Does the public benefit from the social-scientific study of religion? Should it? How do we demonstrate benefit, measure it, communicate it? What are the practical and theoretical issues surrounding the idea of how the study of religion can operate in the, or perhaps as a, public good? For that matter, what do we mean by ‘public’ or ‘benefit’?

About this episode

This year’s BASR annual conference at the University of Winchester included a panel on the ‘Public benefit in the study of religion’. The panel was organised by BASR Hon. Secretary, Bettina Schmidt, and Chair of BSA-SOCREL, Abby Day, representing the two main professional organisations representing the UK’s scholars of religion. The other speakers taking part were Eileen Barker of INFORM, Tim Jensen and Douglas Davies. Given that the Religious Studies Project has a manifesto of disseminating contemporary RS research to the public, we felt that we wanted to talk to scholars about this question. This edited podcast was the result.   Does the public benefit from the social-scientific study of religion? Should it? How do we demonstrate benefit, measure it, communicate it? What are the practical and theoretical issues surrounding the idea of how the study of religion can operate in the, or perhaps as a, public good? For that matter, what do we mean by ‘public’ or ‘benefit’? This question relates to our daily practice as researchers when asking for funding or having to present the outcomes of our research. Research Councils ask every applicant to explain the possible impact of a research project and in the coming years we will have to demonstrate as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) the wider impact of our research. But are discussions of this type necessary in order to  understand and perhaps improve the relevance to the public of our research – and discipline – or are we simply looking for justifications to be able to continue research which has little public benefit? You can also download this interview, and subscribe to our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us.

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

Conference Report: The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association, 2014

Response

On October 31 – November 2, the Marriot Hotel of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana hosted the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in conjuncture with the Religious Research Association (RRA). The major theme for SSSR was “Building Bridges” and beautifully illustrated on the program cover by Kenan Sevinc. From my understanding, this was the first year that the program was in colour.
Religion and Literature

Podcast

How can studying literature help us to study religion? And what the question even mean? In this interview, Alana Vincent, Lecturer in Jewish Studies at the University of Chester, sets out some of the interesting intersections of these two fields.
The Invention of the Emerging Church Movement

Response

It might help to consider what exactly terms like “The Emerging Church Movement” (ECM) and its terminological correlates (e.g., emerging, emergence, or emergent) intend to describe. Social scientists frequently employ contested categories or concepts (Beckford 2003, 13) in the description and analysis of ethnographic data. In other words, a conceptual gap often exists between emic self-description and etic secondary formulation. Informants don’t always acknowledge or accept scholarly terms and definitions.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

African American Spiritual Churches

Podcast

The African American Spiritual Churches are combinatory religious sites, which blend Protestant, Catholic, Spiritualist, Haitian Voodoo, and Benin's traditional Vodun practices. Female leadership and business management has been essential in the history of these churches. Dr. Guillory's upcoming book draws on years of archival research, ethnographic observation, and oral history interviews to tell the story of these churches from 1920 to the present day.
‘Good’ Grief? Rituals of World Repairing

Podcast

Toys, Rabbits, and Princess Diana - three things that may not seem at all connected. However, when one starts to question the notion of grief, bereavement, and death in the contemporary West, these three are more connected than appears. In this podcast, Breann Fallon interviews Professor Douglas Ezzy of the University of Tasmania on the power of symbols...
Decolonizing the Study of Religion

Podcast

How can the field address its whiteness and the legacy of its colonial origins? In this final episode of our 2019/2020 season Christopher Cotter speaks with Malory Nye about decolonizing Religious Studies.
Magic and Modernity

Podcast

This conversation between Richard Irvine, Theodoros Kyriakides and David G. Robertson concerns magical thinking in the modern world. We may think that such ideas are confined to the fringes in the secular, post-Enlightenment world, but this is not necessarily the case. We talk about Weber's rationalisation and James Frazer's evolutionary model of modernity, and how they relate to ideas of belief, and magic.
The Postsecular

Podcast

Discussion focuses upon the history of the 'postsecular', potential definitions, disciplinary and geographical differences, and ultimately suggests that ‘postsecularity’ is effectively dressing up ‘secularity’ in obfuscating clothing.In his 2011 Presidential Address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Milwaukee,
Brian Victoria on Zen Buddhist Terrorism and Holy War

Podcast

Is there something particular about religion which makes it a more potent ‘violence enabling mechanism’ than other factors? Are some religions more likely to inspire violence than others? And why should scholars even care? In this interview, Chris discusses these issues and more with Professor Brian Victoria, who, in addition to his scholarly credentials, is a fully ordained Zen Buddhist priest.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).