. Maybe soon even 50% in higher education will be not enough. In most of the world this is being funded by personal indebtedess – so people are making a rational judgement to go into debt so they will be better paid later. However the prospect of ten years of fiscal retrenchment in some countries means they now know they will be poorer than their parents. And the effect has been like throwing a light switch; the prosperity story is replaced with the doom story, even if for individuals reality will be more complex, and not as bad as they expect.

10.This evaporation of a promise is compounded in the more repressive societies and emerging markets because – even where you get rapid economic growth – it cannot absorb the demographic bulge of young people fast enough to deliver rising living standards for enough of them.

11.To amplify: I can’t find the quote but one of the historians of the French Revolution of 1789 wrote that it was not the product of poor people but of poor lawyers. You can have political/economic setups that disappoint the poor for generations – but if lawyers, teachers and doctors are sitting in their garrets freezing and starving you get revolution. Now, in their garrets, they have a laptop and broadband connection.

12.The weakness of organised labour means there’s a changed relationship between the radicalized middle class, the poor and the organised workforce. The world looks more like 19th century Paris – heavy predomination of the “progressive” intelligentsia, intermixing with the slum-dwellers at numerous social interfaces (cabarets in the 19C, raves now); huge social fear of the excluded poor but also many rags to riches stories celebrated in the media (Fifty Cent etc); meanwhile the solidaristic culture and respectability of organized labour is still there but, as in Egypt, they find themselves a “stage army” to be marched on and off the scene of history.

13.This leads to a loss of fear among the young radicals of any movement: they can pick and choose; there is no confrontation they can’t retreat from. They can “have a day off” from protesting, occupying: whereas twith he old working-class based movements, their place in the ranks of battle was determined and they couldn’t retreat once things started. You couldn’t “have a day off” from the miners’ strike if you lived in a pit village.

14.In addition to a day off, you can “mix and match”: I have met people who do community organizing one day, and the next are on a flotilla to Gaza; then they pop up working for a think tank on sustainable energy; then they’re writing a book about something completely different. I was astonished to find people I had interviewed inside the UCL occupation blogging from Tahrir Square this week.

15. People just know more than they used to. Dictatorships rely not just on the suppression of news but on the suppression of narratives and truth. More or less everything you need to know to make sense of the world is available as freely downloadable content on the internet: and it’s not pre-digested for you by your teachers, parents, priests, imams. For example there are huge numbers of facts available to me now about the subjects I studied at university that were not known when I was there in the 1980s. Then whole academic terms would be spent disputing basic facts, or trying to research them. Now that is still true but the plane of reasoning can be more complex because people have an instant reference source for the undisputed premises of arguments. It’s as if physics has been replaced by quantum physics, but in every discipline.

16.There is no Cold War, and the War on Terror is not as effective as the Cold War was in solidifying elites against change. Egypt is proving to be a worked example of this: though it is highly likely things will spiral out of control, post Mubarak – as in all the colour revolutons – the dire warnings of the US right that this will lead to Islamism are a “meme” that has not taken off. In fact you could make an interesting study of how the meme starts, blossoms and fades away over the space of 12 days. To be clear: I am not saying they are wrong – only that the fear of an Islamist takeover in Egypt has not been strong enough to swing the US presidency or the media behind Mubarak.

17. It is – with international pressure and some powerful NGOs – possible to bring down a repressive government without having to spend years in the jungle as a guerilla, or years in the urban underground: instead the oppositional youth – both in the west in repressive regimes like Tunisia/Egypt, and above all in China – live in a virtual undergrowth online and through digital comms networks. The internet is not key here – it is for example the things people swap by text message, the music they swap with each other etc: the hidden meanings in graffiti, street art etc which those in authority fail to spot.

18. People have a better understanding of power. The activists have read their Chomsky and their Hardt-Negri, but the ideas therein have become mimetic: young people believe the issues are no longer class and economics but simply power: they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various “revolutions” in their own lives as part of an “exodus” from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a “diversion into the personal”. While Foucault could tell Gilles Deleuze: “We had to wait until the nineteenth century before we began to understand the nature of exploitation, and to this day, we have yet to fully comprehend the nature of power”,- that’s probably changed.

19. As the algebraic sum of all these factors it feels like the protest “meme” that is sweeping the world – if that premise is indeed true – is profoundly less radical on economics than the one that swept the world in the 1910s and 1920s; they don’t seek a total overturn: they seek a moderation of excesses. However on politics the common theme is the dissolution of centralized power and the demand for “autonomy” and personal freedom in addition to formal democracy and an end to corrupt, family based power-elites.

20. Technology has – in many ways, from the contraceptive pill to the iPod, the blog and the CCTV camera – expanded the space and power of the individual.

Some complications….

a) all of the above are generalisations: and have to be read as such.

b) are these methods replicable by their opponents? Clearly up to a point they are. So the assumption in the global progressive movement that their values are aligned with that of the networked world may be wrong. Also we have yet to see what happens to all this social networking if a state ever seriously pulls the plug on the technology: switches the mobile network off, censors the internet, cyber-attacks the protesters.

c) China is the laboratory here, where the Internet Police are paid to go online and foment pro-government “memes” to counteract the oppositional ones. The Egyptian leftist blogger Arabawy.org says on his website that : “in a dictatorship, independent journalism by default becomes a form of activism, and the spread of information is essentially an act of agitation.” But independent journalism is suppressed in many parts of the world.

d) what happens to this new, fluffy global zeitgeist when it runs up against the old-style hierarchical dictatorship in a death match, where the latter has about 300 Abrams tanks? We may be about to find out.

e) – and this one is troubling for mainstream politics: are we creating a complete disconnect between the values and language of the state and those of the educated young? Egypt is a classic example – if you hear the NDP officials there is a time-warped aspect to their language compared to that of young doctors and lawyers on the Square. But there are also examples in the UK: much of the political discourse – on both sides of the House of Commons – is treated by many young people as a barely intelligible “noise” – and this goes wider than just the protesters.

(For example: I’m finding it common among non-politicos these days that whenever you mention the “Big Society” there’s a shrug and a suppressed laugh – yet if you move into the warren of thinktanks around Westminster, it’s treated deadly seriously. Dissing the Big Society has quickly become a “meme” that crosses political tribal boundaries under the Coalition, yet most professional politicians are deaf to “memes” as the youth are to the contents of Hansard.)

That’s it – as I say, these are just my thoughts on it all and not researched other than through experience: there are probably whole PhD theses about some of this so feel free to hit the comments.

Likewise if you think it is all balderdash, and if you are over 40 you may, vent your analog-era spleen below.

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

Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular

Please see below for details of a CfP for the book I hope to edit with Abby Day as part of the AHRC/ ESRC Religion and Society Ashgate Book series. Please circulate as you see fit :)

Chris

Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular

Edited by Abby Day and Christopher R. Cotter

 Call for Papers

Many people may not identify strongly or consistently as religious, yet religion still matters for them at certain times and in certain contexts. Rather than dismiss those self-identifications as meaningless, incoherent or insignificant, we may find through in-depth research that they are meaningful, coherent and differently significant (Day 2011).

What is sometimes construed as empty space is filled with something – but what? One typology advanced by Day (2006; 2009; 2011) suggested Christian ‘nominalism’ is an important way to mark social identities she described as Christian ethnic nominalism; natal nominalism and aspirational nominalism.  While her theory about Christian ethnic nominalism has been analysed cross-culturally and operationalized (see, for example, Storm 2009; Voas 2009) it is still limited by its Christian scope. Are there Muslim or Buddhist ‘nominalists’, for example? How can we best describe and understand such people who are neither, or are, perhaps, more fluidly, religious or secular? (Woodhead 2012)

Such explorations require innovative methods that do not force religious answers with religious questions and suggest new interpretations of what it may mean to be ‘non-religious’ (Cotter 2011). This under-explored domain between the secular and the sacred is a contested space that requires further investigation through innovative methods and fresh analytical thinking.

We are therefore delighted that we have been encouraged by the editors and publisher of the new Ashgate AHRC/ESRC Religion & Society series, edited by Prof. Linda Woodhead and Dr Rebecca Catto, to submit a full proposal for an edited collection:  Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular.

Our first priority has been to confirm the participation of key Religion & Society programme scholars.  We are now extending our Call to the wider academic community. Publication dates will be negotiated but we will aim for chapter submission date by April 2012, assuming 12-14 chapters of 5,000 words each.

 Below you will find a summary of the publication. If you would like to contribute, please let us know as soon as possible and provide a title and 100-word abstract by October 31 2011.

 Email: a.day@sussex.ac.uk and chris.r.cotter@gmail.com

 Summary

This collection of interdisciplinary chapters will present current empirical scholarship from local, national and international contexts. Work will negotiate and advance knowledge and understanding of the important conceptual and lived spaces between the contested poles of the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’.

Researchers finding themselves in this space often did not expect to be here.   Many may have intended to study ‘traditionally’ religious or non-religious individuals, communities, and institutions, but found something else, something that was neither religious nor secular. It is that important work we aim to capture.

Book structure

The collection will be divided into three sections. We are summarising these below with questions intended to stimulate rather than prescribe.

1. The methodological space:

What issues were encountered and innovations made when researching these contested spaces? How are scholars to conceptualise these spaces? What do they do to existing concepts of ‘religion’ and the ‘secular? How can existing methodological approaches be adapted to studying these spaces? Do these spaces open up and demand new approaches? New vocabulary? How have those challenges been met?

2. The public space:

An exploration of these spaces can include, but are not limited to, the spatial, such as the university campus, the community centre, schools, prisons, urban streets, festivals, hospitals, or the football pitch. We are also concerned with the political space, dealing with issues such as legal definitions of what ‘counts’ as a religion, or foreign policy decisions and anti-terror laws. How is the in-between secular/sacred space described, mediated and discursively in media-related spaces? What are the ‘effects’ of our modern, globalised age upon the space between sacred and secular? What institutional manifestations of this in-between space defy easy emic or etic categorisation?  How do people use different spaces in different contexts, perhaps even vicariously? (Davie 2007)

3. The social,  identity-dominated space

How do individuals negotiate their identity when it falls into this in-between space? What are their personal pragmatic strategies? How is this space felt, embodied, sensed, articulated? What do terms and ideas like religious/secular belief, practice, or attitudes mean to people? What is the sacred/secular space that arises through inter-subjective and inter-corporeal real lives?

The Editors

Dr Abby Day is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent and a Principal Investigator at the University of Sussex.  Her qualitative longitudinal research has expanded conventional views of belief and belonging through empirical research based initially in the UK and extended through cross-cultural comparisons. Her latest book, Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World (Oxford University Press) is published in October 2011 by Oxford University press. She also edited the Ashgate collection, Religion and the Individual, 2008.

Christopher R. Cotter is a post-graduate student at the University of Edinburgh. His publications and research have centred on contemporary atheism and his recent MSc project concerned university students whose personal (non)religiosity challenged the reification of the religion-secular distinction. His future research work will continue the theme of ‘non-religion’. He is co-founder and podcast co-host at The Religious Studies Project, and a web editor at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network.

 References:

  •  Cotter, Christopher R. 2011. 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, 2007. “Vicarious religion: A methodological challenge”. In Nancy T. Ammerman, Ed. Everyday religion: observing modern religious lives. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press: 21-36.
  •  Day, Abby, 2011.  Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • –          2009. Researching belief without asking religious questions. Fieldwork in Religion, 4, no. 1: 89–106.
  • –           2006. Believing in belonging: a case study from Yorkshire. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.
  •  Storm, I. 2009. “Halfway to heaven: Four types of fuzzy fidelity in Europe.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48: 702–718.
  • Voas, D. 2009. “The rise and fall of fuzzy fidelity in Europe”. European Sociological Review 25, no. 2: 155–68.
  • Woodhead, Linda 2012. “Introduction” In Linda Woodhead and Rebecca Catto, Eds, Religion and change in modern Britain. London: Routledge: 1-33.

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

First academic journal on secularism and nonreligion to debut in January (via CNN Belief Blog)

It’s great to see research on Nonreligion finally getting out there into the mainstream. What isn’t great is that all the links in this post go to the ISSSR – and little reference is made to the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN) who are equal partners in this.

Check them out online at http://www.nsrn.co.uk or follow them on Twitter.

I could also comment on how secularism, nonreligion, atheism etc are not the same thing and should not be treated as such… but that would take too long and it is a Sunday morning!

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor (CNN) — It’s turning out to be a banner year for nonbelievers. First came the publication of a secular Bible. Then we saw the birth of the first American college major in secularism. This week, it’s the launch of the world’s first academic journal dedicated to the themes of secularism and nonreligion. The journal, to be called Secularism and Nonreligion, will begin publishing in January as a joint project … Read More

via CNN Belief Blog

Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students

It is six weeks until  submit my 25,000 word MSc by Research thesis. Thank goodness I now have a title and an abstract…

Here it is, for your enjoyment:

Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students

This thesis details the outcomes of a small-scale research project into a relatively new and under-researched field. The aim was qualitatively to map out the different types of nonreligiosity articulated by some nonreligious students at the University of Edinburgh. Beginning by demarcating the concept of ‘nonreligion’ around which the study revolves, the author outlines: first, why such a study is necessary and worthwhile; second, the specific theoretical questions to which the study is directed; and third, the specific relevance of studying nonreligion within Religious Studies. In approaching the subject in this way, this study calls into question the reified dichotomy between religion and nonreligion, expands what the author calls the ‘nonreligious monolith’ and questions ideas of religious universality. The specifics of this study are detailed at length. Particular focus is given to the suitability of a Scottish university student population as a subject-group, and to the methodology employed, which uses electronic questionnaires and in-depth interviews to elicit unscripted narratives from selected participants. The author demonstrates that current typologies based on internally and/or externally selected and defined nonreligious identity labels, tend to be inadequate and inaccurate. Nonreligious students are shown to be highly aware of the subjectivity of their interpretations of key identity terms, and in many cases they maintain multiple identities simultaneously, in a situational and pragmatic fashion. These identities also vary in terms of concreteness and salience, and are informed by a wide variety of relationship- and education-based subjective experiences. A more nuanced approach is then proposed, based on the questionnaire and interview evidence, categorising individuals according to the overarching narrative through which they claim to interact with (non)religion. The thesis concludes by returning to the initial motivating questions – particularly concerning the reified status given to (non)religion  in traditional representations – and calling for future research investment in order to continue fleshing-out the nonreligious field, and for a continued movement away from attempts to explain nonreligion from a perspective of normative religiosity.

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