Posts

Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable? Discuss.

Budding theorists may find themselves conscripted into the ideological battles over the nature of religion or, to put a finer point on the argument, how scholarship in religious studies should be done. For even if one has not openly sided with a particular group regarding what ‘religion’ is, it is very likely you do have some inkling regarding how scholarship in religious studies should be done. As Russell McCutcheon notes in this interview one of his teaching texts is a brief opinion from a lawsuit in 1893 (Nix v. Hedden) regarding the nature of tomatoes. Are tomatoes fruits or are they vegetables? And why does it matter?

For the Purposes of…

McCutcheon, like the presiding judge in this case, is not terribly interested in the intrinsic nature or essence of the ‘tomato’ but rather what the tomato will be for purposes of trade and tariffs. This case upheld the Tariff Act of 1883 which did not charge a tax on imported fruit but did charge a tax for imported vegetables. If this case appears to have nothing to do with the battles over ‘religion’ look again and ask what happens when you supplement the word ‘tomato’ with ‘religion.’ Make the categorical division not between ‘fruit’ or ‘vegetable’ but rather envision a litany of possible interpretations such as ‘religion’ is at heart really about wielding knowledge and power, money and manipulation, primordial man’s explanation of the terrors and wonders of the natural world, individual neurosis, or a deep, personal and private encounter with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity, etc. How quickly seemingly solid categories come unraveled… suddenly, I am much more comfortable becoming an arbitrator on anything, tomatoes included, than on what I supposedly study.

Okay, let’s return to the tomato argument for a moment as perhaps it will shed some light on our predicament. In order to come to a conclusion we must look at precedent (i.e. how has the word been used before). We can also compare dictionary entries and call ‘expert’ witnesses. Oxford Dictionaries even weighs in on the argument… it seems that this issue arose because scientists and cooks use the word differently. According to Oxford Dictionaries, scientifically speaking, a tomato is a fruit. In the culinary world, the tomato is referenced as a vegetable because it is savory. Notice that the argument has morphed from pertaining to what category the tomato is in based on its qualities to a matter of who is doing the speaking.

One need only remember that Gershwin classic “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” to know that how one pronounces a word denotes not just dialectic difference but class distinction as well.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ3fjQa5Hls]

The tomato has a long and varied history. A native to South America, the term originates from the Nahuatl tomatl. Although recently heralded as a cancer-fighting food, historically the tomato has an infamous reputation.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) Film Poster

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) Film Poster

A member of the night shade family, the tomato has sporadically been labeled as poisonous, or at least suspect, and some naysayers have even gone so far as to dedicate websites to (www.tomatoesareevil.com) or make cult classic films about their true diabolical nature like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. And many readers are probably aware of the tales of throwing rotten tomatoes at bad actors! What may come as a surprise to these same readers is that tourists in Spain can pay $13 to participate in the world’s largest tomato fight!

Who knew that the tomato could be so polarizing?! Who knew this tiny fruit/vegetable could arouse such vitriol?! Fruit? Vegetable? Poisonous? Nutritious? Good? Evil? Is it a panacea or pandemic? It seems that the tomato defies our categories. It appears to transcend barriers. It is irreducible. And yet where are the departments of Tomato Studies? Where are the calls for the study of sui generis Tomato?

So before we sharpen the pitchforks and enter the fray, we should note that this doesn’t seem to be an either/ or (as in a tomato must be either a fruit or a vegetable) battle at all but a squabble addressed best by thinking about context. Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Is it good or evil? My answer to the ‘tomato’ question is one I offer frequently regarding the ‘religion’ question, much to the chagrin of my students, when they ask questions like “are Mormons Christians?”… it depends on who you ask and it depends on the context. And in a classic McCutcheon twist, I might ask them, who gains and who loses if we admit or deny Mormons (or tomatoes) entry into the halls of Christendom (or fruitdom)? And are any Mormons (or grocers or botanists) stopping by our classroom to ask our opinion?

Essence of Tomato

So we may never know the true, deep meaning, of ‘religion’ or ‘tomato.’ ‘Tomato’ as a Platonic ideal may always elude us. ‘Tomato’ like ‘religion’ may defy our categories. By using this example, McCutcheon is pointing out to us that perhaps we are too wedded to our conceptions of sui generis (unique, irreducible, pristine) ‘religion’ to see the social and political implications on our scholarship. Suddenly, the situation is a lot less dire when I apply these same questions to the enigma of the tomato. But before we dismiss the tomato controversy, we need to remember that the above case was judged by the Supreme Court. So, what do we do if declaring the true essence of ‘tomato’ or ‘religion’ is not within our jurisdiction as academics?

The judge in this case, along with McCutcheon, appears to nudge us towards a more terrestrial interpretation. Perhaps we will never know what a tomato, vegetable, or a fruit really is (ontologically speaking) but for purposes of trade and tariff, we can decide what a tomato will be. After all, our categories themselves (fruit and vegetable) as well as the term ‘tomato’ are products of language. Our categories and words could have been otherwise and in other cultures often are. As McCutcheon might argue our categories and words are contingent, conditional, and contextual.

wordle

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 3 Jan 2014

wordleWelcome to the first edition of the RSP Opportunities Digest for 2014. if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check out our Christmas Special, you can do so here. We’ll be back to our normal operational capacity with our first 2014 podcast on 13 January, with Russell McCutcheon speaking on sui generis religion.

As ever, please remember that we are not responsible for any content contained herein unless it is directly related to the RSP. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page. If you are enquiring about any of the opportunities listed below, please contact the organizers directly.

To skip to specific content within this digest, please use the table of contents to the right of your screen.

Changes to the RSP Team

With every arbitrary calendrical cycle comes changes, and the RSP is no exception to this ‘rule’. It is our sad duty to inform you that Per Smith and Louise Connelly had to step down from the RSP editorial team at the end of December for their own personal and professional reasons. The RSP are infinitely grateful to Per and Louise for everything that they have done for us up until now. Per has been involved with the RSP for around a year and a half, and his enthusiasm for interviewing and bringing the RSP to the other side of the Atlantic has been invaluable. Louise has been a core member of the editorial team since the RSP began, and we do not know where we would be without her sterling work behind the scenes with the social media, opportunities digests, posters and flyers and endless marketing and web advice. We know that both will keep in touch and remain friends of the RSP as we move into our third year and beyond. Thank You.

These changes to the team prompted an effort to restructure and, as such, we have now welcomed another three members to our editorial team – Tommy Coleman, of the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga, shall be co-managing our Social Media (along with existing editor Chris Silver), Kevin Whitesides, of the University of California at Santa Barbara, shall be managing our weekly features, and Daniel Favand, of the University of Edinburgh, shall be taking charge of audio editing. We are delighted to welcome all of these new members to the RSP Team. If you are interested in finding our more about our current editorial structure and team members, see here. If you would like to find out more about the more than 150 people who have directly contributed to the RSP, see here. And if you are interested in joining our team, see below for details of one further position we are currently trying to fill.

RSP Recruiting an Assistant Editor

As part of our restructuring process, we are currently looking to add a new assistant editor to our team. This individual – or, potentially, these individuals – will be responsible for producing and promoting these very opportunities digests. The ‘Opps Digest’ is one of the essential services that we provide through the RSP and requires a little bit of work on a weekly basis. Essentially, we have an email account – oppsdigest@religiousstudiesproject.com – which can be signed up to a variety of relevant mailing lists. In addition, others from within the team and from outside occasionally send through relevant job adverts, conference announcements, CfPs etc. to this address. The Opps Digest Editor simply needs to collate relevant material from these emails once a week, and place them into a post for the website, whilst also actively sourcing new sources of information. Louise and Chris, who have previously filled this role, will be able to liaise with the successful applicant\s on how they have done this up until now, but there is plenty of room for innovation.

The successful applicant should:

  • Be involved – whether as a student (of any level) or a professional academic – within the academic study of religion (broadly conceived)
  • Have a basic familiarity with WordPess\other blogging packages, in addition to general computing and social media skills.
  • Be a reliable and independent worker. It is essential that these digests are produced to a schedule every week, although the scheduled day can be negotiated. Other members of the team can cover the occasional week, but this must be arranged well in advance.
  • Be able to commit around one hour per week for the majority of the year to this role.

At this stage, and as will all positions on the RSP editorial team, this role will be for an initial period of one year – 2014 – after which there will be the opportunity to change roles/extend commitment as appropriate. Given our current financial situation, we are unable to offer any financial incentive to the successful applicant/s. However, we hope that the chance to be involved in what is arguably the primary hub for Religious Studies online, and the opportunities which accompany this, will be incentive enough.

If you are interested in this position, please send an academic CV and a brief note of interest detailing your suitability for the role to David and Chris at  editors@religiousstudiesproject.com by 31 January 2014.

New Book

THE INVENTION OF GOD IN INDIGENOUS SOCIETIES, by James L. Cox

Indigenous societies around the world have been historically disparaged by European explorers, colonial officials and Christian missionaries. Nowhere was this more evident than in early descriptions of indigenous religions as savage, primitive, superstitious and fetishistic.

Liberal intellectuals, both indigenous and colonial, reacted to this by claiming that, before indigenous peoples ever encountered Europeans, they all believed in a Supreme Being. The Invention of God in Indigenous Societies argues that, by alleging that God can be located at the core of pre-Christian cultures, this claim effectively invents a tradition which only makes sense theologically if God has never left himself without a witness.

Examining a range of indigenous religions from North America, Africa and Australasia – the Shona of Zimbabwe, the “Rainbow Spirit Theology” in Australia, the Yupiit of Alaska, and the Māori of New Zealand – the book argues that the interests of indigenous societies are best served by carefully describing their religious beliefs and practices using historical and phenomenological methods – just as would be done in the study of any world religion.

Calls for Papers

Panel: Religious Life and Medical Traditions

ASA 2014 “Anthropology and Enlightenment” (Call for Papers Closes Jan. 5th)

Religious practices, and the cosmologies they draw upon, shape many people’s understanding of the relationships of the body, the mind, and the soul. These understandings form a critical foundation from which social, cultural, and ethical perspectives of health and practices of healing emerge. Historical and contemporary perspectives of the development of Western medical traditions and clinical institutions has provided a framework that favours Western scientific discourse. Through this discourse, alternative medical traditions and practices have become largely marginalised. Furthermore, in many communities where concepts of health and healing practice draw strongly upon religious beliefs and alternative understandings of the natural world, the efficacy of Western medical traditions and institutional privilege has been challenged or reinterpreted.

How do religious perspectives, and respective cosmologies, address or influence practices of health and healing within the contours of various, and at times disparate, medical traditions? This panel invites papers that seek to explore this question through historical and contemporary contexts that address various understandings and notions of efficacy, and the diagnosis and treatment of physical and/or mental illnesses.

Contact: Don Duprez (donduprez@gmail.com)

http://www.nomadit.co.uk/asa/asa2014/panels.php5?PanelID=2745

6th Conference of the Mediterranean Worlds – Symbols and Models of the Mediterranean

University of Calabria, Department of Humanities, September 9-11, 2014

<http://medworlds6.altervista.org/call-papers/>

The Mediterranean Sea is a milieu in which it is possible to observe,

through an interdisciplinary lens, the undertaking of elements

defining an idea which conflicts with its immediate sensitive aspect;

an idea that arises from life situations and the imaginary world of

every man. Nevertheless, it remains a context in which is possible to

observe the presence and the constant use of historical symbols,

patterns and models of those people inhabiting its shores, as embedded

in both the artistic and material production, as well as in the

literary one.

The Mediterranean Sea could be investigated as a real geographical and

historical referee, that has generated, and continues to generate

symbols; but it can be also interpreted as the metaphor and allegory

of the ‘encounters and clashes’ between near and distant people. There

are symbols and models by which is possible to perceive and understand

convergences and contacts, and disclose common identities, even when

considering specific differences of the people.

The theme of this interdisciplinary conference will focus on these issues:

  • The symbols (signs, gestures, objects, animals, persons) capable of bringing to mind meanings deeply interconnected with the development of each of Mediterranean society.
  • The importance of tangible and intangible models serving as examples to reproduce and imitate the evidence that have marked and conditioned the life of the Mediterranean people from a political, religious, economic, and social viewpoints.

We welcome the submission of 250-word abstracts for twenty-minute

papers that broadly address the above themes, and that may address,

but not be limited by, the following topics:

  • Symbols and models disclosing common identities
  • Symbolical landmarks
  • Symbols of the State and Political Power as institutional models
  • Religious symbols
  • Settlements patterns and historical-economic models
  • Natural elements (living beings typical of the Mediterranean area bearing a symbolic value)
  • Literary production as often recording the centrality of the Mediterranean as a complex and contradictory allegory
  • Redefining Mediterranean boundaries as precarious and mobile limits, but also as bridges between lands and shores
  • The metaphor of the Mediterranean and the dialectic between the hegemonic power of the centers and the potential destabilizing peripheries.

Abstract Submissions:

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and should include at least

3 descriptive keywords, the presenter’s name, email address,

organization, and mailing address. The languages of the conference

will be English and Italian.

Please send your abstract submissions to:

m.salerno@unical.it; luca.zavagno@gmail.com

Deadline:

  • Abstract must be submitted by 1 March 2014
  • Notification of acceptance will be communicated by 1 April 2014

“LE FUNÉRAIRE. Mémoire, protocoles, monuments”

PROLONGATION DE LA DATE LIMITE DE SOUMISSION

JUSQU’AU 10 JANVIER 2014

11e colloque annuel de la MAE organisé par Grégory Delaplace (LESC) et Frédérique Valentin (ArScAn) du 18 au 20 juin 2014 Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

http://www.mae.u-paris10.fr/appel-a-communications-colloque-de-la-mae-2014/

Jobs

Lecturer, Religious Studies

Mahidol University – <http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=48282>

Post-Doc-Position in History, Theology, Jewish Studies or Religious Studies

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen – <http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=48277>

New Members Wanted to Join the NSRN Blog Editorial Team

In September the NSRN launched its online blog Nonreligion and Secularity (blog.nsrn.net) which aims to provide an informative resource for scholars and professionals working in the field of nonreligion and secularity research, and offer a space for the dissemination of research-related information to a wider audience.

We are currently looking to expand and are seeking enthusiastic people to join the editorial team.

As well as helping to build upon the initial success of the blog, new team members will have the opportunity to play a dynamic role in the blog’s ongoing development and its vision for the future.

Depending on experience, successful applicants will undertake some, or all, or the following responsibilities:

  • Conducting editorial reviews of blog submissions
  • Soliciting commissions from potential blog authors
  • Responding to submissions of outlined proposals for articles
  • Copyediting and publishing posts to the blog
  • Monitoring comments and responses to published blog articles
  • Dealing with general blog enquiries
  • Promoting the blog via social media and other sources
  • Working with the other team members on ways to enhance and improve the blog website and increase exposure and traffic
  • Engaging in virtual team meetings, via email or Skype, to discuss ongoing blog developments.
  • We welcome applications from people in all stages of their academic career, including post-graduate students and early career researchers. Research experience within the field of nonreligion and secularity, or previous experience of blogging, is useful but not essential; we are also keen to hear from applicants working in other related research areas who feel they can offer a valuable external perspective on topics of N&S research.

The positions are unpaid, but they offer applicants an opportunity to increase their editorial experience and the chance to engage with researchers and authors at the forefront of nonreligion and secularity research, as well as being a beneficial addition to their CV.

If you would be interested in joining the blog team please send a short cover note and CV by email to blog editor Lorna Mumford (lorna.mumford.10@ucl.ac.uk).

Deadline for applications: Friday 17th January 2014

Support the RSP through Amazon

You can help to financially support the RSP simply by shopping on Amazon – and at no additional cost to you!. f you click through to Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com or Amazon.ca through these links, and buy ANY product during your visit, the RSP will earn referral fees. There will be no additional cost. Why not add a shortcut to your bookmarks bar and use these links every time you shop?

Please help us keep the RSP free, open and accessible by spreading the word and using this simple, cost-effective way of supporting us.

Christmas Special 2013 – Nul Point

Over the past few weeks, many of you will have been under the impression that an important event is just around the corner. Greeting cards have been sent. Food has been stockpiled. Music rehearsed… It’s clearly that time of year again. Which can mean only one thing: the RSP has been on to go for two years – can you believe this?

Nul Point Contestants

Nul Point Contestants George Chryssides, Jim Cox, Stephen Gregg, Suzanne Owen, Hanna Lehtinen, Teemu Taira, Jonathan Tuckett and David Wilson.

To celebrate, we couldn’t resist bringing you another Christmas special [other (non-)religious festivals are available]. Following on from last year’s hilarious Only Sixty Seconds, we brought together last year’s winner (Dr David Wilson), and last year’s ‘most entertaining loser’ (Jonathan Tuckett), with six other contestants, to fight for the coveted RSP Christmas trophy.

The game?

Nul Point! (any resemblance to a popular BBC television programme hosted by Alexander Armstrong is entirely coincidental). Before the show, we gave 64 of the RSP listeners 100 seconds to answer a variety of questions. The aim of the game for contestants is to correctly find the answer which the least percentage of these people answered correctly. Simples.

The contestants?

Professor George Chryssides, Professor James Cox, Dr Stephen Gregg, Hanna Lehtinen, Dr Suzanne Owen, Dr Teemu Taira, Jonathan Tuckett, and Dr David Wilson

The venue?

Liverpool Hope University, at the BASR/EASR/IAHR Conference in September 2013, with a special live studio audience.

What is the least well known book of the Bible? How many people in the UK listed their ‘religion’ as ‘Jedi Knight’ on the UK 2011 Census? What is Professor Jim Cox’s drink of choice? To find out, you need do nothing more than hit ‘Play’ and enjoy this forty minutes of pure, unadulterated, top quality Religious Studies entertainment. Remember to listen to the end for some amusing outtakes.

You can also download this podcast, and subscribe to receive it weekly, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca or Amazon.com links to support us at no additional cost as you start to enact your New Year’s resolutions – whatever they may be.

There was a picture round as part of the game show – you can view these pictures here. Interested in seeing a picture of the winner being presented with their trophy? Click here.

Non-denominational seasonal greetings to all our listeners, and best wishes for 2014. We’ll be back in January – bigger and better than ever. Many thanks to everyone who took part in this recording – the contestants, the hosts, and the studio audience. Thanks to the BASR/EASR/IAHR for facilitating this recording and adding it to the official conference schedule. Thanks to the technical team at Liverpool Hope University for the audio recording, and to the inestimable David Robertson for technical wizardry on the night, and in pulling the episode together. Thanks to those listeners and fans who helped out by providing the much-needed material for the game show. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, thanks for listening.

What is the Study of Religion/s? Self-Presentations of the Discipline on University Web Pages

Foreword

Here is the first research article on the religious studies project website. In fact, the article also deals with websites: it analyzes the ways in which religious studies (the study of religion\s) is presented on an international sample of university-websites. The authors think this is an important issue for the discipline since these websites are much used nodes of interface between the discipline and its audiences within or beyond the walls of the university. There was no Religious Studies Project website when the authors began working on this article (back in 2010), but coincidentally this seems like the perfect place to publish such a study. Since the text is quite long, Knut Melvær has developed the typographic features on the site, including pop-up footnotes (try mouseover the footnote numbers) and the “sticky” table of contents. Publishing this article online also allows us to make our data-set (“codebook”) available.

We are looking forward to your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.

The authors wish to thank Reier M. Schoder for helping us with the data collection. Our thanks also go to Steven Engler, Alexander Alberts, Håkon Tandberg, Knut Aukland, and Helge Årsheim for reading and commenting on earlier drafts.

Download the article as a .pdf (But please refer to the online article).

Introduction

Even if the ‘public intellectual’ may not be the preferred job description and role model of all scholars of religion\s (McCutcheon 2001), there is no way of getting around the fact that the study of religion\s, as a discipline practiced at universities around the world, engages in public communication outside the institutional ivory towers.1 In different capacities and to varied degrees scholars of religion\s are involved in public communication and the study of religion\s is itself also an object of public communication. Which roles is it expected to play, and which tasks is it expected to perform? How is the discipline perceived and understood in public discourse? Does it get its messages across? Has it contributed to literacy in religious matters? How is its knowledge distinguished from common-sense assumptions?2

Conversely, in the present article we investigate how the discipline presents itself to the public. What is the study of religion\s, how does it want to be understood by the public, in communication with its audiences and stakeholders? By far the main communicative interface between the discipline and the general public is the internet. People may just make a Google search for ‘religious studies’, ‘study of religion’, ‘history of religions’ or terms like these if they want to know something about this academic and intellectual enterprise. Given the way that Google’s search algorithm is currently set up, one of the top hits would likely be the relevant entry in Wikipedia, i.e. “Religious Studies”. For the critical positioning of the discipline it would be interesting, and maybe even necessary, to analyze the presentation and perception of the study of religion\s as an academic discipline in relevant segments of the internet, including various encyclopaedias or other important sources of information. The present article looks at another interface between the discipline and the public sphere: the self-presentation of the discipline, or the subject, on the websites of universities where it is currently taught.

Most universities with departments of the study of religion\s (under its various names) and offering relevant programs provide some kind of information about the discipline, its practitioners, its educational dimension and ongoing research. While the information given on these web pages is accessible to everybody and where pages may be visited for unpredictable reasons, we assume that most web pages probably have prospective and current students as their main target audience. One also expects these pages to present the relevance and profile of the discipline for a more non-specific audience, in addition to colleagues searching for research-related information and the media looking for experts and sources of information.

Such web pages may well be the most important medium for the discipline to present itself to the public and to its present and future or prospective practitioners. Based on a content analysis of a multinational sample of web pages as per the period October – December 2010 (when we retrieved the relevant data), the present article analyzes patterns of self-presentation of the study of religion\s.

Note that not all these web pages are necessarily written by practitioners of the discipline. We know of some universities where the content of the web pages is effectively beyond control of the faculty, and in many other cases the university imposes restrictions on possible content (in terms of length or kinds of content to be covered, often in the form of templates). In this article, however, we are less concerned with the perspective of the authors, but with the content found on the sites, given that the university web pages convey the impression of describing the discipline and/or the program as understood at the respective institution.

The Sample

While there appears to be no international standard on how university websites are organized, information about educational programs, information about research, and information about faculty (typically listed under departments or schools) feature separately on most websites. The present analysis focuses on two kinds of web pages: those of departments and those of programs in the study of religion\s. It includes only web pages that make some sort of general statements on the study of religion\s by addressing the nature and the working of the discipline.3

In our sampling we started with the website of our own department and those of other Norwegian universities and then cast our net wider. Our final sample comprises 101 texts gathered from websites of 70 universities located in Northern Europe/Scandinavia (Denmark [3], Finland [4], Norway [5], Sweden [7]), Western/South Western Europe (Germany [11], the Netherlands [5], Spain [2], Switzerland [6], UK ([England: 8; Scotland: 6]), North America (Canada [9], USA [22]), the Pacific (Australia [5], New Zealand [6]), and South Africa (2). (See the appendix for the full list of universities and a key to the text IDs used for references in the following.)

Our sample can seem somewhat biased towards some countries or cultural areas.4 Some readers might for example object that the four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) are represented by almost as many cases (19 in total) as the United States (22), even though the total number of departments and programs is many times higher in that country. As our sampling strategy aimed at covering national diversity (which we experience as very real distinctions in academic cultures not the least in terms of languages) this strategy clearly privileges Europe with a total of 57 cases, amounting to 56 per cent of our total text sample and 66 per cent of our university sample. Even the European sample, however, does not include all potentially relevant countries. In particular, the European sample excludes Eastern and Central Eastern Europe (mainly for reasons of limited linguistic competence).

Our sampling strategy could not attempt to achieve statistical representativeness for the simple reason that, as far as we can see, there is no reliable data available on the population or the universe (i.e. the totality of all departments and programs in the study of religion\s), and hence there is no means of knowing to what extent this population could be represented accurately by our sample. However, in sampling we sought to cover internationally recognized (by scholarly standards) departments, so that our sample can hopefully claim some degree of ecological validity. For the United States, for example, we tried to include some of the biggest graduate programs.

Even for our selection of countries, given the variety of educational landscapes, media cultures, national contexts of the discipline and the different sizes of the countries, our sample is not, and cannot be, representative in strictly statistical terms. Yet, we hope that our analysis provides some significant findings with relevance for the ongoing critical self-reflection of the discipline. Obviously, statistical data analysis can be used (and is commonly used) even if a sample is not representative and if a study does not aim at arriving at statistically representative findings. Such methods allow us to explore general patterns (and non-patterns) and recurrent themes (or idiosyncratic features) in the material.

The longest text in our sample contains 941 words (University of Alabama #27), while the shortest text has only 34 words (University of Bremen #49). There are a total of eight cases with texts numbering more than 600 words, and there are nine cases using less than 100 words. The arithmetic mean for the sample is 302 words, while the median is 217 words. Given that some texts are longer, it is also likely that they are overrepresented in the following discussion.5

While the study of religion\s is a global enterprise (Alles 2008), our sample was intended to reflect the traditionally predominant ‘Western’ topography of international discourse as it is manifested in international core publications of the field (like the major international journals and works of reference). A minor selection of texts from some further countries published in languages accessible to us would have confounded our sample more than it would have added in clarity. However, we invite scholars from other regions, or with expertise on such regions, to replicate our study and test our findings, if deemed interesting, with a different sample.

Having decided on the sample, we downloaded the texts from the various web pages. We then analyzed the texts for recurrent information and motives. As a result of several rounds of discussion, based on the textual corpus initially generated, we inductively created several categories, which we used to code the downloaded texts. These categories encompass different aspects of the meaning and identity of a scholarly discipline as transmitted at universities. Starting from its name or designation to the definition of its nature and subject matter, we look at statements about its aims, goals and purposes, its methods and main approaches, its relevance, its main thematic issues and areas of specialization, its relationships to other disciplines and field (the disciplinary matrix) and its demarcation from other discourses about its subject matter.6 Given that educational transmission is part of what makes scholarly enterprises into disciplines, we also coded the websites for statements about skills, attitudes and competence ideally transmitted to incoming practitioners of the discipline and employment prospects and career options of graduates, as these aspects are increasingly perceived to be part of education and disciplinary training. Finally, while all these statements are of a verbal nature, we were also interested in the visual aspect of the presentation of the texts.

Designations

Contrary to disciplines such as history, psychology, or sociology, the study of religion\s does not sail under the flag of one common name. Partly, this is the result of the specific genealogy of the discipline, partly of competing self-understandings, partly of different discursive and national contexts. Which designations are used in our sample? Given that we are dealing with texts in different languages, we had to collate semantically synonymous expressions into single categories. Moreover, we found that the names of departments and programs and the names used for the discipline used in the texts can at times diverge. Some cases use different designations.7

Two designations by far dominate our sample:

  • Religionswissenschaft (including religionsvitenskap, religionsvetenskap, Ciencias de las Religiones, and sciences des religions): 22 universities, amounting to slightly more than a third of all 70 universities in our sample. With one exception (Université Laval #71) all cases are from Europe (Denmark [2], Germany [5], Norway [3], Spain [1], Sweden [5], Switzerland [5]).
  • Religious Studies (including Religionsstudier): 21 universities, amounting to 30 per cent of all cases. This name is used by universities in Canada (3), Denmark (1), England (1), the Netherlands (2), New Zealand (4) Scotland (1), South Africa (1), and the USA (8).

In addition to these two predominant designations, which account for 61 per cent (43/70), i.e. almost two thirds, of all cases in our sample, there are six others that occur in between two to five instances each:

  • Comparative religion: four universities, including two in Finland, one in the Netherlands, and one in the USA (The University of Washington #30).
  • Religion: four universities, including one in Scotland, one in Canada, one in New Zealand, and two in the USA. Typically, “religion” features as a department name.
  • The study of religion: four universities, two in Canada, one in England and one in the United States (Duke University (#97/98), where one finds “the study of religion” or “the academic study of religion”).
  • Studies in Religion: three universities, all in Australia.
  • Theology and Religious Studies: two universities, both in the UK (England, Scotland).
  • History of Religions (religionshistorie and religionshistoria): two universities, one in Norway and one in Sweden.

If one were to code ‘Studies in Religion’ and ‘Theology and Religious Studies’ together with ‘Religious Studies’, that category would comprise 27 cases, which would make it the largest category. In addition, there are two unique cases that also combine Religious Studies with another designation. While Divinity clearly refers to theology, it seems that Religious Studies in the latter case also means theology:

  • Divinity and Religious Studies (University of Aberdeen #33)
  • Religious Studies and Comparative Religion (Manchester University #60)

In sum, designations such as Comparative Religion and History of Religions, which were important in former times, are now used by very few universities (less than ten per cent). While Religionswissenschaft and its cognate denominations prevail in continental Europe (with the exception of the Netherlands), Religious Studies predominates in the Anglo-sphere, with the Australian Studies in Religion as one national variety. In the UK, however, one finds several denominations, sometimes in combination with divinity/theology (which does not imply that there are no theologians or theological elements in departments and programs carrying other names). The Study of Religions is not (yet) established as a current term, even though several national and international associations carry this designation in their names8.

‘Religion’

Webpages from 29 universities, corresponding to some 41 per cent of our sample of universities, provide some kind of definitions of the nature of the study of religion\s. In one way or the other, almost all of these statements make the point that the study of religion\s studies ‘religion’, religious traditions or religious phenomena as its subject matter.9 Given this explicit delimitation and the extensive discussions about the concept and definition of ‘religion’ during the past decades, one would not have been surprised to find adumbrations of these discussions, if not explicit reflections on these issues, on the webpages. Yet, it turns out that this is not the case; one wonders whether the webpages seek to avoid being dragged into these abysmal problems.

The most prominent feature of religion evoked by the definitional statements in our sample, in eleven cases, is an appeal to the variety or diversity of religion, religious expressions or phenomena, in time and space. In two cases this corresponds to highlighting the complexity and in one case each the universality of religion or the comparative outlook of the study of religion\s.10

Only six out of 101 texts contain what we would categorize as explicit definitions of religion, i.e. statements that specify what religion is or religions are (about). We are here not thinking of general statements such as “Religion is a major force in human experience” (Indiana University #101), that religions are “historical and cultural phenomena” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill #32), or that religion is “an essential aspect of the cultures of the world and the interactions among them” (University of Toronto #74).11 Instead, we have in mind more comprehensive and precise determinations that aim at determining the nature of religion\s. Note that four out of these six definitional statements are found on continental European websites (plus one from New Zealand and one from Canada). Only one of these definitions recalls recent debates about the notion of religion:

Religion as such does not exist. It is a concept developed in the West as a label for a wide variety of human ideas and behaviour, which are centered around human interaction with postulated (non- or meta-empirical) realities.

Leiden University #68

While the different definitions play on different theoretical registers, they all emphasize the agency of religion; religion mainly occurs in the active mode. This active voice also resonates in various ‘religion is’ and ‘religion has’ statements or other verbal qualifiers (like ‘to affect’, ‘to shape’, to function’, ‘to set forward’, ‘to underpin’, ‘to matter’, etc.) which occur throughout the corpus of texts.

The texts refer to vast areas of impact of religion, mainly on politics and conflicts, but also generally pertaining to behavior and “human culture and experience” (University of Cape Town #75). Only a minority of texts point to ambivalent or contradictory effects of religion12 and/or they express the statements as a possibility (‘can’; University of Groningen #52; Södertörn University #16; University of Zurich #90). One text makes the point that religion can be a host of different things (Södertörn University #16, which then lists a series of examples). In one case, the possible impact of religion is linked to the motivational force of religious beliefs; this source also refers to conflicting claims by stating that religions “are sometimes accused of limiting or repressing people, yet also offer resources which sustain people through times of suffering and oppression” (University of Glasgow #34), which could be read as a defence of religion against its denouncers. The interdependence of religion with examples of other human constructs is repeatedly mentioned in the texts, especially with culture (yet the agency in these relations is typically assigned to religion).

The emphasis of the impact of religion and its active agency constitute a ‘claim of relevance’. It is unclear to what extent this claim results from empirical research. One way of explaining the persistent presence of this claim of relevance is the rhetorical and communicative setting of the texts, which frames them not primarily as information tools but as advertisement and marketing devices.13 Given that producers of the websites may expect their users to be primarily non-scholars, in particular potential students (and the number of students-intake is often decisive for the future viability of the departments or programs), and given that they may expect that only ‘relevant’ matters attract attention and students, this may result in a relatively uncritical overemphasis on the general importance and agency of religion. We have no means of knowing how effective this marketing strategy is. Yet, if our reading of the ‘claim of relevance’ as a sales strategy to highlight the relevance and necessity for the ‘product’ of our scholarly activities, the study of religion\s, is justified, then it raises the ethical question how far is it legitimate to proclaim things as facts that many would admit in other contexts to be mere assumptions.

Religions

As indicated above, several websites state that the study of religion\s deals with all religions or with a wide cross-cultural range of religions/religious phenomena. These general claims are illustrated on a number of websites with examples. Some 32 web pages provide names of religions (e.g. Islam), of cultural/historical religious traditions (e.g. Egyptian religion), of types of religions (e.g. world religions), of types of religious traditions (e.g. religions without writing), of historical phenomena (e.g. New Religious Movements), of larger geographical units (e.g. the Mediterranean), of macro-geographic units such as continents (e.g. African religions), of modern nations (e.g. religions in Canada) or of cities (religion in Leeds, which is the only case of that type), or related concepts (e.g. spirituality).

Numerically, one group of religions is mentioned far more often than the rest. This groups comprises Islam and Hinduism (18 cases each), Buddhism (17), Christianity (16), and Judaism (14). In our sample, these clearly are the salient examples, or prototypical religions. In practice, then, it seems that the traditional world-religion model is still the dominant one.

There is a second group of religions mentioned by far fewer, i.e. two to five, cases: Confucianism (5), Taoism (4), Sikhism (3), Jainism (2), and New Age (2). This category also comprises some collective terms such as East and South Asia (4), African religion (3), ancient Mediterranean religions (3), religions of China (2), religions in Japan (2), Asian religions (2), religions in America (2), Amerindian religions (2). All other cases are single (‘idiosyncratic’) examples.

Disciplinary Matrix

The debates about the alleged sui generis character of religion and, accordingly, the study of it, have raised the issue of its disciplinary belonging. In our sample, something less than a quarter (24/101) of the texts address the disciplinary setting of the study of religion\s. This happens on several levels. To begin with, there is the context of the university, with faculty having duties in “other university departments and academic programs” (University of Waterloo #63) or by closely cooperating “with other departments in the college and professional schools which have interests in the study of religion” (Emory University #99).

On a meta-level, the study of religion\s is sometimes classified as being part of a branch, class, division or family of academic labor. The University of Vermont regards the study of religion\s as “a crucial part of the wider study of human cultures, global affairs, and personal identities” (#28). More established terms such as the humanities or the social sciences are invoked by relatively few cases.14 From the fact that the “academic study of religion draws directly on all of the humanities and social sciences” the University of Miami concludes that “it invites us to think in a fuller, more integral way about human life” (#26).15 Three cases refer the study of religion\s as a field of study (University of Turku #9; UC Santa Barbara #22; University of Groningen #53). Only two cases identify the study of religion\s as a ‘discipline’—and even this not in the full sense of an academic discipline. While the University of Waikato speaks of a “university discipline” (#84), Duke University opts for the somewhat paradoxical term “interdisciplinary discipline” (#97), emphasizing that it “employs a wide variety of approaches and methods in order to understand the role of religion in both human experience and thought” (#97). In addition, three definitions point to its multi-, trans-, or interdisciplinary nature.16 The web pages clearly show a hesitation to affirm the disciplinary status of the study of religion\s. It is also commonly recognized that the study of religion\s has several branches or sub-disciplines. Anthropology, psychology, or sociology of religion are typical sub-disciplines, even though most active scholars in these fields may well be employed at departments in these disciplines rather than in departments of the study of religion\s.

A greater desire to spell out the disciplinary context of the study of religion\s can be found in Germany and Switzerland, where several texts (University of Bremen #49; LMU Munich #51; University of Zurich #90; University of Berne #92; University of Lucerne #93) firmly identify the study of religion\s as being a Kulturwissenschaft.17 In one case (Bremen) this label is combined with that of Geisteswissenschaft and in another case (Lucerne) with that of the social sciences. As the only non-German speaking example of this contextualisation, the University of Turku refers to a “close relation to different aspects of Cultural Sciences” (#10). Other cases classify the study of religion\s as a humanistic education (Aarhus University #8) or as an education in cultural history (University of Copenhagen #6).

In our sample, four cases explicitly insist on a distinction from theology. One main criterion of distinction put forward by the web pages is the insider/outsider separation: “What the programs offer are not theological studies from within any given religious tradition” (University of Ottawa #73); the study of religion\s “is not grounded in any particular religious tradition but deals even-handedly with religions found throughout the world” (Massey University #80). This issue is related to that of normativity: as the University of Ottawa web page makes clear, the “programs do not consider any religious tradition to be normative” (#73). The University of Alabama identifies the distinction in the different kinds of “data” used by these two “enterprises”: “the academic study of religion studies people, their beliefs, and their social systems; the theological study of religion studies God/the gods and their impact on people” (#27).18 The University of Copenhagen takes a more pragmatic perspective: contrary to theology, the study of religion\s does not educate future priests, and even where it studies Christianity it regards this as a religion in a given cultural and societal context (#6).

The demarcation of boundaries from its confessional or theological other and religious discourses is also made explicit in a few definitional statements from Europe, South Africa, and the United States. The University of Washington briefly remarks that the Comparative Religion Program from the start “intended not to teach religion, but to teach about it” (#30). The University of Lausanne proposes that religions are studied in a non-confessional and ‘exterior’ manner, which is here linked to an implicit definition or theory of religion that regards religions as products of human cultural activity (#95).19 The University of Zurich explicitly holds that it is not part of the business of the study of religion\s to fathom religious truth or to decide which religions are better than other. Moreover, scholars of religion do not need to be religious themselves (University of Zurich #91).

Topics

Besides studying a series of religions and religious phenomena in given geographical contexts, the study of religion\s is also concerned with aspects of religion (such as myth or ritual) or topics relating to religion (such as gender or power). What kind of topics (aspects of religion and issues related to religion) is the study of religion\s concerned with according to our sample of websites?20 While some websites mention such topics in a general manner, other cases refer to research topics of faculty or to potential areas of specialization for undergraduate and graduate students (or topics of past student papers); others, last but not least, list topics of courses that are offered by the respective department or as part of the respective program.

Using these criteria, from our sample of 101 texts, 39 contain relevant information. In total (in our coding) 75 keywords (identified by separate codes) emerged. The majority of these (44) are ‘idiosyncratic’ items, i.e., they are mentioned by only one text. Several of these keywords, however, have been central stage in recent research in the discipline/field. Consider topics such as (in alphabetic order) cognition, ecology (and, in addition, climate change), emotion, ethnicity, gods, health, human rights, identity, immigration, law, media, pluralism, popular religion, post-colonialism, power, race, state, and terrorism. The history of the study of religion\s is likewise mentioned by one text only (The University of Ottawa #72).21  Not represented at all are issues such as evolution or evolutionary theory and material culture (but built environments, i.e. architecture, is mentioned once).

Figure 1: Word cloud of topics mentioned on two or more web pages

Figure 1: Word cloud of topics mentioned on two or more web pages

Keywords with two or more occurrences are here presented visually in a word cloud22, where terms with the lowest frequency (2) are smallest going up in size to those with the highest frequency (11). The ‘interaction of religion’ variable functions as an umbrella code that also encompasses a variety of other keywords; note that we only coded cases using terms like ‘connections’, ‘interaction’, ‘interplay’, ‘interrelationship’, ‘intersection’, and ‘relation’, but we did not include cases that speak of the ‘effect’ of given issues on religion such as the effects of globally connected structures of communication on the emergence of religious ideas and practices mentioned by the University of Zurich (#90) or how such issues affect religion.

At the top of the list, one finds the following four broad categories: politics (10 cases from nine universities), culture (11), ethics (11 from ten universities), and history (11 from ten universities). Each of these represents over a quarter of all texts relevant for this section, and around 10 per cent of the entire sample. Numerically, they appear as the most typical and salient topics in the study of religion\s according to our sample of websites. Apparently, the web pages are primarily concerned with appealing to common ground with other disciplines.

Given that ethics is rarely discussed in major companions and handbooks, its prominence in our sample is somewhat surprising. What does that topic cover? To begin with, as in the case of politics and culture, there are the religion-ethics connections (University of Stirling #38; University of Toronto #74). Duke University addresses ethics as a specific feature of religions just like gender, visual modes, and mysticism (#98), while the University of Southern Denmark (#7) is concerned with the distinctions between religious and non-religious ethics. The department text at Emory University refers to a course on ethics (#99), but when speaking of ethics it is unclear whether that deals with ethics in relation to historical religions or with ethics from a religious background. At Indiana University, it is clearly stated that some faculty members are “primarily ethicists” (#102), and one of the five course areas at the University of Waterloo is called “theology, philosophy, and ethics” (#63). At Uppsala University students analyze difficult ethical problems (#15), while McGill has BA and MA specializations in bioethics (#66), the University of Queensland pays attention to stem-cell research (#85) and Emory University (#100) is concerned with “long-standing debates” over medical ethics (among other issues). From our perspective, all this squarely fits the business of theology and philosophy but is situated outside the realm of a discipline/field seeking to account for religion as historical phenomena (which is where the present writers situate themselves).

Aims, Skills, Competence

The identity of an academic discipline, particularly in the shape of programs of study, is also determined by the aims and goals it sets itself. In total, we coded 29 cases as containing explicit or implicit statements about the purpose of the study of religion\s and/or the aims of the programs. The two most-used key-words are knowledge (11 cases) and understanding (10 occurrences).23  Only very few cases specify the desired kind of knowledge in any way. The Complutense University of Madrid, for example, speaks of providing ‘rational and critical knowledge’ of ‘the religious fact and the evolution of the different religious traditions’ (#77).24 ‘Critical’ or ‘critique’ are recurrent keywords in seven cases, but these terms have a wide range of meanings covering, for example, source criticism and critical theory. The Université Laval proposes the development of a ‘general religious culture’, but adds to this the unfolding of a critical sense both towards one’s own experiences and towards religious and spiritual phenomena (#71).25

The University of Canterbury launches ‘cultural literacy’ as an ultimate aim and holds that one cannot achieve this if one fails to understands the role played by religion and ‘critically’ engages with them (#79). The University of Zurich seeks to provide knowledge and (inter- or trans-) ‘cultural competence’ and thereby hopes to contribute to tolerance and communication or understanding (#90). While this aim refers to a potential societal contribution by the study of religion\s, some other texts, from England and the United States, focus on the desired moral qualities of their alumni. The program at Leeds University wishes to “equip students for understanding, living and working reflectively and responsibly within a plural society” (#58). At Arizona State University, “the faculty of Religious Studies seek to foster civic responsibility and global awareness” (#96). Emory University’s Department of Religion “engages students to understand themselves better as moral agents in the world, and to help them appreciate the moral and spiritual dimensions of the interpretive activity they pursue in the study of religion” (#99). The study of religion\s is here not only conceived as having a moral dimension (in terms of research ethics), but also as having a spiritual one.

In the educational process, the aims, goals, intent and purpose of the study of religion\s are ideally converted into skills and qualifications to be acquired by students and graduates. If properly transmitted and internalized, the theoretical dimension of the academic practice translates into practical knowledge; the students will acquire a specific competence if the discipline performs well. In total, we identified 24 texts (from 21 universities) as containing statements on skills and competences. In several respects, there is an overlap with the aims and goals of the programs.26 Here is a text from the University of Queensland (#85):

Studying Religion can:

  • Develop your understanding and knowledge of the cultural foundations and current trends in many religious and spiritual movements
  • Provide insight into the cultural settings in which various religions are practised, showing ways that societies and individuals construct their own ideas of the spiritual and therefore their own sense of identity
  • Offer you the chance to learn Arabic, Greek, Pali and Sankrit [sic!] to gain insight into other cultures
  • Promote respect, appreciation and understanding of religious and cultural diversity
  • Encourage reflection on your own world view

The reader will immediately recall some keywords and leitmotivs from the aims and scope section (above). Yet, the text is apparently addressed to potential students and its intention is not to make a pronouncement on the aims and scope of the discipline but to list the benefit or pay-off that prospective students can expect to derive from studying religion. The text addresses intellectual, ethical and personal traits. It seems to suggest that the study of religion\s makes students more respectful, appreciative, and understanding with regard to cultural diversity, which is an attitude, but not a skill. Encouraging reflection on one’s world-view (note that the text here avoids speaking of religion) is neither an aim of the discipline nor is it a skill of the student, but a process leading to developing a more reflected and often mature attitude. Another text from the Pacific area, Massey University, similarly announces that students will have the opportunity for personal reflection without being directly exposed to a specific religious message: “Religious Studies will not give you the answers to life’s mysteries, but it will stimulate and inform your own reflection” (#80).

In almost identical wording (which might raise the issue of plagiarism, which unlike scholarly production seems to be tolerated in this kind of texts), two Norwegian texts assert that students will receive knowledge about the relationship between religion and society and a unique cross-cultural competence.27 Several cases appeal to skills of relevance for plural societies. This includes talk of (unspecified) “practical skills needed for understanding and operating in situations where cultures interact” (University of Helsinki #12), “skills in analysis and human interaction” (Lancaster University #55), “a multidisciplinary critical skills base in the area of religion for those in training for, or active within, professions that engage with the religious aspect of multicultural societies” (University of New England #89), “qualifications and skills appropriate for personal development, professional employment and further study in a secular society where religious issues remain influential, though are often unrecognised” and “interpersonal and intellectual skills of empathy with critical distance” (University of Waikato #58).

Some web pages speak of communicative skills in a more technical sense, that of so-called soft or transferable skills. None of these are specific to the study of religion\s. Communication and writing are connected to skills of effectively disseminating academic knowledge to other audiences. Yet, in our sample, it is only the University of Southern Denmark (#7) that emphasizes this skill. In the text, it figures next to adopting an ‘analytical-critical’ attitude towards public debates.

Career Prospects and Employment Perspectives

Some texts create a link between talking about the skills and competences students have acquired by taking a program and potential employment perspectives (#24, #38, #39, #89).28 The career options mentioned here tend to be somewhat vague; the most extreme case, which actually ends up by tracking no path of employment in particular, comes from the University of Cape Town: “Such study provides not only valuable insights into the world in which we live, but also the skills of critical analysis, conceptual thought and imaginative empathy that will allow you to pursue a rewarding career after university” (#76).

26 texts from 23 universities in our sample have something to say about career and employment prospects of their candidates. Three web pages–from Canada, New Zealand, and the USA–address the professional achievements of their alumni. Since they point to a vast array of career options they may be worth quoting in full; by providing some geographical details the Canadian case gives a more authentic and reliable feel:

Some of our Religious Studies majors have found the following jobs: Physician in Sioux Lookout, Ontario; Director of Development Agency in Uganda; Chaplain at Correctional Services Canada; Program Assistant at The Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse; Teacher of Religion in the RCSS Board; Program Co-ordinator at Catholic Family Services; Youth Pastor in a United Mennonite Church.”

University of Waterloo #64

Former graduates of our programme have gone on to become journalists, artists, musicians, film directors, teachers, gallery directors, librarians and academics.

University of New Zealand #79

Since the inception of the Religious Studies major at the University in the fall of 2000, students have explored careers in public health, medicine, law, ministry, finance, the Peace Corps, and Teach for America.

The University of Texas at Austin #25

Some statements are of a very general nature. Several texts point to the various career opportunities opened up by their respective programs, but they usually list some very broad sectors (University of Southern Denmark #8; University of New England #89; University of Lucerne #93; Arizona State University #96; Duke University #97). Emory University makes it implicitly clear that concrete career opportunities can emerge as a result of an educational intersection of a degree in the study of religion\s with other forms of education: “The broad and deep preparation that Religion Majors develop intersects effectively with preparation in such vocations as medicine, law, business, and public affairs” (#100). Similarly, VU Amsterdam states: “The path you take with your degree in Religious Studies mainly depends on the specialization you opt for in the Master’s phase” (#70).

Given its privileged outsider perspective and intent to distinguish itself from religious discourses, does the study of religion\s qualify for careers directly pertaining to religion? This case is indeed made by several texts from countries in different continents. One text claims that the program prepares candidates for occupations requiring solid knowledge about religions, the relations between religion, culture and society, and a sensitivity for inter-religious relations (University of Bayreuth #39), but the text does not provide names of applicable occupations. The University of Texas at Austin refers to fields that value “the ability to operate in a complex religious setting” (#24), but does not mention which vocations these fields may comprise in particular. The University of New England refers to “professions that engage with the religious aspect of multicultural societies” and it goes on by enumerating a series of such professions: “law, teaching, social work, counselling, journalism, public service, business, marketing, defence, and foreign service, to name but a few” (#89). While it here is the multi-religious aspect of many contemporary societies that potentially qualifies candidates, the University of Canterbury refers to religious institutions as potential employers: “Those interested in careers within religious institutions will find that it affords them a valuable perspective, complementing their faith-based education” (#79). This program seems to offer an additional qualification to that provided by religious institutions, but the work is not directly qualified as comprising religious activities. The VU Amsterdam goes one step further by letting its degree holders adopt a more direct religious role, albeit for non-religious employers: “Or you could go into education or take up a position as a spiritual advisor in a large commercial or non-profit organization” (#70).

The text from the University of Waterloo website quoted above refers to religious professions (chaplain, pastor) and in addition to the jobs held by alumni the text directly refers to such professions: the study of religion\s “Leads to careers such as teaching, chaplaincy, pastoral ministry, and counselling” (#64). The ministry is also given by five other universities as a career option for their graduates. While three cases are from the United States (University of Texas at Austin ##24/25; University of Miami #26; Duke University #97), the remaining ones, in addition to Canada (Waterloo), are from Sweden (Uppsala University #15) and Scotland (University of Glasgow #34); in the latter case, a specialist program is offered for those opting for that vocation.

Turning to specific careers besides those related to knowledge directly related to religion, becoming a school or high-school teacher is the option mentioned by most texts in the category–in total 13 cases, among these seven from Scandinavia and the remaining cases spread across the Europe, North America and the Pacific (University of Amsterdam, Glasgow, Waterloo, Miami, New England, Canterbury). Four cases, among them three from Europe, speak of education in general, without specifically mentioning work as a teacher (VU Amsterdam, Complutense University of Madrid, University of Lucerne, Duke University).

After teaching, academic work, i.e. doing research or working at a University, is listed most often (10 cases from eight universities across the world). This is followed by journalism (nine cases). Teacher, research/academics, and journalism are the three career options mentioned by far most often in our sample.

This top three-group is followed in frequency (four to six cases each) by a series of four occupations, where we can find some regional variation. In addition to the ministry (see above), five cases refer to the media (which, of course, covers a wide range of jobs). With one exception (The University of Canterbury #79), all these cases are from Europe. Culture, including work in a cultural section, a council of cultural affairs, and as cultural advisor, totals four cases, which again are all from Europe. Work in a museum is also listed by four European texts. Law and medicine, on the other hand, are listed only by universities from the United States (with one exception, The University of New England #89, which also lists law).

Four cases, but from three universities (two from the USA, one from New Zealand), refer to social services; to this category one might possibly include the work in the social field mentioned by University Complutense of Madrid (#77). Also four cases (from three universities) refer to work with the government (two cases from the USA, one from the Netherlands). Related career options include the diplomatic/foreign service (three cases: one from the USA, one from Australia, one from Switzerland), public service (three cases with the same distribution by countries). Three European cases (University of Turku #9; University of Gothenburg #13; VU Amsterdam #70) regard the issue of societal integration (presumably of minority groups) as potentially offering career options to their graduates.

Counselling is listed by the University of Waterloo (#64), the University of New England (#89), and the University of Amsterdam (#69). The University of Amsterdam (#69), the University of Canterbury (#79), and the University of Berne (#92) present travel and tourism as offering career options to their graduates. The latter university also mentions work in libraries (three cases in total) and publishing (two cases).

Some additional 25 career options are given by two or one cases only (in addition to the spiritual advisor and some others mentioned above). Some of them are obviously more vague than others and some terms may have different shadings of meaning in different national context. They are here collated to form seven thematic clusters:

  • defence, politics, public administration, public affairs, state
  • development work, humanitarian organization, international organization, NGO’s, peace corps
  • discrimination, migration, minorities
  • physician, public health
  • artist, gallery director
  • business, finance, human resources welfare, marketing, staff management
  • communication, dissemination, information

Visual Representations of the Study of Religion\s

Most university websites have photos and pictures in addition to the textual material. Images tend to liven up text-heavy web pages and complement the themes communicated in the texts. Arguably, such images and photographs tell their own story of what the study of religion\s is. They are also crucial in ensuring the multi-medial experience that now seems to be expected on the web. Our sample for this discussion comprises 151 individual images downloaded from the web pages and 10729 screenshots.30 17 of these do not have any images on them. 54, i.e. more than half, have one image (this also includes some visual collages, i.e. i.e. a combination of several images and graphic elements). 31 of the pages have between two and four images. The remaining five show between five and seven images.

From the 151 images two main categories can easily be identified: images related to (1) the subject ‘religion’ (86) and (2) to the educational context (41).

Images from the ‘educational context’31 category depict situations where students and scholars are engaged in a lecture, seminars or reading in libraries. Most of these images do not include any signifier for religion. Arguably, for prospective students these images portray what the study of religion\s practically appears like at the universities. In a sense they are objective representations of the study of religion\s as a social practice: people who discuss, read, and write. Even if some of the images may originate from fieldwork, we see no scholars of religion in the field (engaged in participant observation), studying manuscripts or the like. This resonates with the absence of reflexive elements in the texts (as analyzed above).

There are 17 images of the various department and university buildings where the study of religion\s is located. Most (12) of these images are of a building in classical architectural style. In addition, there are eight pictures of staff-members, either as portraits or as group-photos.

How is religion presented in these images? Our analysis of the textual materials has brought to light that there is a strong tendency to represent religion as a force, having an impact on a range of other spheres. In addition to this ‘claim of relevance’, religion is conceptually related to psychology, identity, politics, ethics and existentialism. Moreover, the texts tend to present religion as a historical universal. Do the images reflect the same emphasis on relevance and universality?

34 of the total sample of 86 images related to religion depict material structures, mainly statues (25) and buildings (churches, mosques, stupas) (21). There are 26 occurrences of actual people in this category, 17 of these engaged in what seems to be a ritual context, evenly distributed between scenes from Christian and Hindu contexts, in addition to some few portraying Buddhists, Jews and Sikhs. (This selection seems to be rather evenly distributed across countries.) The overlap between material structures and people is surprisingly small; there are only eight occurrences where the two codes overlap, and since two of these occur in collages (#52–3; #101–2), only five pictures remain that depict people are set in either interaction or proximity with a religious structure (#16 [two pictures]; #46; #63; #97). It is obvious that the anthropological emphasis communicated by the texts is not supported by the images. Even if somebody must have built these material structures at some time, the images portray religion as historical monuments, things of the past, something static and fixed.

When taking a closer look at the images that portray people (26) we find that more than half (17) show people in a ritual context.32 We see Hindus and Buddhists performing puja (#63), Christians of both priesthood and laity praying (#16), Jews praying in front of the Western Wall (#97), and a Japanese crowd engaged in a Shinto festival (#16). The other half comprises without exception portraits and full-figure photos of people in some form of religious attire (#9; #52–3; #82). Despite the tendencies in the textual material to represent religion as a force in human lives, and as something with relevance to life’s many aspects, this message is not transmitted by the selection of images.

Recall the main topics listed on the web pages. From the top of the list (politics, culture, ethics, history), only two can said to be a recurring theme in the image material. We get a sense of history from the old buildings, statues and religious sites. If ethics is a regulation of behaviour, one could argue that it is implicitly visualized in images of rituals, but it does not occur in any more direct manner. In a broad sense, ‘culture’ is present in any photography. In the texts, religion is related to culture more in the sense of being present in ‘other areas’ of (a) culture. Surprisingly, none of the images place religion or religious actors in such a setting, nor, for that matter, in contexts related to politics33 or ethics. Even if these topics may be abstract constructions, it is not difficult to imagine how they could be visualised. As a matter of fact, the relationship between religion and politics appears visually in newspapers and news broadcasts on a daily basis. Religion is often embedded in public institutions and the places of everyday life be it images of Catholic saints on hospital walls, images of Mecca in kebab shops, pupils wearing religious symbols or the presence of Mormon pioneers in a busy city street. The examples are plenty and could be used to support the kind of claims made in texts.

There are no images that identifiably relate to the remaining terms in the topics section such as cognition, ecology, climate change, health, human rights, identity, immigration, law, media, post-colonialism, power, race, state, and terrorism, cinema and film, the economy, public life, word-views, death/dying, mysticism, shamanism, violence, the interaction or interface of religion with other ‘systems’, globalization and gender.

Above (section RELIGIONS) we saw that there is especially one group of religions that are mentioned more than others. The same goes for the sample of pictures, but with a slightly different ranking: Christianity (26), Hinduism (16), Buddhism (11), Islam (9), Judaism (7).34 These are clearly a representation of the commonly recognized ‘world religions’. The rest of the pictures (16) comprise images relating to Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, New Age, Paganism, Shintoism and Confucianism, which may give the impression of some variety of religious traditions. Other prominent religions such as Mormonism, the Baha’i Faith, Jainism, Scientology, or the internal diversity within the ‘world religions’ are not represented.

There are several cases (11) where the images are presented in a collage. In some few cases (2) collages are used as part of the header on the page with the department logo. What all these have in common, is that they compile images from different religious traditions, from East and West. In a sense, this visualizes the plurality of religion\s and the global perspectives often claimed in the texts. Let us take a look at one example. On the website for Victoria University of Wellington we found the portraits of Virgin Mary, Krishna, John Lennon and former US president George W. Bush (retrieved 2011-23-03).

Figure 2, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (March 23, 2011)

Figure 2, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (March 23, 2011)

These portraits are arranged around the message “Never in the history of the world has the study of religion mattered more”. Where Virgin Mary and Krishna are figureheads for Christianity (Catholicism) and Hinduism (Krishnaism) respectively, Lennon and Bush appear as important persons in contemporary religious scenarios. Arguably, Bush and Lennon juxtapose American mainstream Protestantism, power and politics (Bush) and alternative spirituality (Lennon); note that Lennon is much more centrally situated in the composition (even though somewhat to the left), while Bush appears as right wing marginal figure. This is one of the very few visual representations found on a study of religion\s web page that suggests that the discipline does not only deal with the prototypical religious histories, but also with modern politics and popular culture. Interestingly, as if to confirm our diagnosis this collage was subsequently replaced by a row of five pictures, out of which four are views from outside of religious buildings without the presence of any human beings (and correspondingly the textual message, which reflected the ‘claim of relevance’, has been taken out).35

Figure 3, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (May 29, 2011)

Figure 3, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (May 29, 2011)

Conclusion

For religion, most texts seeking to represent the study of religion\s in our international sample of web pages flag its diversity, agency or impact; they mainly communicate a ‘claim of relevance’, probably serving as a kind of selling point. Key topics in the study of religion\s highlighted by the texts are mainly politics, culture, ethics, and history. Methods are rarely mentioned on the web pages. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism are the religions mentioned most often by far; implicitly, the discipline seems still dominated by a ‘world religions’ approach. In general, however, the meta-analysis of the state of the discipline according to its public self-presentation on the university web pages point to a rather limited degree of intellectual coherence both with regard to selection of information and its content. Reflexive statements, i.e. statements that self-critically address the parameters of the study of religion\s on a meta-level, are almost absent in our sample; the web pages show an alarmingly low degree of reflexivity. This is in striking contrast to vigorous debates that have characterized the field during recent decades. As we see it, this should be reflected more prominently on future web pages. This leads us to some observations and recommendations concerning best practice.

Recommendations

In light of what we have learned from this analysis, with all due caveat we want to end on a constructive note: How should the study of religion\s be represented on university websites: what are the best practices? There are many ways to address this question. For example, plenty of good advice can be found in foras36 about web content management, but that is beyond our scope in this article. Instead, we will restrict our observation to the main categories of our analysis. We do not claim to sit on the definitive solution to this challenge, but we hope to stimulate to greater attention being paid to how the study of religion\s is represented on the web:

  • Designations. While acknowledging the need for departmental identity and institutional history, it may be useful to flag a reference to a disciplinary umbrella, i.e. the study of religion\s. It is also important to highlight association membership and point to other institutions where there is a close relationship. E.g. The Department of Religious Studies belongs to the discipline of the study of religion\s and is a member of the IAHR. We have an exchange arrangement with the School of Divinity in Edinburgh.
  • Religion. Presentations should include a reflection on the issue of defining the subject matter and the inherent problems of the concept. If there is a need for “claiming relevance”, efforts should be made to provide concrete (rather than general) examples where such relevance is achieved or to present this as a guiding hypothesis rather than as an ontological or historical truism. E.g. As scholars of religion we feel obligated to always reflect on the question “What is religion?”. ‘Religion’ can be defined differently depending on whom you ask and where the question is posed. At our department we tend to teach and research religion as a global phenomenon that can be found in all societies with varying impact on culture and society: from the apocryphal Gospels’ influence on modern popular culture to the Goddess devotion in India.
  • Religions. Webpages should not uncritically reproduce and privilege the notion of “world-religions” and be aware of different taxonomical approaches. E.g. We offer courses in Buddhism, New Religious Movements and Islam. In each different tradition, different periods and geographies are surveyed: from modern Zen Buddhism, Wicca, to East-European Sufi-practices.
  • Disciplinary Matrix. Presentations should more accurately portray how they deploy sub-disciplines and achieve inter-disciplinarity, or multi-methodology (if desired). To us, in some educational contexts it seems important to explicitly make the distinction from theology since the two are often confused in public. That being said, maybe it is time to turn the coin and emphasize what we may perceive as our strengths, rather than just stating that the study of religion\s is not theology. E.g. Several scholars at our department work with scholars from other disciplines, such as the Department of Sociology. In our program you are given the opportunity to learn how methods such as philology and statistics are used to research religion. The study of religion\s is often confused with theology; while both disciplines share an interest in “religion”, our program provides a comparative and agnostic approach, and does not privilege any specific religious traditions.
  • Topics. While it is tempting to make lists and general remarks of the topics one might deal with in the study of religion\s, try to restrict such list to those which actually are prominent within the research and study programs at the department. This creates proper expectations and gives relevant information for both potential collaborators and prospective students. E.g. At our department we are interested in how religion intercepts with politics. We do also offer courses where you can study the relationship between gender discourses and Muslim ideologies.
  • Aims, Skills, Competence. It is common for disciplines within the humanities to struggle with certain (utilitarian?) expectations related to employment prospects and public benefit. While such expectations invites us to form ideas of what skills and abilities we want in a study of religion\s graduate, we should not undermine the value of knowledge for its own sake. E.g. We challenge our students to develop a better understanding of religion\s and have the ability to approach religious with a comparative and critical mindset. Our students should also be able to relate what they know about religion\s to other fields in culture and society.
  • Career Prospects and employment perspectives. Hopefully, most of those with a background in the study of religion\s are in some form of career or employment. We should make an effort to find out what their education is actually used for, and portray this on the websites through for example testimonials. This also invites departments to think about certain occupational areas they want to focus on. E.g. If you are interested in international relations and diplomacy, our Department offers courses in Religion and Politics that have been reported to be useful for our students in such professions.
  • Visual Representations. This is one of the aspects where websites (per 2011) have the greatest need to improve. It should not be hard to come up with original and relevant images, photographs and even videos to present and visualise both religion as it is studied (rather than as it is visualized in tourist guidebooks), but also the study of religion\s as something consisting of scholars and students at work.

Knut at work

Knut at work

  • Reflexivity. The underlying leitmotiv of several of these recommendations is to stimulate to greater reflexivity. We should no longer hesitate to acknowledge our own positionalities and perspectives, including their limitations; to our eyes, rather than limiting the appeal of the texts this will improve their credibility.

Bibliography

Alles, Gregory D. (ed.) 2008, Religious Studies: a global view, Routledge, London.

Alles, Gregory D. 2011. “What (kind of) good is Religious Studies.” Religion 41: 217-223

Antes, Peter 2002. “Why should people study History of Religions?” In Giulia Sfameni Gasparro (ed.), Themes and Problems of the History of Religions in Contemporary Europe. Proceedings of the International Seminar Messina, March 30-31 2001 / Temi e problemi della Storia delle Religioni nell’Europa contemporanea. Atti del seminario Internazionale Messina, 30-31 Marzo 2001, Edizioni Lionello Giordano: Cosenza, 41-52.

Engler, Steven and  Michael Stausberg 2011. “Introductory essay. Crisis and creativity: opportunities and threats in the global study of religion\s.” Religion 41: 127-143.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 2001. Critics not Caretakers: redescribing the public study of religion. State University of New York Press: Albany.

Stausberg, Michael 2011. “The Bologna process and the study of religion\s in (Western) Europe.” Religion 41: 187-207.

Appendix

Errata

  • “African religion” → “African religions”

Notes

1 See Engler / Stausberg 2011 for the disciplinary status of the study of religion\s. As noted there, the idiosyncratic use of the backslash, which is followed here, is meant to index a series of theoretical and meta-theoretical questions regarding the referents and framing of ‘religion’ and ‘religions’.

2 While the public understanding of science and technology has become a field of study in its own right (witness publications such as the journal Public Understanding of Science, published by SAGE since 1992), the public understanding of humanities and social sciences seems comparatively underdeveloped.

3 Information provided on faculty is not included because such pages typically do not make statements about their respective understandings of the discipline (and even if they do, this information is that of individuals and not of institutions) but mainly provide information on career, publications, fields of research and courses taught by the individual faculty member. Nor do we include information on single courses, partly because such courses can be offered even where there is no department or specialized staff available, partly because the boundaries are unclear (a course on Buddhism, for example, can be offered by study of religion\s departments, by South Asian area studies programs or by Indian languages departments), and partly in order not to inflate our sample.

4 See the appendix for a full index of the cases.

5 Our study combines strategies often referred to as ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ forms of analysis. In order to reflect the quantitative distribution of cases, in writing we tried, as much as possible, to stick to the following stylistic rule: when speaking of “few” cases we are referring to between two and five cases; when speaking of “some” cases, we are referring to between six and ten; “several” refers to between 11 and 20; “many” to between 21 and 60; “most” refers to 61 and more.

6 For reasons of space and relevance the following discussion does not include results of all coding exercices.

7 Consider the example of Leiden University (#68). The University has the Leiden Institute for Religious Studies (LIRS), which offers different master’s programs, including a Master in Religious Studies. This program has seven tracks, including once called Comparative Religion. This program has several courses, including Comparative Religion: Themes and Topics in the Study of Religion, Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, and a Required General Course Religious Studies. On different levels, Leiden University thereby uses no less that three designations (Religious Studies, Comparative Religion, Study of Religion).

8 E.g. the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion/La Société Canadienne pour l’Étude de la Religion, the Finnish Society for the Study of Religion, the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR), and the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR).

9 In addition, a very small group of webpages extends the scope of the discipline to cover, e.g., “folk beliefs, worldviews, and ideologies” (University of Helsinki #12) or “the faiths, world views, practices, and ways of life that have, both historically and in the contemporary world, shaped the actions and allegiances of human beings” (Emory University #100).

10 Diversity: Aarhus University (#8); Philipps-Universität Marburg (#47); LMU Munic (#51); Université Laval (#71); University of Zurich (#90). Diversity and complexity: University of Otago (81#); Victoria University of Wellington (#83); University of Zurich (#91).  Diversity and universality: The University of New England (#88-89). Diversity and comparison: University of Washington (#30).

11 There are eight cases for universality or omnipresence of religion in our sample.

12 Religions “bring people together, but they also play a role in conflicts, and time after time they lead to public debate.” (University of Groningen #52); “In der spätmodernen Migrationsgesellschaft können Religionen das friedliche Zusammenleben ebenso erleichtern wie erschweren.” (University of Zurich #90).

13 See Antes (2002) for an attempt to identify “profit making strategies” (41) to promote the discipline. According to Antes the genuine contribution of the discipline is to “go on and concentrate on religion as a shaping force of culture and society, as an introduction to human variety in worldviews and as models for concord and discord among people.” This resonates with texts published on several homepages.

14 Examples for the classification as “humanities” come from New Zealand (Massey University # 80; Victoria University of Wellington #83) and Australia (University of New England #89). The University of Alabama speaks of “the anthropological approach to the study of religion as practiced in the public university” as being “a member of the human sciences (#27).

15 One wonders if that recalls the language of an integral humanism as proposed by Eliade.

16 Interdisciplinary: LMU Munich (#51); multidiscplinary: University of Ottawa (#72); transciplinary: University of Lausanne (#95: “L’histoire et les sciences des religions regroupent différentes disciplines qui se spécialisent dans l’étude scientifique des religions”).

17 Kulturwissenschaft is an umbrella term for which there is no real equivalent in any other language. In the German context, this term, which has replaced Geisteswissenschaften as a guiding notion, typically includes a range of disciplines or fields such as anthropology, ethnology, history, literary and media studies and sometimes also the social sciences. In the German speaking countries, claiming legitimate membership in this family of disciplines has been crucial for the study of religion\s as a platform of affirming its non-theological and post-phenomenological identity.

18 One can imagine that many theologians would regard this as a caricature of their business.

19 “Ces disciplines étudient les religions d’un point de vue non confessionnel, ‘extérieur’, et les envisagent comme un produit de l’activité culturelle humaine” (University of Lausanne #95).

20 When coding our sample for issues (aspects/topics) we ignored cases discussed in relation to definitional matters as well as the selection of religions/regions and methods discussed in other parts of this essay. Some themes are borderline cases. Consider Bible, philosophy, and theology. Since the Bible is an aspect of some religions rather than of religion\s in general, we ignored this here. Philosophy and theology can be aspects of religion\s insofar as many religions can be said to have their own philosophies or theologies (in which case they would be relevant for this section), but philosophy and theology can also refer to academic disciplines–and since the cases mentioning these words seem to refer to the latter meaning of these terms we ignored them here.

21 Even the much debated issue of fundamentalism is mentioned only once.  Here are some other topics we found noteworthy: amulets, capitalism, clothing,  holocaust, justice, museum, war.

22 The word cloud is created with Wordle (http://wordle.net, retrieved 2012–11–30)

23 The third term in terms of frequency is ‘to analyze’ or ‘analysis’ (six cases). Somewhat less frequently used is the verb ‘to interpret’ or the adjective ‘interpretive’ (two cases each). Three texts speak of insight (twice as noun, once as verb). The verb ‘to learn’ occurs twice and so does the noun ‘empathy’. Two texts speak of ‘examining’, whereas ‘inquiry’ and ‘to comprehend’ only occur once each. Also words referring to explanation and theory are mentioned only once each (in both cases in the verbal form).

24 “Proporcionar un conocimiento racional y crítico del hecho religioso y de la evolución de las diferentes religiones” (Complutense University of Madrid #77). The text continues by referring to instruments of analysis and critique.

25 “En plus de permettre le développement d’une culture religieuse générale (les approches générales du fait religieux ou les grandes traditions religieuses à travers le monde), les cours favorisent l’évolution d’un sens critique, tant à l’égard de sa propre expérience qu’à celui des phénomènes religieux et spirituels” (Université Laval #71).

26 The capability of analysis or to analyze is the skill mentioned by most cases (9), followed by understanding/to understand (5) and the ability to interpret (4). Insight is mentioned as a skill in three cases. Three cases engage speak of ‘reflection’. Among the cognitive skills mentioned by one or two cases we find ‘to compare’, ‘to describe’, ‘to examine’, ‘to explain’ and ‘to explore’.

27 “I kombinasjon med støttefaget får du kunnskap om forholdet mellom religion og samfunn og en unik tverrkulturell kompetanse” (University of Bergen #1). “Du får kunnskap om forholdet mellom religion og samfunn og en unik tverrkulturell kompetanse” (University of Oslo #3).

28 The notion of ‘employability’ has achieved worldwide resonance in higher education; for its implications, limitations, relevance, and career in Western Europe with regard to the study of religion\s see Alles 2011; Engler/Stausberg 2001; Stausberg 2011.

29 Observant readers may noe that this sample is slightly larger than the sample of texts (consisting of 101 web pages). The reason for this is that some websites randomize between a set of images on their site everytime you access the page in a web browser.

30 Unfortunately, we failed to take screenshots in the first phase of data collection, but did so only some months later (on May 29, 2011). In the meanwhile, of course, some web pages had changed their appearance, not the least their visual content. We still think that our findings are relevant and valid.

31 Images of cheerful students enjoying lively discussions are probably merely ‘stock photos’ indiscriminately used for whichever department sites. One exception is the University of Bayreuth where actual photos from the department’s students are used.

32 Note that the images appear to keep on changing rather quickly. Several of the images mentioned in the following can in the meanwhile no longer be seen on the web pages.

33 There is one notable exception, where the profile of president George W. Bush is used in a collage (see below).

34 In the texts Islam and Hinduism are mentioned more often.

35 http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacr/about/overview-intros/religious-studies.aspx (retrieved 2011-06-27)

36 The online magazine A List Apart is a good place to start learning more on writing for the web (http://www.alistapart.com/topics/content/writing/ [Retrieved: 03.01.13]).

The Problem with Myth

One of the things that has become persistently clear to me throughout my PhD work is that we have to be pedantic about our terminology. The vast majority of our technical terms are used “out there” by people in their everyday lives. But how “they” use a word and how “we” use it can often be markedly different. In fact, how “we” use a word is an overgeneralisation that assumes “we” all use the word in the same way. So as interesting as Paul-François Tremlett’s introduction to the work of Levi-Strauss was, one thing persistently bugged me throughout the interview: what is a myth?

“Myth” is a fairly common occurrence throughout the interview and not once is it defined. Is the meaning of myth so obvious that all the listeners know what it means? Perhaps it might be, perhaps the meaning of myth is self-evident to all who hear the word. But I wonder, while it might be self-evident to many, if pressed on the matter and forced into giving verbal expression would they all say the same thing? Perhaps not:

  • Mircea Eliade:

Every myth shows how a reality came into existence, whether it be the total reality, the cosmos, or only a fragment – an island, a species of plant, a human institution … [it] becomes the paradigmatic model for all human activities’(1957[1987]:97-98).

  • Ninian Smart:

A story which forms the identity of an individual, his/her fellows, and/or the cosmos in which they inhabit (Smart, 1981:26).

  • Alan Dundes:

A myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and man came to be in their present form … The critical adjective sacred distinguishes myth from other forms of narrative such as folktales, which are ordinarily secular and fictional (Dundes, 1984:1).

  • David Leeming:

the expression of a social ethos’ or the ‘basic assumptions that define a person, a family, or a culture – with the informing reality that resides at the centre of being (Leeming, 1990:4).

  • William Hansen:

a traditional oral story of alleged historicity (Hansen, 2002:2-5).

  • Joseph Nagy:

a collectively shared story about supernaturally powerful beings whose adventures and interactions are set in some primeval time before the “historical time” of legend (2002:125)

  • Finally, Levi-Strauss:

a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction (1955[1993]:229)

This is to mention but a handful of the various definitions of “myth” and what should be obvious is that they do not all cohere. Hansen and Nagy, for example, in speaking of “primeval time” and “alleged historicity” understand myth as something inherently false. A definition which many argue corresponds to myth’s everyday use: e.g. ‘in ordinary English to say ‘It’s a myth” is just a way of saying “It’s false”’ (Smart, 1969:18). Further, Eliade, Dundes and Nagy confine themselves to an understanding of myth that indicates that it can only occur within religions. But for both Eliade and Dundes the extent to which we apply myth is dependent on a definition of religion which in both cases relies on a definition of “sacred” (and its dichotomous “secular”). And as Bascom points out in Dundes’ volume, the distinction between the sacred and the secular is a fairly messy matter (Bascom, 1984:12). Indeed, could we not then include Evolution and Big Bang as myths? Both explain how the world and man came to be in their present form. Such is certainly possible in the case of Smart, Leeming, and Levi-Strauss. The latter in particular put the point quite vividly: ‘the kind of logic in mythical thought is as rigorous as that of modern science, and […] the difference lies, not in the quality of the intellectual process, but in the nature of things to which it is applied’ (Levi-Strauss, 1993:230). All that is perhaps consistent across these definitions and more is that myth is a kind of story.

What is interesting about this latter problem – that myth can be applied to religious and non-religious things alike – is that it nevertheless reduces to the former problem of the implied falsity of a myth. But perhaps more vividly than the former problem it gives us good reason not to use “myth” within our scholarly language. Take the following point from Tremlett’s extremely useful introduction to the work of Levi-Strauss: ‘Levi-Strauss argues that what “we” in “the West” call history is in fact myth by another name’ (Tremlett, 2008:56). Conversely, what we call myth is also history. But if so, what difference is there in calling a story myth or history? If Evolution can be called both history and myth what differs between each usage? It is, I suggest, the fact that when we speak, for example, of the Evolution myth we think of something that is false-prone and when we speak of the Evolution theory (here a synonym for history) we think of it as true-prone. The question of which is used depends on who is speaking. Smart points out that an anthology of mythology is unlikely to include the stories of Jesus’ life, death, and rebirth: ‘This is a leftover from Christian (and Jewish and Muslim, be it said) tendencies to treat their own stories as true and historical and other people’s stories as unhistorical and untrue’ (Smart, 1996:130). While Christian stories may well find themselves included in anthologies these days, the point to be taken from this is that for the Christian these stories are true and not regarded as myth. No one, I hazard, thinks of their own stories as myths.

Fitness-Myths

Stealing some terminology from Smart’s “Interpretation and Mystical Experience” (1965[2009]) and applying them to Schutz’s discussion in “Equality and the Meaning Structure of the World” (1957[1964]) I suggest the following: to call something a “myth” is to engage in a particular way of hetero-interpreting the stories of others. Schutz makes a distinction between subjective and objective interpreting. All subjective interpreting is meaning constituted in terms of “Me” or “Us” and all objective interpreting is meaning constituted in terms of “Him/Her” or “Them” (Schutz, 1964:251-257). I replace “subjective” and “objective” here with Smart’s terminology of auto-interpreting and hetero-interpreting. The reason for this is because Schutz accepts that objective interpreting is nevertheless subjective in that it is performed in the “Here and Now”, an idea expounded earlier in “On Multiple Realities” (1945[1962b]). That is, all subjective interpretations are those interpretations which are framed in terms of the “Here and Now” that I occupy. By auto-interpreting I conceive whatever is being interpreted as within my “Here”. Thus my “Here” may extend to a number of fellows (my in-group) when I speak in terms of “We/Us”. By hetero-interpreting something I conceive it as not within my “Here”. Anything that is not “Here” is “There”. But this “There” of the out-group is understood in terms of my “Here”. Underwritten in any positive definition of “Them” is the implied “I/We are not Them”.

Both the in-group and the out-group have their own stories. When auto-interpreting the stories of our in-group we conceive these stories as history (true-prone) because to do otherwise would be to call into question the “Here and Now” we occupy. When it comes to hetero-interpreting the stories of the out-group we can conceive them as either history or myth. The most common reason for calling these hetero-interpreted stories myths is because they contradict the stories that have been auto-interpreted as history. E.g. if Evolution is part of our history, Creation becomes a myth. If the two stories are contradictory and the former has been accepted then the latter must be denied. Insofar as the stories of the out-group do not contradict the stories of the in-group they may be hetero-interpreted as history. The in-group might be quite happy to accept the out-group’s story of a bloke called Jesus who went around preaching. The example of the “Historical Jesus” also indicates the complexity involved in some hetero-interpretations as while there may be universal agreement that Jesus was baptised by St. John and was crucified by Pontius Pilate, other elements of the story of Jesus may still be regarded as myth. The point to be taken is that hetero-interpreting can conclude that stories are history or myth but the same cannot be said of auto-interpreting. If the in-group auto-interprets a story as myth this begs the question of against what this story is being compared to. What happens in moments of “mythicisation” – when history becomes myth – is not auto-interpreting but rather partitioning whereby the in-group is divided into a new in-group and out-group. Such an example would be the inclusion of Christian stories in anthologies of myth. What occurs here is not that the story is auto-interpreted as myth, but rather the stories are removed from the “Here and Now”. This partitioning is affected by shifting the stories “There” if some members of the group try to retain them as history and/or “Then” if the distinction is one between contemporaries and predecessors.

Based on this sketchy argument the point to be emphasised is that even if we accept Levi-Strauss’ line that what “we” call history is really myth by another name it nevertheless does not escape the fact that to call a story myth is to render it false. The critical issue for scholars of religion is how, then, to use “myth”. Can we call a story a myth if the members of that group who tell it do not regard the story in question a myth? Surely to do so would be to treat them as an out-group and in calling those stories myth imply their falsity, and thereby imply the stupidity of the out-group for taking them to be true. The problem here is not in treating them as an out-group. It would be quite unproblematic to speak in terms of myth if we are studying the out-group’s responses to the stories of another out-group. But this involves objective interpretation: interpreting, that Schutz suggests in “Common-sense and Scientific Interpretation” (1953[1962a]), involves no “Here”. Properly speaking the “Here and Now” is never lost, rather the objective interpreter attempts to reconstruct the “Here and Now” of the out-group. The question is whether as scholars of religion we engage in this objective interpretation, or engage in subjective interpretation establishing our own new “Here and Now”, or continue to uphold the wider “Here and Now” of some in-group. The problem of myth is not the term in itself but rather the sort of “Here and Now” from which it is deployed. The recognition of Levi-Strauss and others that myth is no different from history contains within it a call to further reflexivity about the “Here and Now” of we scholars of religion.

References

  • Bascom, W. (1984); “The Forms of Folklore: The Prose Narrative” in Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth; University of California Press, London; pg.5-29
  • Dundes, A. (ed.) (1984); Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth; University of California Press, London
  • Hansen, W. (2002); The Handbook of Classical Mythology; ABC-CLIO, California
  • Leeming, D. (1990); The World of Mythology; Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Levi-Strauss (1993); “The Structural Study of Myth” in Structural Anthropology vol.1; trans. by C. Jocobson and B. Schoepf; Penguin, Harmondsworth; pg.206-231
  • Nagy, J. (2002); “Myth and Legendum in Medieval and Modern Ireland” in Myth: a New Symposium; ed. by G. Schrempp & W. Hansen; Indian University Press, Bloomington; pg.124-138
  • Schutz, A. (1962a); “Common-sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action” in Collected Papers I: The Problem of Social Reality; ed. by M. Natanson; Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague; pg.3-47
  • Schutz, A. (1962b); “On Multiple Realities” in Collected Papers I: The Problem of Social Reality; ed. by M. Natanson; Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague; pg. 207-259
  • Schutz, A. (1964); “Equality and the Meaning Structure of the Social World” in Collected Papers II: Studies in Social Theory; ed. by A. Brodersen; Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague; pg.226-268
  • Smart, N. (1969); The Religious Experience of Mankind; Collins, London
  • Smart, N. (1981); Beyond Ideology; Collins, London
  • Smart, N. (1996); Dimensions of the Sacred; Collins, London
  • Smart, N. (2009); “Interpretation and Mystical Experience” in Ninian Smart on World Religions vol.1: Religious Experience and Philosophical Analysis; ed. by J. Shepherd; Ashgate, Farnham; pg.53-62
  • Tremlett, P.F. (2008); Levi-Strauss on Religion: The Structuring Mind; Equinox, London

Reflections on Teaching Religious Studies Online

mec2As we find new and innovative ways to teach students, we as instructors are charged (sometimes without formal or proper orientation) to adopt new methods of instruction.

Reflections on Teaching Religious Studies Online

By Christopher F. Silver, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Published by the Religious Studies Project, on 8 May 2013 in response to the Religious Studies Project Interview with Doe Daughtrey on Teaching Religious Studies Online (6 May 2013)

This podcast explores the nature of learning within online learning and the benefits and disadvantages of this type of curricular design. The interview was conducted with Doe N Daughtrey an instructor at Arizona State University and at Mesa Community College. While her work falls within a wide range of topics from Mormonism to new forms of spirituality, she speaks to the student and instructor experience of teaching online courses, particularly within the field of Religious Studies. Certainly the online medium in Higher Education has grown exponentially over the past 10 years.  As an instructional tool, it creates some new challenges for the instructor never before encountered within academia. An obvious example noted by Daughtrey is in relation to student interactions within discussion boards. In more traditional classrooms, students are cognizant of their behavior and their exchanges with other students. However, within the virtual world, students appear more bold and vocal in their opinions. Some students struggle not only with writing but proper projection within writing. When writing and responding to fellow students in an online forum, students may not be mindful of others perception. It is difficult for the instructor to instill in students a cultural sensitivity of others who are different from the student.  Congruently, the instructor also has to deal with the permanency of such exchanges as textual exchanges. In a traditional classroom, such exchanges, if they do occur, come and go and the instructor can immediately address and correct inappropriate behavior. Another issue addressed by Daughtrey is the issue of time as related to the course. In traditional classroom exchanges, students and the instructor are in a space together for a specific time frame (McKeachie, 1999). In the online world, the exchanges can be potentially 24 hours depending on the availability of each student and instructor. As far as inappropriate exchanges are concerned, students can have heated or controversial disagreements during times when the instructor is not online to monitor the exchange. Much can happen during that period of time with the potential to spiral into a much larger situation before the instructor is able to intervene.

In addressing such issues and concerns, Daughtrey implies that the textual space of the online course creates a communicative void typically filled with body language and voice inflection in traditional classrooms. As a potential solution to such situations, Daughtrey has used voice recordings in lieu of textual responses for her students. This at least provides the students with her voice inflection in which to infer intention from her feedback. She notes that this has been helpful in her online courses. Another solution Daughtrey proposes is for students to keep a private online journal of their thoughts. This helps keep sensitive discussions and thoughts out of the online forums insuring smoother online courses.  Finally one of the other telling themes of Daughtrey’s podcast is the limitation of online resources for Religious Studies courses. Daughtrey argues that there are many online resources which can assist in the construction of online courses, but that there is no content specific support for Religious Studies. Such support would help in the delivery of student education. She suggests that more should be done to address content and curricular issues in detail.

In reviewing this podcast, there are a couple of issues which arise. I think it is important to provide the reader with my own background here, as much of the conversation speaks to experience and not simply to instructional design and implementation. My own education has been a nexus of three fields of study: Psychology, Religious Studies, and Education. Much like Dr. Daughtrey, I have taught online courses in a variety of fields including Religious Studies online. Many of the concerns that she notes within the podcast are a common theme in teaching Religious Studies at a secular institution. Certainly when coupled with a largely conservative religious landscape among the student body, issues of ontology will certainly arise. Online learning provides a much more personal space in which to communicate opinions and ideas. In this regard, some students may assume that radical opinions and a lack of social mindfulness have no implications. For instructors such assumptions create issues. Certainly the formality and etiquette of the classroom may not translate into the online medium of instruction. I would propose an alternative method for addressing such issues. Many of the concerns related to behavior and content are related to the asynchronous method of online instruction. This method is called asynchronous because the content is unidirectional. For example discussion boards, YouTube videos, even this Podcast is an example of a unidirectional delivery of information. Its antithesis is called synchronous learning. It is a real time exchange of information. Examples of this might be a video conference on Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, a live chat room in real time, or even a phone conversation.  I would suggest that online instruction should be a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous delivery models for optimal learning. Certainly if a university does not have the resources for synchronous online instruction, there are some free open source alternative programs to assist an inspiring instructor.  This at least allows the interaction between student and teacher and presents information in a traditional format of instruction. Instructors can then project their personality into their instruction beyond a textual exchange. Moreover, students can interact in real time learning the social expectations of the instructor.  This is important when considering the challenges of teaching a controversial topic such as religion (Carlson and Blumenstyk, 2012).

While religion is a social norm for many in the United States and beyond, certainly social norms and classroom culture are a complex issue for many instructors. Not all students ascribe to a post-modern paradigm of different yet equal among the growing multicultural and multiethnic American and Western European populations. Some regard their coexistence with those who view religion or even race differently as a necessary evil of public education. Much of the confusion noted by Daughtrey in regards to online education is that the online world may be implicitly perceived as our private space of interaction, where the rules and values we ascribe to within daily interactions do not apply in the online discussion board. We as instructors are no longer simply Teachers or Professors but a combination of Information Technology Professionals and Cultural Advocates all wrapped into one role. While I cannot speak to the religious landscape of Arizona, I can speak to the Southeastern United States. I, too, teach in secular college and university. Much of the curricular agenda is dependent on accreditation and course objectives.  Still, instructors must create the perception of value for Religious Studies education and encourage students to learn more about the world in which they live. In my own courses, such discussions are heated simply because religion is equated with Christianity. The idea that other religions would be academically equal to Christianity can be offensive to some students. For many of my students, religion is a form of personal identity. It is who we are, not simply a belief or what we do. Many cannot compartmentalize it or objectify their belief. Therefore to have such discussions, academic or otherwise, requires a new paradigm of behavior and inquiry in religion’s examination by students. This type of student internalization of religious identity and perceived threat is not limited to the field of Religious Studies.  For example, a colleague of mine and psychologist of religion Michael Nielsen at Georgia Southern had a similar experience.  As Nielsen (2012) has noted, many students come to courses on religious topics either assuming the content will confirm their ontological position or to argue for their belief as the dominant truth. Nielsen’s perspective is but one of many examples where students do not understand the overall curricular purpose and goal of academic explorations of religion. They want to internalize it in some way.

This Podcast primarily focuses on instructional issues related to teaching Religious Studies online. These issues are certainly juxtaposed within the secular state-run institution of higher learning. It is likely that there are differences in the liberal arts and religiously affiliated styles of Higher Education. I would suggest that they likely differ in their curricular goals depending on the overall mission of the college or university. It is unclear how these differences translate in online learning and education. Certainly, it would have been interesting if Dr. Daughtrey would have addressed such differences within her podcast. Additionally, I am left with the question of curricular structure. What are some of the different ways Religious Studies are taught and the resources which may be available to a new instructor charged with online learning? It would be nice to see a conversation which goes beyond the politics of religious identity and online learning (although this is certainly an interesting topic overall).  With differences in Religious Studies educational theory, there may yet be another layer to the instructional onion we call religious education. With these criticisms in mind, this is not to say that the experiential perspective is not useful in education. In fact, this is the meat of an instructional design model. As we find new and innovative ways to teach students, we as instructors are charged (sometimes without formal or proper orientation) to adopt new methods of instruction. While one may argue that a good instructor should always be learning, there is likely a point of diminishing returns in which the instructor is expending energy in acquiring new instructional skillsets such as the various Online Learning Systems (OLS) while also tracking and evaluating student performance within their course. Professors may not have the time to devote to learning all the features of OLS and therefore the overall instructional product may suffer from skillset limitations. Additionally, institutions may be tempted to increase enrollment in online classes to save money, further diverting the instructor from exploring their research areas as well as gaining additional OLS skills. So certainly the economics of online learning play a role here too.

There is no doubt that OLS models of learning have benefits and disadvantages in academia. As a former Information Technology Professional and, typically, an early adopter of new technologies, I view online learning with circumspect. If it is to be incorporated, it should be a hybrid delivery model with classroom and online time for the students. If that is not possible, then the instructional design should include synchronous and asynchronous delivery of material. Evaluation of student performance is not simply about assignment quality and test accuracy, but it is about the real-time monitoring of learning, the observation of the student as they make their academic journey. Online learning loses the thrill of watching students achieve their “Aha” moments. There needs to be a technological solution found to incorporate the human aspects of the classroom in online learning.

This material is disseminated under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. and can be distributed and utilised freely, provided full citation is given.

About the Author

mec2Christopher F. Silver is an Ed. D. Candidate in Education and Leadership at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga USA. He has a masters degree in research psychology from the UT Chattanooga and a masters degree in Religion and Culture from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo Ontario Canada. He is currently conducting research on American Atheism exploring the complexities of self-identity adjectives in how atheist and agnostic participants self-describe. In addition, Mr. Silver also serves as an instructor at UT Chattanooga teaching courses in psychology and currently serves as an information technology research consultant.

Mr. Silver has collaborated in the fields of religious studies, psychology and sociology of religion. His current collaboration is as a research manager for the US team of the Bielefeld (Germany) International Study of Spirituality. His email address is Christopher-Silver@utc.edu. He is also an Assistant Editor at the Religious Studies Project, and has conducted a number of interviews, and previously written the piece A Word by Any Other Name: The Emergent Field of Non-religion and the Implications for Social Meaning for the website.

References

  • McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Nielsen, M. (2012). Teaching Psychology of Religion at a state university. Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Newsletter, 36(2), 2-5.
  • Carlson, S. & Blumenstyk, G. (2012). For Whom is college being reinvented? The Chronicle of Higher Education. 59(17).

Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?

[Martin] alludes to a greater problem: the imbalance of power, the greater influence of Christianity in Western academia, compared with other religions, both major and minor.

Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?

By Raphael Lataster, University of Sydney

Published by the Religious Studies Project, on 23 January 2013 in response to the Religious Studies Project Interview with Dale Martin on Religious Studies and Biblical Studies (21 January 2013).

Editor’s Note: A version of this post was published earlier today with a couple of minor but important changes made by Chris and mistakenly not communicated to the author. These unauthorised changes have been removed, and the version presented below meets with the approval of both Mr Lataster and the editors. The RSP would like to apologise to Mr Lataster, and to our readers, for any unintended misrepresentation of this important piece.


Around the half-way mark of Jack Tsonis’ interview with Professor Dale Martin, a contention was raised, that if true, is damaging to Religious Studies (and related disciplines), and betrays the value and one of the key initial purposes of the field. It is obvious to many of us that Religious Studies is useful, due in part to the critical, secular, etic approach to religion that it encourages. (Although this does not necessitate that Religious Studies scholars be irreligious, or be forbidden to or encouraged to avoid teaching or researching their own personal faith). Tsonis questions Martin on criticism that many Religious Studies scholars are effectively arguing for the usefulness of religion, demonstrating a pro-religious agenda. Tsonis mentions one academic claiming that Religious Studies scholars “claim the prestige of the university while following the rules of the seminary.” Tsonis wonders if this is a real phenomenon, and what effects this may have on our colleagues’ methodologies, funding, and employment prospects. Martin’s answer is thoughtful, but also damning.

In attempting to deny the claim, Martin acknowledges that many scholars working in Biblical Studies are Christians, and many of them are of the conservative type. He then says that the claim does not align with his experience, citing examples of scholars teaching on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, without personally practicing or arguing for those faiths. It seems that not only has Martin acknowledged the issue in a roundabout way, but also alludes to a greater problem: the imbalance of power, the greater influence of Christianity in Western academia, compared with other religions, both major and minor. This discussion prompted me to reminisce about my own experiences in my first year of working in the scholarly world, particularly in initiating my Master’s research dissertation.

I faced opposition from within the department to the extent that I had considered abandoning the project. These challenges presented themselves despite the fact that I had not yet decided the angle, or of course, the conclusions. What was the topic that proved so challenging to research? Jesus mythicism, the contention that there may not have been a ‘historical Jesus’. I would eventually pass, with the examiners – themselves scholars of Religious Studies – agreeing that a review of the methods of many Biblical scholars is necessary (for example, the increasingly-maligned Criteria of Authenticity) and that it is entirely rational to be sceptical over the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Such conclusions should not necessarily be so controversial in a field dedicated to the critical and non-confessional study of religion. More worryingly, there were instances where I felt pressure to alter the direction of the project, in order to allow for more ‘Christian-friendly conclusions’.

But why would such respected scholars wish to interfere with the most fundamental of academic freedoms? It may have had something to do with their personal religious beliefs about Jesus. Interestingly however, such belief is not actually required for such a reaction. One example is provided by noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, one of many secular New Testament experts. Professor Ehrman is an outspoken atheist, yet dogmatically defends the historicity of Jesus and the usefulness of his teachings, while harshly and fallaciously (Lataster 2013) criticising those scholars that are audacious enough to be more sceptical than he (Ehrman 2012). Hector Avalos argues that even many non-Christian scholars are influenced by the political power, and finances, of pro-Christian organisations (Avalos 2007). Avalos claims that positive attitudes towards the Bible, Christianity, and religion in general, is often seen as necessary in order to keep these academic disciplines relevant, and funded.

Hoping that Avalos’ gloomy conclusions were wrong, and that experiences such as my own are rare, I would then discover a powerful Christian undercurrent in a related – and perhaps more esteemed – field; ancient history. While studying the historical Jesus under one of Tsonis’ colleagues from the Ancient History department of Macquarie University, I ‘learnt’ that there is a “resurrection-shaped dent in the historical record.” I would then participate in a public debate against one of my own Religious Studies postgraduate colleagues, and another Ancient Historian from Macquarie University, where my (Christian) opponents used their authority as subject-matter experts in attempting to convince the audience that it is perfectly rational to believe that a miracle-man was brought back from the dead by an unproven deity. It didn’t matter to this ancient historian that his resurrection claim is burdened by a crippling prior probability, is supported by extremely poor sources, or that there are far more probabilistic – and naturalistic – explanations, despite his agreeing with my reasonable claim that history is probabilistic. Christian influences can even be found in Philosophy departments, once great bastions of rationalism and scepticism, via Philosophy of Religion (Quadrio 2009).

Back to the interview, Martin further addresses the contention that Religious Studies scholars border on being crypto-theologians, and defends his ‘insider’ status. He argues that his Biblical criticisms ought to be given more weight (compared with a non-believer’s criticisms) as he is a Christian, and might be expected to aggressively defend his faith and agree more with his fellow adherents. As with the speculative criterion of embarrassment, Martin’s criticisms are partly interesting due to their counter-intuitive nature. These relatively small criticisms however, must be weighed against the fact that Martin still believes the unsubstantiated and question-begging claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, by God. Fortunately, in a recent debate, he correctly acknowledges that Jesus’ resurrection cannot be established historically, though this belief does form a part of his worldview (Licona et al. 2012), his values, and ultimately, would be expected to directly or indirectly affect his researching and teaching on Christianity. Martin might indeed offer the occasional criticism here or there, resulting in minor conflict with his fellow believers, but he stops short of, and would not be expected to, criticising and renouncing Christianity and Christian beliefs as a whole.

Further commenting on what became the dominant theme of the interview, Martin offered a surprising and seemingly unreasonable counter to the claim that Religious Studies scholars are apologising for religion. Instead of denying this claim, he accuses English, History, and Political Science scholars as being apologists for modern liberalism. Rather than outright denying or acknowledging what may be a vitally important issue in education, Martin offers a tu quoque justification. i.e. “Everyone else does it.” With the discussion drawing to a close, Martin demonstrates an example of my claim that what he offers is only relatively benign pseudo-criticism of his faith. He criticises researchers who attempt to show the similarities of Christianity to other religions and myths (an important and historical foundation of Religious Studies), while asking scholars to be more open-minded to the potential truth of supernatural events and experiences. I am not arguing that the perspectives of ‘insiders’ are not valuable, that religious believers are unwelcome in Religious Studies departments, and related fields, or that religion is not a force for good in the world. I merely wish to share my own experiences on the matter, and to encourage scholars to leave their personal beliefs at the door, as they enter the sacred grounds of the University.

This material is disseminated under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. and can be distributed and utilised freely, provided full citation is given.

About the Author

With a background in pharmacy, medicine, and finance, Raphael Lataster is a hopeful PhD candidate, having recently passed his Master of Arts (Research), undertaken in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, with Distinction. His main research interests include Christian origins, logic, epistemology, justifications and social impacts of secularism, Taoism, overpopulation and sustainability concerns, pantheism, and pandeism. Raphael wrote his Master’s thesis on Jesus mythicism, concluding that historical and Bayesian reasoning justifies a sceptical attitude towards the ‘historical Jesus’. For his doctoral work, Raphael will analyse the major philosophical arguments for God’s existence (as argued by William Lane Craig, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga and Thomas Aquinas), attempt to demonstrate the logical impossibility of the monotheistic concept, explore the theological tendencies of Philosophy of Religion, and formulate a conditional logical argument for a pantheistic weltanschauung. Raphael is currently writing and attempting to publish numerous articles summarising his Master’s dissertation, and exploring the themes of his proposed doctoral project. Raphael is always open to – and encourages – feedback and advice, especially regarding the politics and processes of academia and publishing, and alternative worldviews.

References

Avalos, Hector. The End of Biblical Studies. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.

Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012.

Lataster, Raphael. Jesus scepticism: An examination of the arguments for various ‘Jesus as a myth’ theories. Master’s thesis, Sydney University, 2013.

Licona, Michael, and Dale Martin. Did Jesus Rise Physically from the Dead? Arva, ON: The Navigators, 2012. Video recording.

Quadrio, Philip A. Kant and Rousseau on the critique of philosophical theology: The primacy of practical reason. Sophia 48, no. 2 (2009): 179-193.

 

Studying Nonreligion within Religious Studies

How we can position the study of non-religion within the discipline of Religious Studies? Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Those of you who have been listening to the Religious Studies Project for some time will be somewhat familiar with the emerging sub-field of ‘non-religion’ studies. Perhaps you have listened to our podcast with Lois Lee, the founder of the Non-religion and Secularity Research Network, and wanted to know more? Or maybe you have heard Chris’s incessant ‘yes, but what about the ‘ non-religious?’ question in interviews and roundtables and wondered what this all has to do with Religious Studies? Whether or not either of these happened, we hope that you will enjoy this roundtable discussion with Dr Louise Connelly, Christopher Cotter, Dr Frans Jespers, Ethan Quillen, Dr Steven Sutcliffe, and Dr Teemu Taira.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us.

At the suggestion of Dr Steven Sutcliffe, Chris convened a group of scholars to discuss the study of non-religion within a Religious Studies framework. How do we define non-religion? What does such a demarcation have to offer our discipline? What is the scholar’s role in assigning labels such as ‘religious’ or ‘non-religious to individuals or groups who may eschew such labels? Are the ‘spiritual but not religious’ to be considered ‘non-religious’? And why would we even want to use the term ‘non-religion’ anyway? These questions and more form the basis of what became quite a lively discussion.

L Connelly ImageLouise Connelly, Ph.D., currently works as an Online Learning Advisor for the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh. She also teaches short-courses in Hinduism and Buddhism through the Office of Lifelong Learning at the University of Edinburgh. Her Ph.D. thesis is titled “Aspects of the Self: An analysis of self reflection, self presentation and the experiential self within selected Buddhist blogs” (University of Edinburgh). Her research interests include early Buddhism, visual culture, the use of social media, and Buddhist ritual and identity in the online world of Second Life. Her recent publications include ‘Virtual Buddhism: An analysis of aesthetics in relation to religious practice within Second Life’, Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet (2010); ‘Virtual Buddhism: Buddhist ritual in Second Life’ in Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds, Campbell (ed.) (2012); and Campbell and Connelly, ‘Religion and the Internet’ in the Encylopedia of Cyber Behavior,  Zang (ed.) (2012). See her personal blog or website for a full CV.

 

Christopher R. Cotter is a PhD Candidate at Lancaster University, UK. His thesis, under the supervision of Professor Kim Knott, focuses upon the lived relationships between the concepts of ‘religion’, ‘nonreligion’, and the ‘secular’, and their theoretical implications for Religious Studies. In 2011, he completed his MSc by Research in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, on the topic ‘Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students’. Chris has published on contemporary atheism in the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, is Editor and Bibliography Manager at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, and co-editor (with Abby Day and Giselle Vincett) of the volume Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular (Ashgate, 2013). See his personal blog, oracademia.edu page for a full CV.

Frans Jespers is associate professor of Science of Religion at the Faculty of Theology of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (Frans, please do send a bio when you get a chance – sorry about our lack of information in English!)

 

 

Steven Sutcliffe is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Edinburgh where he teaches and researches in the areas of ‘new age religion’ and ‘holistic spirituality’, in the effects of the discourse and practice of ‘religion’ in contemporary culture and society, and on theory and method in the study of religion, including the history of its modern academic study. He is the author of Children of the New Age, editor of Religion: Empirical Studies, and co-editor (with Marion Bowman) of Beyond the New Age.

Circular Academia: Navigating the Dangerous Waters of Term Re-Assignment for the Religious Studies Project.

Dr. Teemu Taira holds a research fellowship at the Academy of Finland at the department of Comparative Religion, University of Turku, Finland. He received his PhD in 2006 from the University of Turku and his recent research has focused on three areas: (1) religion and the secular in the British and Finnish media, (2) the new visibility of atheism, and (3) discursive study on ‘religion’. Taira’s current project examines discourse on religion and the secular in the Finnish media. For a full list of Taira’s publications in English and Finnish languages, see www.teemutaira.wordpress.com.

image of books

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 2 November 2012

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a image of booksvariety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

pdf summary document can now be download. This can be printed and circulated to colleagues or put up on a notice board.

In this issue:

  • Journals
  • Courses
  • Call for Papers
  • Conferences
  • Jobs
  • Grants/Prizes

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


JOURNALS


Theology and Science, vol 10, issue 4 http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rtas20/10/4

Sociology of Religion, advance notice, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/by/section

Bulletin of Asia Institute, 2012 http://www.bulletinasiainstitute.org/

Bulletin has also announced the publication of Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, Oxford 2009: Mary Boyce and the Study of Zoroastrianism

Ars Orientalis Volume 42, a thematic issue based on Objects, Collections, and Cultures, the second biennial symposium of the Historians of Islamic Art Association, held in October 2010, at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler

URL: www.asia.si.edu/research/articles/

Announcement ID: 198239

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198239


COURSES


Applications are now open for the e-learning course, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Europe: Modern Challenges

Description: Applications are now being accepted for the e-learning course, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Europe: Modern Challenges. Following two successful years, the course will commence in late February 2013. More than fifty participants from around the world – Australia and New Zealand, China, Japan,….

Contact: eth22 [AT] cam.ac.uk

URL: www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/courses/jcme.asp

Announcement ID: 198262

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198262


CALLS FOR PAPERS


CFP: Religious Revivals in Southeast Asia: Transnational and Comparative Perspectives

Date: 2012-12-15

Description:  We are inviting abstract submissions (max.200 words) for the panel on Religious Revivals in Southeast Asia: Transnational and Comparative Perspectives, to be held at SEA Symposium 2013 at the University of Oxford, UK. As of now, we have enough submission covering Islam. We are looking for

abstracts …

Contact: ermin.sinanovic.ba [at] usna.edu

URL: projectsoutheastasia.com/academic-events/sea-symposium-2013/panels#panel9

Announcement ID: 198174

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198174


Love and Religion in Pop Culture

Location: Illinois

Date: 2012-12-01

Description: The Journal of Popular Romance Studies calls for essays, interviews, and pedagogical materials for a special forum on love and religion in popular culture, anywhere in the world. The forum is guest-edited by Lynn S. Neal (author of Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction).

Contact: managing.editor@jprstudies.org

URL: jprstudies.org/submissions/special-issue-call-for-papers/#religion

Announcement ID: 198287

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198287


CFP: Religion, Civil War and Emancipation

Conference: May 20-22, 2013

Location: Virginia

Date: 2012-12-19

Description: Overview of Conference: The 2013 Annual Conference of the Baptist History & Heritage Society, Faith, Freedom, Forgiveness: Religion and the Civil War, Emancipation and      Reconciliation in Our Time, will be May 20-22, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. The conference will be co-sponsored by the Virginia Bapti …

Contact: brucegourley@baptisthistory.org

URL: www.baptisthistory.org/bhhs/conferences/2013-bhhs-annual-conference.html

Announcement ID: 198315

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198315


CFP: Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes: Cosmography of the Pagan Soul

Keynote Speaker:  Ronald Hutton

We welcome papers that explore the following questions:

In today’s post-modern, urbanized world, where everything is a commodity, how and where do Pagans find their sacred places? How should we protect and maintain these sites? In colonized worlds, how do we avoid the appropriation of these lands? If Goddess is immanent in nature, what makes some places more sacred than others? How is our spirituality shaped by the land and our relationship with the land shaped by our spirituality?

Proposals of up to 1000 words are due by January 1, 2013 and may be uploaded at  http://www.cherryhillseminary.org/blog/announcements/call-for-papers/


CFP – 2nd Announcement

The Departments of Folkloristics and Comparative Religion at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, together with the Donner Institute, are organizing an international interdisciplinary conference to honour the work of Professor Lauri Honko (1932–2002)

THE ROLE OF THEORY IN FOLKLORISTICS AND COMPARATIVE RELIGION

21–23 August 2013

University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

The language of the conference is English.

Timetable:

Call for papers, deadline 31 March 2013

Registration, deadline 31 May 2013

For more detailed information concerning the conference see the attached documents or visit our website:

http://honkoconference.utu.fi/

Also now on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/416180771776969/


CONFERENCES


INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF BENGAL STUDIES, 2013

Date: 2012-12-31

Description:  3rd INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF BENGAL STUDIES 19th – 22nd November, 2013 University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India

Papers are invited for the 3rd International Congress of Bengal Studies scheduled to be held during 19th 22nd November, 2013.

The 3rd Congress will be hosted by the University of Calcutta,

Contact: icbs2013 [at ] gmail.com

URL: bangabidya.wordpress.com

Announcement ID: 198167

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198167


Religion and Development: An Agenda for the 21st Century

Date: 2013-01-31

Description:  HIRENTHA: Journal of the HumanitiesRedeemer’s University (RUN), Ogun State, Nigeria The twin issues of religion and development have had a long history of engagement in the humanities. From the perspectives of history and international relations, language and literature, and theatre arts, there hav …

Contact: hirentha@yahoo.com

Announcement ID: 198111

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198111


Workshop Participants at Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference

Location: Quebec

Date: 2012-11-15

Description: Call for Workshop Participants VAF 2013 Annual Meeting in Gasp, Quebec, Canada Deadline: November 15, 2012.

The Forum Workshop at the 2013 VAF needs your expertise. The Gasp-Perc region currently faces a number of challenges iN preserving and interpreting its cultural sites.

Contact: Tania.Martin [AT] arc.ulaval.ca

URL: www.vafweb.org/conferences/2013/

Announcement ID: 198238

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198238


JOBS


Freie Universitaet Berlin – Postdoctoral Research Associate in

History of European Astroculture

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45713

Kathmandu University – Visiting Lecturer in Buddhist Studies and

Tibetan/Sanskrit

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45697

University of Bristol – Lecturer in East Asian Religions

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45759

University of Southern California – Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching

Fellowship in Japanese Religions

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45735

1640 Chair of Divinity

University of Glasgow

Deadline: 18 November 2012

http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AFJ410/1640-chair-of-divinity/

Teaching Assistant/Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow – Moral Philosophy

University of Glasgow

Deadline: 22 November 2012

http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AFJ505/teaching-assistant-postdoctoral-teaching-fellow/

One-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship in Japanese Religions for Fall 2013 at the University of Southern California.

H-Net Jobs Guide listing: https://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45735


GRANTS/PRIZES


STANLEY WEINSTEIN DISSERTATION PRIZE

Date: 2012-12-31

Description: The Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University is pleased to announce the third competition for the Stanley  Weinstein Dissertation Prize, honoring Professor Weinsteins

many contributions to the study of East Asian Buddhism in North America. The prize will be awarded once every two years

Contact: nicholas.disantis@yale.edu

Announcement ID: 198253

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198253


The AHRC and the United States’s National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have launched a joint funding initiative that focuses on collaborative projects that use humanities disciplines to further develop understanding about health, well-being, disability, medical science, technology and/or other aspects of the health sciences.

Applications should address areas relevant to the AHRC’s Science in Culture theme.  Projects must also involve academics in both the UK and the United States.  Awards are for between 1 to 3 years, with funding ranging from $25,000 (£15,000) and $100,000 (£62,000) per annum.  Applications are submitted to the NEH’s Collaborative Research Programme.

Information about the scheme can be found on the AHRC’s website, with specific call guidelines available on the NEH’s website (see p.4 of their guidelines.)

Closing Date: 6 December 2012.


STANLEY WEINSTEIN DISSERTATION PRIZE

Prize Date:    2012-12-31

Date Submitted:     2012-10-25

Announcement ID:     198253

The Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University is pleased to announce the third competition for the Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize, honoring Professor Weinstein’s many contributions to the study of East Asian Buddhism in North America. The prize will be awarded once every two years to the best Ph.D. dissertation on East Asian Buddhism written in North America during the two previous years. The dissertation must be based on original research in the primary languages and should significantly advance our understanding of East Asian Buddhism. East Asian Buddhism is understood for this competition to refer to those traditions in East Asia that take Chinese translations of the Buddhist scriptures as their basis (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese). Studies of East Asian Buddhist communities in the West are not eligible for consideration.

The recipient of the award will be invited to give a public lecture at Yale under the auspices of the Council of East Asian Studies. There is an honorarium of $1,000.

Ph.D. programs in Buddhist Studies/Religious Studies in North America are invited to nominate one dissertation that was completed during the academic years 2010-11 and 2011-12.*

The deadline for this nomination is December 31, 2012. The nomination must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation, readers reports for the thesis, and one representative chapter of the thesis. All materials should be sent to Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize, Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University, P.O. Box 208206, 34 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520-8206.

A three-person committee will select three theses to be read in their entirety by all committee members. The authors of these three theses will be requested to submit the entire theses in PDF format for this final stage of the selection. The result of the competition will be announced by the beginning of the next academic year.

  • Nominations by the authors themselves will not be accepted.

For more information, please contact koichi.shinohara [AT] yale.edu

Wouter Hanegraaff on Western Esotericism

In this interview, recorded at the EASR Annual Conference at Södertörn University, Professor Wouter Hanegraaff tells us about what he dubs “the biggest blank spaces of neglected territories in the study of religion”, namely Western esotericism. He tells how he first came over the German Folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert’s book Pansophie (1936) and discovered a group of renaissance thinkers he had never heard of, but whose work evidently had influenced western culture in a profound way. It soon came to show that scholars in the academy wasn’t eager to go into it or take it seriously. Hanegraaf gives us insight to how this developed from being neglected sources of Western thought to an established field of study. He also goes into the question of definition; challenges and approaches within the study of Western esotericism; how the study of Western esotericism relates to the study of religion as a whole; the (non-)universality of esotericism; and additionally his blog Creative Reading and the accessibility of academic knowledge.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And apologies for the background noise at the end of the interview. Wouter Hanegraaff is a professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. He has written extensively on many topics among them New Age, Gnosticism, Magic and last but not at least Western Esotericisim. He is currently president of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE and member on the editorial board of Aries(Brill), Numen (Brill), Religion Compass and Esoterica. His latest book Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2012) was subject for a panel-discussion at the EASR Annual Conference. Those with a new-founded interest in the subject can also keep an eye out for his forthcoming book Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2013). Full CV and list of publications on Prf. Wouter Hanegraaff’s webpage. Additionally, the article by Egil Asprem mentioned during the interview can be bought or accessed here.

This is also the first interview conducted by our new sub-editor, Knut Melvær. Knut is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen (Norway). He is currently researching ‘spirituality’ as a folk-category and cultural domain in Norway 1930–2010. His background and particular interests are in theories of religion, new religious movements, Ainu- and Japanese religion as well as methodologies in religious studies. He is a review-editor of Aura, and currently co-editing a special issue of DIN on the topic of ‘Gods’ (December 2012). Knut has a personal website and also an infrequently updated academia.edu profile.

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 19 Oct 2012

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pastimage of booksed from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

PDF summary document can now be downloaded. This can be printed and circulated to colleagues or put up on a notice board.

In this issue:

  • Journals
  • Books
  • Call for Papers
  • Conferences
  • Jobs
  • Networks

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


JOURNALS


Paranthropology, Vol. 3, no. 4 http://paranthropologyjournal.weebly.com/free-pdf.html

Sociology of Religion, vol.73, issue 3, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/73/3.toc?etoc


BOOKS


Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World

Christopher I. Beckwith

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9871.html

Warriors of the Cloisters tells how key cultural innovations from Central Asia revolutionized medieval Europe and gave rise to the culture of science in the West. Medieval scholars rarely performed scientific experiments, but instead contested issues in natural science, philosophy, and theology using the recursive argument method. This highly distinctive and unusual method of disputation was a core feature of medieval science, the predecessor of modern science. We know that the foundations of science were imported to Western Europe from the Islamic world, but until now the origins of such key elements of Islamic culture have been a mystery.


Sacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East

Edited by Anne Porter and Glenn M. Schwartz

Eisenbrauns, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-57506-236-5

List Price: $59.50

Your Price: $53.55

http://www.eisenbrauns.com/item/PORSACRED

What is sacrifice? How can we identify it in the archaeological record? And what does it tell us about the societies that practice it? Sacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East

investigates these and other questions through the evidence for human and animal sacrifice in the Near East from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic periods. Drawing on sociocultural anthropology and history

in addition to archaeology, the book also includes evidence from ancient China and a riveting eyewitness account and analysis of sacrifice in contemporary India, which engage some of the key issues

at stake. Sacred Killing vividly presents a variety of methods and theories in the study of one of the most profound and disturbing ritual activities humans have ever practiced.


CALLS FOR PAPERS

CFP: Fall narratives: an interdisciplinary perspective 18th-19th June 2014, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

As the 340th  anniversary of John Miltons death approaches, we seek to explore the theme of the Fall in a diverse, interdisciplinary context.

The conference, which is organised with the intention of leading to a publication of proceedings, will examine the concept of the Fall across a range of disciplines and languages. The temporal scope extends from antiquity to contemporary times.

We welcome proposals with research interest such as, but not limited to, Literature, Religion, Languages, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Art, Film and Visual Culture, Cultural Studies and economics.

Potential topics include (but again, are not limited to) the following:

* Milton and Paradise Lost

* Concept of moral and philosophical Falls

* Fall of angels (and demons)

* Adam and Eve

* Religious falls

* Literary falls

* Cinematic falls

* Contemporary falls: in finances, politics, media, sports, entertainment etc.

* Fall of empires: historical, economical, cultural.

* Fall of regimes

* Fall of ideologies, ideas, world views, political/ religious movements, etc.

* The linguistics of falling

  • The psychology of falling

Abstracts of approximately 200 words should be sent to:

Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche and Dr ine Larkin

z.hadromi-allouche@abdn.ac.uk

a.larkin@abdn.ac.uk

Deadline for submission is 31st March 2013.

Should you have questions about the conference or the submissions, please contact the organisers at

z.hadromi-allouche [at] abdn.ac.uk

a.larkin [at] abdn.ac.uk


CFP: Scientiae 2013: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World

Deadline for Abstracts: 20th October 2012

Conference to be held at University of Warwick (UK), 18th-20th April 2013

Conference website: http://go.warwick.ac.uk/scientiae

Paper and panel proposals are invited for Scientiae 2013: the second annual conference on the emergent knowledge practices of the early-modern period (ca. 1450-1750).  The conference will take place on the 18-20th of April 2013 at Warwick University in the UK, building on the success of Scientiae 2012 (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver) which brought together over 100 scholars from around the globe.

The premise of this conference is that knowledge during the period of the Scientific Revolution was inherently interdisciplinary, involving complex mixtures of fields and objects that had not yet been separated into their modern “scientific” hierarchies. As such our approach needs to be equally wide-ranging, involving Biblical exegesis, art theory, logic, and literary humanism; as well as natural philosophy, alchemy, occult practices, and trade knowledge. Scientiae is for scholars working in any area of early-modern intellectual culture, with the emergence of modern natural science serving as a general point of reference. The conference offers a forum both for the sharing of research and the sparking of new investigations, and is open to scholars of all levels.

The keynote speakers will be Peter Dear (Professor of the History of Science at Cornell University) and Stephen Clucas (Reader in Early-Modern Intellectual History at Birkbeck, University of London).

Topics and questions may include, but are by no means limited to:

— Theological origins and implications of the new science

— Nature and scripture: which interprets which?

— What do images contribute to our understanding of early modern knowledge?

— Genealogies of “reason”, “utility”, and/or “knowledge”

— Humanism and the scientific revolution

— Paracelsianism, Neoplatonism, alchemy: where are we now?

— What were the relations between the new science and magic and demonology?

— Health and medicine: separable economies?

— Morality and the natural world: an on-going relationship?

— Period conceptions and practices of intellectual property

— Poetics and science: habits of thought?

— Renaissance philosophy and the development of a “new” cosmology and

anthropology.

— Information and knowledge: a clear divide?

— Science and Medicine:  Global Knowledges?

— Early-modern literature and the new knowledge: friends, or foes?

— Advances or reversals of period logic/dialectic

Other prominent speakers expected at Scientiae include: Constance Blackwell, Isabelle Charmantier, Penelope Gouk, Raphael Hallet, Judy Hayden, Kevin Killeen, Sachiko Kusukawa, Vivian Nutton, Brian Ogilvie, Stephen Pender, Claire Preston, Jennifer Rampling, Anna Marie Roos and Richard Serjeantson.

Abstracts proposing individual papers of 25 minutes should be between 250 and 350 words in length. For panel sessions of one hour and 45 minutes, a list of speakers (with affiliations) and 500-word abstract is required. Roundtable discussions or other formats are acceptable.

The deadline for abstracts is the 20th October 2012.

All submissions should be made at

http://go.warwick.ac.uk/scientiae/submit, if you

have any questions please contact the conference convenor David Beck-

D.C.Beck [at] warwick.ac.uk<mailto:D.C.Beck [at] warwick.ac.uk>


32nd ISSR Conference

RETHINKING COMMUNITY RELIGIOUS CONTINUITIES AND MUTATIONS IN LATE MODERNITY Turku-Åbo, Finland, 27-30 June, 2013

Conference website:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Conferences/Conferences.htm

Call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf

Deadlines: October 31th 2012:

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions (STS) and Working Groups (WGT), to be sent to the SESSION ORGANISER (S)

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions of the New Researchers Forum (NRF) and Miscellaneous papers (MPL) for the NRF, to be sent to the Session Organiser

-Abstracts of Miscellaneous Papers (MPL) to be sent to the GENERAL SECRETARY

The conference lanaguages are English and French.

Important notice: Organisers of Thematic Sessions (STS) and Working Groups (WGT) and Presenters of papers have to be mambers of the International Society for the Sociology of Religions (ISSR). Each participant may only present one paper at the conference.

Submission details available in the full call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf


CFP: The Quran and Islamic Tradition in Comparative Perspective unit of the ISBL welcomes proposals for both individual papers and pre-arranged panels at the international meeting at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, July 7-11, 2013.

Suggested topics might include, but are not limited to:

*Prophets and miracles in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – comparative perspectives

*Vocational journeys in Islamic and other religious traditions

*Parallels to biblical, Jewish, and Christian tradition in the Quran and Islamic literature

*Relationships between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim exegetical traditions

*The various discursive expressions of intercommunal exchange and relations, including both dialogue and polemic

*Islam in European discourse; Muslim cultural, religious, social, and political life in the West

We especially welcome papers of a theoretical or methodological nature that explore the ramifications of the comparative study of the Bible and Jewish and Christian tradition alongside the Quran and Islamic tradition.

Proposals for panels or individual papers can be submitted online at http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/Internationalmeeting.aspx.

The deadline for submission of proposals is February 1, 2013. Please note that membership in the Society of Biblical Literature is required in order to submit a paper proposal.

Please contact the program unit chairs for more information: Michael Pregill, Dept. of Religious Studies, Elon University (michael.pregill@gmail.com); Zohar Hadromi-Allouche, Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen

(z.hadromi-allouche [at] abdn.ac.uk)


CONFERENCES


AHP 15: Rgyal rong Tibetan Life, Language, and Folklore in Rgyas bzang Village

Description:  The editors of Asian Highlands Perspectives (AHP) are pleased to announce: AHP 15: Rgyal rong Tibetan Life, Language, and Folklore in Rgyas bzang Village by G.yu ‘brug and CK Stuart This study of Rgyas bzang (Jizong) Village includes a brief summary of G.yu ‘brug’s life, local languages and location

Contact: kevin.stuart [at] gmail.com

Announcement ID: 197929

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197929


Alternative Enlightenments: an interdisciplinary conference

Date: 2013-04-26

Description:  How distinct is the concept of Enlightenment from the era of European history long taken to have discovered or invented it? This conference proposes an examination of Enlightenments in the plural, welcoming both revisionary accounts of the Age of Enlightenment and explorations of

Enlightenment in o …

Contact: wcoker [at] bilkent.edu.tr

URL: www.bilkent.edu.tr/~cci/CCI/Alternative_Enlightenments_Symposium.html

Announcement ID: 197689

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197689


Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World

The aim of this colloquium is to explore how authoritative texts, culture heroes, and authors were invoked ritually for cursing, protection, and divination in the ancient and late antique Near Eastern and Mediterranean world. The speakers represent a wide range of specializations in ancient ritual practice, including Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian materials.

Monday, October 22, 2012

8:30 AM – 5:30 PM

306 Royce Hall

UCLA

Program:

8:30-8:35am: Welcome by Ra’anan Boustan (UCLA) and Jacco Dieleman (UCLA)

8:35-8:45am: Joseph E. Sanzo (UCLA), “Introductory Remarks:

Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World”

Session One

8:45-9:30am: Jacco Dieleman (UCLA), “Cultural Memory and Claims to Authority in Ancient Egyptian Magic”

9:30-10:15am: Jeremy D. Smoak (UCLA), “Yhwh’s Shining Face and the Ritual Logic of the Iron Age Judean Amulets from Ketef Hinnom”

10:15-10:30am: Coffee Break

Session Two

10:30-11:15am: Michael Swartz (The Ohio State University), “Past and Future in Jewish Divination Traditions”

11:15am-12:00pm: Ra’anan Boustan (UCLA) and Michael Beshay (UCLA):

“Biblical Kingship, Imperial Ideology, and Ritual Power in The Testament of Solomon”

12:00pm-1:30pm: Lunch Break

Session Three

1:30-2:15pm: Joseph E. Sanzo (UCLA), “Beyond the Label: A New Approach to the Relationship Between ‘Christian’ Traditions and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity”

2:15-3:00pm: Theodore de Bruyn (University of Ottawa, Canada): “Genre, Tradition, Ritual, Culture, and Social Location: The Case of the Charitesion”

3:00-3:45pm: Jacques van der Vliet (Leiden University, the Netherlands), “Courting the Angels: Celestial Liturgy in Late-Antique Egyptian Magic”

3:45-4:00pm: Coffee Break

Session Four

4:00-4:45pm: Sarah Iles Johnston (The Ohio State University), “Myth as an Authoritative Discourse in Magic”

4:45-5:30pm: David Frankfurter (Boston University), “The Great, The Little, and the Authoritative Tradition in Magic of the Ancient World”

Cost: RSVP requested, please contact: Joseph E. Sanzo, sanzojsanzo [at] aol.com

For more information please contact

Johanna Romero

Tel: (310) 825-1181

romero [at] international.ucla.edu

www.international.ucla.edu/cnes


CHANGING BELIEFS AND SCHISMS IN NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS

Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building,

London School of Economics, Saturday 1 December 2012

http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/howToGetToLSE.htm

To register: WE ARE NOW TAKING PAYPAL BOOKINGS: www.inform.ac/seminar-payment

Or post a booking form (attached) and a cheque payable to ‘Inform’ to Inform, Houghton St., London WC2A 2AE. (Inform@lse.ac.uk; 020 7955 7677).

Tickets (including buffet lunch, coffee and tea) paid by 12 November 2012 cost  £38 each (£18 students/unwaged).

NB. Tickets booked after 12 November 2012 will cost £48 each (£28 students/unwaged).

A limited number of seats will be made available to A-Level students at £10 before 12 November 2012 (£20 after 12 November). A party of 5 or more A-Level students from one school can include one member of staff at the same price.


JOBS


Job Title: Junior Position in Ministry Studies

Employer: Harvard University

Application Deadline: Unspecified

Job Detail:                         http://www.PostdocJobs.com/jobs/jobdetail.php?jobid=1112604

University of Saskatchewan – Asian History in Gender and Sexualities

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45574

University of Sydney – Director, Sydney Southeast Asia Centre

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45549

Worcester State University – Assistant Professor East Asian History

(Tenure Track)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45586

Woolf Institute – Academic Director, Centre for the Study of

Muslim-Jewish Relations

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45585

University of Sydney – LECTURER IN PHILOSOPHY

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45582

Department of Theology and Religion

Durham University

Chair in the Study of Religion

https://ig5.i-grasp.com/fe/tpl_durham01.asp?s=EXgIfLQnAyPBgDdPyv&jobid=74398,4025564854&key=61234847&c=769898514822&pagestamp=setmhqahnftztruqvm


NETWORK


Possible Name: Folklore Archives’ Network (FAN)

It would be our pleasure to invite representatives of archives as well as other individuals interested in folklore archiving to join the network by contacting the co-ordinator Ave Goršič by e-mail at <avetupits@folklore.ee> by December 1, 2012. Your suggestions concerning the archive network are warmly welcome.

Participants of the round table: Ave Goršič (Estonia), Risto Järv (Estonia), Anu Korb (Estonia), Svetlana Kosyreva (Russia), Kati Mikkola (Finland), Mari Sarv (Estonia), Janika Oras (Estonia), Rabindranath Sarma (India), Lina Sokolovaitė (Lithuania), Svetlana Tsonkova (Bulgaria), Ergo-Hart Västrik (Estonia).

In the era of digital revolution and under the circumstances of economic depression, folklore archives in different countries face and share similar problems. The need for a more intense cooperation in the field of folklore archiving was underlined at the round table of the 85th anniversary conference of the Estonian Folklore Archives in Tartu on September 24–25, 2012, which brought together archivists and researchers from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia. Participants of the round table suggested launching an international network of folklore archives that would bring together both institutions (representatives of folklore archives) and individuals whose research is related to folklore archives.

Some of the ideas concerning the network included:

  •  Website with links to participating archives and researchers, providing preliminary information in a common foreign language (English) on archives, researchers/archivists and their topics, and about the accessibility of digitised collections of different institutions.

  •  Network meetings and online groups to discuss possibilities for joint financing, cooperation in the field of collecting campaigns, technical upgrading, etc.

  •  Joint seminars, conferences and panels in international conferences.

  •  Newsletter in English, published and disseminated electronically.

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 5 October 2012

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a image of booksvariety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

pdf summary document can now be download. This can be printed and circulated to colleagues or put up on a notice board.

In this issue:

  • Journals
  • Books
  • Call for Papers
  • Conferences
  • Events
  • Jobs
  • Funding

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


JOURNALS


Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal  http://paranthropologyjournal.weebly.com/

Contemporary Islam, vol 6, no. 3 http://www.springerlink.com/content/ux0271102158/

Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol 21, no.3 http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cjcr20/27/3


BOOKS


Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History

Eric Reinders and Fabio Rambelli

http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=168259&SntUrl=153728


Four-volumes anthology on “Buddhism and Religious Diversity”

Perry Schmidt-Leukel

University of Muenster

Volume one in on Buddhism’s relation to other Eastern Religions, volume two on Buddhism’s relation to Christianity, volume three on its relations to Islam and Judaism and volume four on the inner-Buddhist discourse on religious diversity as such and the place of Buddhism among the religions.

All texts in these books present or reflect on Buddhist perspectives or focus on socio-historical aspects of its relations to the religious other. For more information see:

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415525343/


The Invention of Religion in Japan

Jason Ananda Josephson

University of Chicago, 2012

Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of what we call “religion.” There was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning. But when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign

treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea. In this book, Jason Ānanda Josephson reveals how Japanese officials invented religion in Japan and traces the sweeping intellectual, legal, and cultural changes that followed.

http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Religion-Japan-Ananda-Josephson/dp/0226412342


CALLS FOR PAPERS


CFP Deadline extended: Viennese Jews and the Christian Question (NEMLA 2013)

Location: Massachusetts

Deadline: 2012-10-05

Description:  Seeking proposals for papers on the engagement of assimilated Jewish writers and artists in discourses on Christianity, religion and spirituality in Viennese Modernism. Literary or interdisciplinary approaches to topics such as Jewish perspectives on Christianity vis vis science, philosophy….

Contact: ckita [at] holycross.edu

Announcement ID: 197484  http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197484


CFP: Beyond Binaries: Toward a Continuum Model of Religious Normativity

Location: Tennessee

Date: 2012-11-27

Description:  Beyond Binaries: Toward a Continuum Model of Religious Normativity March 23-24, 2013 The University of Texas, Austin, TX The keynote speakers for this conference are:Professor David BrakkeJoe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity at The Ohio State University Professor Kevin TrainorProfessor …

Contact: byebyebinaries[at] gmail.com

Announcement ID: 197451

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197451


CFP: Politics of Religion Graduate Student Symposium

Location: Florida

Date: 2012-12-01

Description:  This years symposium will be centered on the theme Politics of Religion. Due to our commitment to collaborative scholarship, students from all fields with interdisciplinary interests in the study of religion and at all levels of graduate study are encouraged to submit paper proposals.

Contact: fsureligionsymposium [at] gmail.com

Announcement ID: 197507

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197507


CFP: SEVENTH INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON SOCIO-RELIGIOUS STUDIES

Religion, utopias and alternatives to contemporary dilemmas

Havana, July 2-5, 2013

The Department of Socio-religious Studies of the Center for Psychological and Sociological Research (CIPS) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment of Cuba calls scholars on religion, academics and religious believers to participate in the SEVENTH INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON SOCIO-RELIGIOUS STUDIES, sponsored by religious institutions and non-governmental organizations, that will be held on July 2-5, at the Hotel Nacional in El Vedado, Havana.

It is well-known the role of religion as an important producer of interpretation frameworks of social reality, and as generator of social transformation practices, halting or reproducing injustice situations. Amid a turbulent international scene, marked by unresolved socioeconomic and political crises, to approach some of these processes requires complex analyses that transcend mere description to think of alternative proposals or to contribute to spread initiatives, from small religious spaces, that attempt to bring about a more equitable and just world with greater respect for nature and greater opportunities for all human beings.

From this perspective, the event aims to focus the reflections on the following topics:

·         Religion, power and hegemony

·         Religion and the environment

·         Religion and social inequities

·         Religion and diversity

·         Theoretical and methodological approaches

·         Religion, migration and cultural  identity

·         Religious actors, dialogues and transformation.

·         Religion and mass media

·         Institutions, spirituality and religious networks

·         Religion, consumption and market

The Seventh Meeting, like the previous ones held by the Department of Socio-religious Studies, every three years since 1995, aims at creating an environment conducive to dialogue among the participants, exchange of knowledge and sharing experiences.

The official language of the event is Spanish, but translation requests by English speakers can be addressed upon previous notice by the Organizing Committee. All participants will receive documentation related to the event and information of interest about the city and the country.

Presentations can be made in lectures, workshops, panels, posters and by means of audiovisual aids.

The official travel agency is CUBATUR. Contact Person: Arlene Alvarez (eventos1 [at] cbtevent.cbt.tur.cu ).

The registration fee is 150.00 CUC (Cuban Convertible Currency Cubana) for participants; 120.00 CUC for accompanying persons; and 75.00 CUC for students (previous accreditation).

All those interested in participating must fill the data form and e-mail it to: desr_encuentro [at] cips.cu, before November 15, 2012 to be considered by the Organizing Committee:

Dra. Ofelia Pérez Cruz

Head of the Organizing Committee

VII Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Sociorreligiosos

Calle B No. 352 esquina a 15, El Vedado. Ciudad de la Habana

CP 10400, Cuba.

Telephones: (53-7) 831-3610 y 833-5366  FAX: (53-7) 833-4327

Web Site: www.cips.cu

 


CFP: January 2013 issue of Paranthropology will have the theme of “Thinking About Experience.”

Some of the general themes for this issue will include:

* Different ways of talking about experience

* Different ways of interpreting experience

* How to write about personal and social experience meaningfully

* Experience as an aspect of consciousness

* The consequences of taking experience seriously… and so on.

The deadline for submissions to the January issue will be 15th December 2012. Please see www.paranthropology.co.uk for submission guidelines. If you have an idea for an article that you would like to discuss with the editor please get in touch via discarnates [at] googlemail.com


CFP: THE ROLE OF THEORY IN FOLKLORISTICS AND COMPARATIVE RELIGION

Call for Panels and Papers – 1st Announcement

The Departments of Folkloristics and Comparative Religion at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, together with the Donner Institute, are organizing an international interdisciplinary conference to honour the work of Professor Lauri Honko (1932–2002)

21–23 August 2013

University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Timetable:

Call for papers, deadline 31 March 2013

Registration, deadline 31 May 2013

For more information, please visit the conference website at: http://www.honkoconference.utu.fi/ (this will open soon)

Additional information: honko-conference [at] utu.fi


CFP: Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia

Call for Papers mid-term Conference “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia”

Date: June 26 to 29, 2013

Place: University of Goettingen, Germany Organized by: Competence network “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia” (DORISEA), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. See http://www.dorisea.de/en.

Keynote Speaker: Robert Hefner, Boston University.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts: November 30th, 2012. Please send your abstracts to dorisea [at] uni-goettingen.de and indicate in which panel you would like to participate.

Conference topic

In global comparison, Southeast Asia stands out as a region marked by a particularly diverse religious landscape. Various “ethnic religions”

interact with so-called “world religions”, all of the latter – with the exception of Judaism – being represented in the region. While religion has oftentimes been viewed as an antithesis to modernity, scholarship has shown that religion shapes (or: is intertwined with?) modernization processes in crucial ways and that its role in contemporary Southeast Asian societies is intensifying. The mid-term conference “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia” will explore this link between “religion”

and “modernity” by focusing on three dimensions of religious dynamics, namely mediality, politics and mobility. In the spirit of Southeast Asian studies as a holistic, i.e. trans-disciplinary approach, we invite papers from fields as diverse as history, anthropology, sociology, political science, media studies, geography or linguistic studies that investigate the peculiar dynamics of religion in times of globalization, and the ways in which these dynamics mediate change and continuity in Southeast Asia.

Panel 1: materializing Religion: on Media, Mediation, Immediacy

Given that religion “is the practice of making the invisible visible, of concretizing the order of the universe, the nature of human life and its destiny, and the various dimensions and possibilities of human interiority itself” (Robert Orsi 2005: 74), the study of religion necessarily has to scrutinize correlating processes and resources of its materialization. Accordingly, we have to acknowledge that the worlds of religions and the media are not separate or competing spheres of influence, but converge. The study of religion, then, is interrelated with the study of media, mediation and audience perception, of sacred books and images, material objects and the human senses, of religious practices in a public sphere, which is extensively permeated by modern communication technologies. Research on the dynamics of religion in modern Southeast Asia will profit from such a perspective.

Invited are papers on the interface of media and religions in Southeast Asia. Hereby, priority is given to four dimensions of the media and mediation of religions.

  • Concept of “medium” beyond mass media. This involves discussing the medium not only as a means of communication between humans but also between humans and spiritual powers (ritual activities and visual representations through the medium photography; performing arts; ghost pictures and films). In its modern genealogy, the term “medium” always carries a double meaning. Therefore, we include and discuss spirit possession and mediumship as distinct forms of materialization – creating immediacy through embodiment Particular attention will be paid to the modalities of processes of mediation.

  • Constitution and circulation of codes of representation: norms and deviation. The communication of “religious” contents via media is subject to regulation, from legal restrictions and censorship to historically and culturally constituted codes of representation (including aesthetic ones). In this context, the question may arise as to what medium / media are considered “apt” to communicate religious contents. Hereby, the authoritative role of the medium “text” has to be taken into serious consideration.

  • Medium, loss and preservation. Media (be it textual, pictorial or material) are used in an effort to document and to preserve, or to remind: this relates to loss, to death (portraits) and cultures of remembrance. Questions surrounding individuality / collectivity emerge here as well as questions of temporal mediation and transmission (the medium as transcending time).

  • Relation between religious authority and medium / media. New media such as radio or the Internet allow persons without formal religious training to get to a position of religious authority. The effects can be considered as dissolving religious authority and/or as fundamentally democratising. On the other hand, the spread of religious teachings increases through the use of such media, and they are, of course, used intensely by religious authorities.

Papers should address at least one of the above-mentioned dimensions, be empirically grounded and theoretically informed.

Panel 2: Secularization of Religion, Sacralization of Politics? The State of Religion in Southeast Asia

Scholars of Southeast Asia have tirelessly emphasized the tight interplay between politics and religion in the region and questioned the very salience of “religion” and “politics” as separate spheres. From the veneration of national heroes in Vietnamese temples to the declaration by former Prime Minister Mahathir that Malaysia was an Islamic state, a neat distinction between the “religious” and the “political” seems hard to sustain. In terms of theory, this observation has generally led to a refutation of the cornerstone of modernization theory, namely secularism, as a Eurocentric line of thought. This panel seeks to go beyond the simple refutation of the secularization thesis and welcomes contributions that are both theoretically informed and empirically grounded in their investigation of the manifold relations between “religion” and “politics” in Southeast Asia – from the much noted politicisation of religion, to the ritual and performative dimensions of the political.

Historical accounts have long emphasized the mutually constitutive ties of religion and politics in the region. Religion in Southeast Asia has indeed never been solely a tradition, a belief system, the combination of belief and ritual or an instrument to explain the world. Since the introduction of the world religions Hinduism, Buddhism (both vehicles), later Islam and Christianity from the neighboring regions, these world religions have been, like their tribal beliefs systems, which existed before and together with them, instruments to create and to legitimize rules and rulers and to organize societies. This is a general feature since the times when the earliest kingdoms and empires were founded along the trade routes between India and China in the first centuries AD.

Postcolonial nation-states have intervened directly in the definition of what “religion” entails, from designating a particular religion as “state religion”, incorporating certain religious idioms into national ideology, to legally regulating the religious sphere. Indonesia’s Pancasila ideology that incorporated various “world religions” under a Judeo-Christian-Muslim notion of “religion” (Ramstedt 2004), the parallel processes of representational re-vitalization and institutional weakening of Buddhism in Laos (Morev 2002), or, more recently, the “nationalisation of Islam” in the context of globalization and neoliberal capitalism in Malaysia (Fischer 2008) are all examples of possible articulations of the national and the religious in contemporary Southeast Asia. While processes of globalization, migration, economic, ecological or demographic changes are reaching today the “last frontiers” of Southeast Asia’s rural, jungle and highland areas, so does the reach of the modern state: intensifying globalization has not brought about the demise of the nation-state. Yet, transnational religious networks – such as the Pentecostal Church – do contest the monopoly of the state over certain arenas, such as education, or reject the national as the main frame of reference and identity marker by referring to a land “in which God, not the (…) state, has dominion”

(Glick Schiller & Karagiannis 2006:160).

Rather than to equate “politics” with “the state”, in this panel, we seek to explore the manifold linkages between the “religious” and the “political” in globalized Southeast Asia, from the formal institutions and regulatory mechanisms policing the religious sphere to the political claims of religious networks. Importantly, we are not only interested in the ways in which the secular and the religious are respectively defined in local, national and global contexts, but also how religious and state officials draw the internal boundaries of what “religion” entails, marginalizing, for instance, “(its) less objectified and less rationalized manifestations” labeled as “animism” (Lambek 2012).

Papers may address – without being limited to – the following set of questions:

Which political strategies do social actors deploy in the struggle for political, or, respectively, religious authority and to which ends? How are such attempts subverted, instrumentalized or resisted? How is religious authority used to gain political authority and how is the latter used to ‘authenticate’ (e.g. national, religious) identities and its ‘others’? How does the regulation of religion by the nation-state – for instance through law and education – relate to the context of economic globalization? How are transnational religious influences ‘mediated’ with national religiosities?

Panel 3: Spatial Dynamics of Religion between Modulation and Conversion

The panel aims at exploring the spatial dimension of religious change. A reflection on religious practices in Southeast Asia, where different religions share sacred places, multi-religious rituals are common and religious mobility blurs into other forms of travel, clearly shows that religious change is always entangled with dynamics of movement and place-making. But how are these entanglements to be approached empirically and conceptually? Change can be understood on a conceptual and experiential continuum between modulation – as a reproduction and variation within conventional sets of rules, orientations and meanings – and conversion – as a break with previous social and cosmological orientations. The spatial can be conceived as being constituted through the triality of extension, place and movement. Depending on the ways these formal dimensions of change and space take material shape, the dynamics of religion are articulated in historically specific ways which will be the focus of the panel. Papers may address – without being limited to – the following topics:

The movement between places can be understood as a spatial articulation of dynamics of religion. Pilgrimage, for example, potentially facilitates experiences of connectivity, similarity and alterity of places and religions. How do such experiences of movement and distant places mediate experiences and conceptualizations of religious change unfolding between modulation and conversion?

Even without geographic mobility, conversions often imply a spatial dimension. They may involve a shift of or a reorientation within spatial orders (e.g., the integration of certain groups in new structures of religious centers and peripheries). How do such shifts within spatial orders mediate religious change? How are social, political, economic and cultural dynamics related to religion through encompassing spatial orders?

Places are constituted through practices of inclusion and exclusion which can both accommodate a diversity of religious forms as well as demonstrate the purity of a single religious form. What are the different ways of dealing with diversity in religious places? How are spatial articulations of inclusion and exclusion practically implemented in processes of place-making and how are they related to experiences of modulation or conversion?

Religious places are neither self-contained nor mono-functional in yet another dimension. They may, for example, simultaneously be sites of sacred power, national remembrance, tourism and commerce. How are multiple connectivity and multi-functionality achieved and managed through spatial practices of movement and place-making (e.g., pilgrimage, migration, spatial distribution of objects and activities, establishing of topographies, etc.) in relation to religious change?


CONFERENCES


TURNING THE TIDE TOGETHER: A DIALOGUE ON HIV-AIDS, FAITHS AND PUBLIC POLICY

30th October 2012

10.00 – 4.30

University of Chester

Speakers and Papers include:

Dr Irene Ayallo (Gladstone Fellow in Contextual Theology): ‘HIV-AIDS and Public Policy Making Processes in Kenya: Assessing the Participation of People Living with HIV and the role of the Anglican Church of Kenya’

Dr Chris Baker (University of Chester): ‘Religion and the Public Sphere’

Dr Wayne Morris (University of Chester): ‘HIV-AIDS in International Policy Frameworks: Reflections in Light of a Theology of Personhood’

Jacqui Baverstock (Croydon NHS): ‘Disclosing HIV-AIDS: Reflections from Practice in a Multi-Faith Context’

Dan Nield (University of Chester): Taking a HIV Test: A Spiritual Experience?

Further Details and a booking form can be found at: www.chester.ac.uk/cfpp/events<http://www.chester.ac.uk/cfpp/events>

Conference Costs: £40.00 (£20.00 for unwaged/students) including all refreshments and lunch.

For further details, please contact Wayne Morris: w.morris [at] chester.ac.uk<mailto:w.morris [at] chester.ac.uk>


The Congress of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR)

27 – 30 of August 2013

Lausanne, Switzerland.

For more information, please visit the congress website http://www.unil.ch/iapr2013/

Registration and abstracts submission will be open in October 2012.


EVENTS


The Forum on Religion at LSE is pleased to announce the Michaelmas Term 2012 events

Full details are below, and can also be found on the website of the Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion at http://www2.lse.ac.uk/anthropology/research/PRNR/Events/events.aspx

The seminar by Linda Woodhead on 7 November is an opportunity to interact with one of the leading sociologists of religion in the world, and someone who has a unique vantage point on religion and society, via her stewardship of the AHRC/ESRC programme. The seminar room holds about 40 people, so come early to avoid disappointment.

The next day, November 8, we will welcome Charles Hirschkind, an anthropologist from UC Berkeley; this is a rare visit for Charles to the UK, and his perspective on Salafi Islam is one you’ll not want to miss.

On December 6, the Forum will further last Summer Term’s focus on ethics, by co-hosting a debate among Julian Baggini, Angus Ritchie, and Mark Vernon.

In addition to these events, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the launch of a new MSc on Religion in the Contemporary World. This is a welcome development to the portfolio of LSE MSc programmes, and the first intake will start in October 2013. The MSc is based in the Anthropology Department, but is open to all who have an interest in studying religion, secularism, humanism, and related topics from a social-scientific perspective. Students will be able to take courses from across a range of LSE Departments, from Anthropology to International Relations, Government, and more. Further details can be found here:

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/study/graduate/taughtProgrammes2013/MScReligionInTheContemporaryWorld.aspx


JOBS


Assistant Professor in East Asian Religions

JOB GUIDE NO.: https://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45358

Florida State University, Religion

For full consideration, applicants should submit a vita and supporting materials (transcripts, course outlines, samples of written work, and at least three letters of recommendation) by Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Materials may be submitted via email to sstetson [at] fsu.eduor by mail to East Asian Religions Search, Florida State University, Department of Religion, Dodd Hall M05, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520. The Florida State University is a Public Records Agency and an Equal Opportunity/Access/Affirmative Action Employer.


Hamilton College – 2-Year Post Doctoral Fellow in Japanese History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45454

Montana State University – Bozeman – Assistant Professor, Asian History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45395

St. Bonaventure University – Assistant Professor, Asian History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45434

University of Sydney – LECTURER IN KOREAN STUDIES

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45397

University of Wisconsin – Whitewater – Assistant Professor, Asian History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45449

Leibniz Institute of European History – Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter/-innen Digital Humanities (Digital History / Digital Theology)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45380

Temple University – Indian Religions

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45381

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45404

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor in religion and community in modern South Asia (1600-present)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45409

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor in religion and

community in modern South Asia (1600-present)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45409

Tulane University – Assistant Professor, Islamic/Middle Eastern

history

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45390

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45404


FUNDING


Details of a call for Large Grants under the Science in Culture, Digital Transformations and Translating Cultures themes are now available.

Successful proposals under the Large Grants call are expected to support research activities of a scale and ambition beyond that normally required for a standard AHRC grant.  They should display significant transformative potential within the relevant theme area.

Funding for each grant awarded will be between £1m and £2m (fEC) over a period of between 36 and 60 months. Approximately 2-4 Large Grants are expected to be funded under each theme (subject to quality and overall balance within the theme).

Closing dates for outline proposals are as follows:

  • Digital Transformations – 4pm on Thursday 10 January 2013
  • Science in Culture – 4pm on Tuesday 15 January 2013
  • Translating Cultures – 4pm on Thursday 17 January 2013

Further information: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funding-Opportunities/Research-funding/Themes/Pages/Theme-Large-Grants.aspx

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 14 September 2012 Edition

 

14 September 2012 Issue

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

In this issue:

  • Book Series
  • Journals
  • Calls for Papers
  • Jobs
  • Documentary
  • Workshop
  • Scholarship
  • Conference

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.

 


BOOK SERIES


The Secular Studies series

GENERAL EDITOR:

Phil Zuckerman, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, PITZER COLLEGE

There are more secular people in the world than ever before. And various forms and manifestations of secularity—atheism, agnosticism, humanism, skepticism, and anti-religious movements—are enjoying increased attention and scrutiny. The scholarly examination of secular identity, secular groups, secular culture(s), and political/constitutional secularisms—and how these all relate to each other, as well as to the broader social world—is thus more timely than ever. Moreover, studying secularism also teaches us about religiosity; as secularism is almost always in reaction to or in dialogue with the religious, by studying those who are secular we can learn much, from a new angle, about the religion they are rejecting.

The Secular Studies series is meant to provide a home for works in the emerging field of secular studies. Rooted in a social science perspective, it will explore and illuminate various aspects of secular life, ranging from how secular people live their lives and how they construct their identities to the activities of secular social movements, from the demographics of secularism to the ways in which secularity intersects with other social processes, identities, patterns, and issues.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

Submissions should take the form of a 4-6 page proposal outlining the intent, scope, and argument of the project, its merits in comparison to existing texts, and the audience it is designed to reach. Please include a detailed annotated Table of Contents, ideally 2-4 sample chapters if available, and a current copy of your curriculum vitae.

PLEASE DIRECT QUERIES AND SUBMISSIONS TO:

Dr. Phil Zuckerman

Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College

1050 North Mills Avenue

Claremont, CA 91711

phil_zuckerman@pitzer.edu

Jennifer Hammer

Senior Editor

New York University Press

838 Broadway, Floor 3

New York, NY 10003-4812

jennifer.hammer@nyu.edu

For more information or details on submission guidelines, please visit: www.nyupress.org


JOURNALS

 

Sociology of religion, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc

Journal of Hindu Studies, http://jhs.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc


CALLS FOR PAPERS


“Occultism, Magic and the History of Art” (Graduate

Conference, University of Cambridge, 3-4 December 2012)

Date: 2012-09-30

Description: Graduate Conference 2012/13: “Charming Intentions:

Occultism, Magic and the History of Art”,(University of

Cambridge, 3-4 December 2012) This two-day graduate conference

will investigate the intersections between visual culture and

the occult tradition, ranging from the material culture of

primitive …

Contact: dcjz2@cam.ac.uk

URL:

www.hoart.cam.ac.uk/events/graduate-conference-2012-13-charming-intentions-occultism-magic-and-the-history-of-art

Announcement ID: 196882

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196882


“Making Sacrifices”: Visions of Sacrifice in American and

European Cultures

Location: Massachusetts

Date: 2012-10-01

Description: CFP: “Making Sacrifices”: Visions of Sacrifice in

American and European Cultures November 3, 2012; Salzburg

Institute of Gordon College Symposium, Gordon College, Wenham,

MA As Italian premier Mario Monti recently did, politicians are

increasingly calling on citizens to make sacrifices for the

futur …

Contact: salzburg.symposium@gordon.edu

URL: www.gordon.edu/SalzburgInstitute

Announcement ID: 196785

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196785


SST Postgraduate Conference 2012

University of Cambridge, DECEMBER 3 AND 4

How Shall the Next Generation Live? Theology as Responsibility

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated: “The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is … how the coming generation is to live.”His concern broached the need to take responsibility for others and part of that responsibility was in leaving a legacy of sound doctrine. Taking Bonhoeffer’s concern as our framework, the second SST Postgraduate Conference invites postgraduates from all traditions and none to discuss how current theology can/should serve future generations.

The conference will take place in the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity, between the hours of 12 – 5 PM on Monday 3 December, and 9 – 6 PM on Tuesday 4 December. Delegates will be welcomed by Professor Judith Lieu (Cambridge), and plenary sessions will be given by Professor Graham Ward, Professor George Newlands, Dr. Susannah Ticciati, Revd Dr. Stephen Plant and Revd Dr. Gregory Seach.

The conference is sponsored by the SST and the Cambridge Faculty of Divinity, and is free of charge. We regret that we cannot provide delegates with accommodation or an evening meal. To register, please send your name, contact information and details of your university/institution to registersstpostgrad2012@ymail.com by 31 OCTOBER.

CALL FOR PAPERS

Paper abstracts are to be 250 WORDS and related to the conference theme. We particularly welcome papers which make reference to doctrine. THE SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS 15TH OCTOBER, AND APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE SENT TO sstpostgrad2012@ymail.com. Applicants will be contacted by the end of the month. Papers will be allotted 20 minutes for delivery with 5-10 minutes for questions.

Possible topics include (but are not restricted to):

  1. How academic theology should serve the next generation

  2. The contribution theology can or should make to society

  3. Theology and its interaction with politics/economics/culture

  4. The role of theology in contemporary ethical discourse

  5. The place of scripture in twenty-first century theology

  6. The function of Christian doctrine in twenty-first century theology

  7. Spiritual practice informing twenty-first century theology

  8. ‘Prayer and righteous action’

  9. Theological reflection and praxis

Some bursaries towards travel expenditure are available, however we warmly encourage postgraduates to apply to their institutions for financial support where this is available. Those wishing to apply for a bursary should indicate this when submitting an abstract, giving details of their expenditure and need. Decisions on bursaries will be made by the end of October.

Please note that this conference is intended for postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Established academics are warmly welcome to participate in the Society’s main annual conference, which will be publicised in December.

Please forward this message to postgraduates in your institution. To download a poster to display on your notice board, visit www.theologysociety.org.uk. If you are a postgraduate, we invite you to visit our ‘SST Postgraduate Conference’ Facebook page for news and accommodation information, and hope to see you in December.

Nicki Wilkes and Ruth Jackson

Conference Organisers


Title: Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Description: Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality (JMMS)

is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal. JMMS seeks to be

as inclusive as possible in its area of inquiry. Papers address

the full spectrum of masculinities and sexualities,

particularly those which are seldom heard. Similarly, JMMS

address …

Contact: joseph@gelfer.net

URL: www.jmmsweb.org

Announcement ID: 196563

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196563


Title: Reminder: Call for papers: Medieval and Renaissance

Pilgrimage

Location: Michigan

Date: 2012-09-07

Description: Striding toward Salvation: Medieval and Renaissance

Pilgrimage in Europe and the Mediterranean. During the Middle

Ages and Renaissance, pilgrimage provided an important path to

spiritual salvation; as such, a whole range of individualsfrom

peasants to kings, serfs to sultansundertook these sacred jo

Contact: edkelley@svsu.edu

Announcement ID: 196697

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196697


Title: Last call for submissions for Edited Collection,

Supernatural: Fan Phenomena

Date: 2012-09-15

Description: Last call for abstracts for consideration for the new

Supernatural (Fan Phenomena) title from Intellect Press. This

will be part of the series of Fan Phenomena books, which aim to

explore and decode the fascination we have with what

constitutes an iconic or cultish phenomenon and how a

particular pe …

Contact: lzubernis@wcupa.edu

Announcement ID: 196713

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196713

Title: RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN AFRICA AND ASIA: Discourses and

Realities

Date: 2012-10-30

Description: Following the 55 BANDUNG 55 Seminars of the 55th

Anniversary of 1955 Bandung Asian-African Conference held in

Indonesia in October/November 2010, a series of books under the

label of Bandung Spirit Book Series is in the course of

publication. The coming book is dealing with “RELIGIOUS

DIVERSITY IN A …

Contact: darwis.khudori@univ-lehavre.fr

URL: www.bandungspirit.org

Announcement ID: 196724

   http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196724


2013 International Society for the Sociology of Religion Conference

Turku, Finland: 27-30 June.

RETHINKING COMMUNITY

Religious continuities and mutations in late modernity

SESSIONS ARE NOW POSTED!!

Once the local committee has begun its work, we will post a link here so you can visit the conference website.  That website will contain information about housing, transportation, and other particulars.


Call for Papers

Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives Conference

Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, United Kingdom

 

1-3 August 2013

Congregational music-making has long been a vital and vibrant practice within Christian communities worldwide. Congregational music reflects, informs, and articulates local convictions and concerns as well as global flows of ideas and products. Congregational song can unify communities of faith across geographical and cultural boundaries, while simultaneously serving as a contested practice used to inscribe, challenge, and negotiate identities. Many twenty-first century congregational song repertories are transnational genres that cross boundaries of region, nation, and denomination. The various meanings, uses, and influence of these congregational song repertoires cannot be understood without an exploration of these musics’ local roots and global routes.

This conference seeks to explore the multifaceted interaction between local and global dimensions of Christian congregational music by drawing from perspectives across academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, history, music studies, and theology. In particular, the conference welcomes papers addressing or engaging with one or more of the following six themes:

  • The Politics of Congregational Singing

The choices congregations make to include (or exclude) certain kinds of music in their worship often have significant political ramifications. Papers on this topic may consider: what roles does music play in local congregational politics? How do congregations use musical performance, on the one hand, to build and maintain boundaries, or, on the other, to promote reconciliation between members of differing ethnicities, denominations, regions, or religions?

 

  • Popular Music in/as Christian Worship

Christian worship has long incorporated musical styles, sounds, or songs considered ‘popular’ or ‘vernacular.’ To what extent does congregational music-making maintain, conflate, or challenge the boundaries between ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’? How do commercial music industries influence the production, distribution, and reception of congregational music, and, conversely, how do the concerns of congregational singing shape praxis within the realm of commercial music?

 

  • From Mission Hymns to Indigenous Hymnodies

This theme invites critical exploration of how congregational music has shaped—and been shaped by—Christian missionary endeavours of the past, present, and future. How have colonialism and postcolonialism influenced congregational musical ideologies and practices? Who defines an ‘indigenous hymnody,’ and how has this category informed music-making in the postmissionary church? What does the future of music in Christian missions hold?

 

  • Congregational Music in the University Classroom

What preconceived notions of Christian beliefs, Christian music-making, or the Christian community do instructors face in the 21st century? What should the study of congregational music involve in the training of clergy and lay ministers? How do the experiences and perspectives of university students challenge the way congregational music is practiced and taught?

 

  • Towards a More Musical Theology

Though it has been over twenty-five years since Jon Michael Spencer called for the cross-pollination of musicological and theological studies in ‘theomusicology,’ the theological mainstream still rarely pays attention to music. How might acknowledging the diversity of human musical traditions influence theological reflection on ecclesiology, eschatology, or ethics? What might insights from musicology and ethnomusicology bring to bear on contemporary debates within Christian theology?

 

  • A Futurology of Congregational Music

Papers on this subtheme will offer creative, considered reflection on the future of congregational music. What new emerging shapes and forms will—or should—congregational worship music take? Will congregational song traditions become more localized, or will they be further determined by global commercial industries? What must scholars do to provide more nuanced, relevant, or critical perspectives on Christian congregational music?

We are now accepting proposals (maximum 250 words) for individual papers and organised panels of three papers.  A link to the online proposal form can be found on the conference website at  http://www.rcc.ac.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=prospective.content&cmid=182.

Proposals must be received by 14 December 2012.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 28 January 2013, and conference registration will begin on 2 February 2013. Further instructions and information will be made available on the conference website.


Title: TRANSCULTURAL UNDEADNESS: HISTORIES AND INCARNATIONS OF

MULTIETHNIC HAUNTINGS AND HORROR

Location: Pennsylvania

Date: 2012-10-20

Description: MELUS 2013 March 14-17, 2013 Downtown Pittsburgh

Deadline: October 20, 2012 One point of departure for this

session is our conference location, Pittsburgh, the home base

of veteran horror filmmaker George A. Romero. Starting with his

now-classic 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, Romero has

built  …

Announcement ID: 196770

   http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196770


Call for Papers: Engaging Sociology of Religion

BSA Sociology of Religion conference stream, Annual Conference of the

British Sociological Association

Grand Connaught Rooms, London, 3-5 April 2013

How does sociology of religion engage with topical issues affecting contemporary society?

How can field-specific theories and models help in understanding religion’s role in recent

global and local social movements (the Occupy movement, transitions in the Arab world,

London riots in 2011), the economic crisis and austerity, social mobility, the ‘Big Society’,

cultural pluralisation, climate change, and so on? How have – and how should – sociologists

of religion engage broader public arenas? What could be the specific contribution of

sociology of religion to public discussion? We invite papers that address topical issues such

as the above, but also papers on core issues in the sociology of religion, including – but not

limited to – the following:

* ‘Public’ Sociology of Religion

* Religion, Social Movements and Protest

* Religion and Welfare (including Faith-Based Organisations)

* Religion and inequalities (gender, ethnicity, class)

* Religion and media

* Religion and State in the 21st Century

* Social Theory and Religion

* Secularism and secularisation

Abstract submission to be completed at: www.britsoc.co.uk/events/Conference

Deadline for abstract submission: 5 October 2012.

E-mail: bsaconference@britsoc.org.uk for conference enquiries; t.hjelm@ucl.ac.uk or

j.m.mckenzie@durham.ac.uk for stream enquiries. Please DO NOT send abstracts to these

addresses.


JOBS


University of Kansas – Assistant or Associate Professor of Religious

Studies with a concentration in Judaism

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45212>

Brigham Young University – History Faculty, Open Field/Rank

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45197>

University of Tennessee – Knoxville – Assistant Professor, Early and

medieval Islam (622-1600CE)

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45173>

Cornell University – Thomas and Diann Mann Professorship in Modern

Jewish Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45208>

University of Colorado – Boulder – Jewish History, Assistant

Professor, tenure-track

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45184>


Join the ECF convenor team: Want to have a say in how the BSA Early Career Forum (ECF) is run? Do you have great ideas for events for the ECF and want to get involved? The BSA ECF is looking for a new convener to join the existing team. Your responsibilities will include attendance at BSA council meetings (once a year), organizing the ECF workshops at the annual conference, organizing other ECF workshops and events throughout the  year, maintaining regular contact with ECF members via JISCmail and social media and representing ECF views to the BSA Council and Executive Management Team.  If you are interested in joining the team, please send your CV and a short blurb indicating why you want the position and what skills you would bring to it to lkillick@pacific.edu by Sept 24th 2012.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 


PhD Position in Buddhist Studies

Vacancy number: 12-213

The Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) invites applications for two fulltime PhD positions in the field of Buddhist Studies, specialization open, to begin 1 January 2013, or thereafter.

Review of applications will commence by 15 October 2012 and continue until the position is filled or this call is closed. (http://www.hum.leiden.edu/lias/)

 


DOCUMENTARY


http://www.kidnappedforchrist.com/#!about

Kidnapped for Christ is a feature-length documentary film, which follows the stories of several American teenagers who were sent to an Evangelical Christian reform school located in The Dominican Republic called “Escuela Caribe.” The school is run by Americans and is advertised as a “therapeutic Christian boarding school” whose mission is to “help struggling youth transform into healthy Christian adults.” While many have praised the school for saving the lives of hundreds of troubled teens, in the past several years many former students have begun to speak out against the school, claiming that they suffered both psychological and physical abuse during their time there. The film’s director, Kate Logan, set out to document the experiences of the students at this remote boarding school and was given unprecedented access to film for seven weeks on campus in the summer of 2006. Through candid interviews with distressed students and footage of staff imposing extreme discipline and punishments she was able to reveal the shocking truth of what was actually going on at Escuela Caribe.

The film centers on the story of David, a straight-A student from Colorado who was sent to Escuela Caribe in May of 2006 after coming out to his parents as gay. Like many others, David was taken in the night without warning by a “transport service” and was never told where he was going or when he would be brought back home. David was not the only student whose life was impacted by the school’s severe approach to discipline. The filmmakers followed many other students who also experienced degrading punishments and who struggled to understand what was happening to them. The film also features interviews with former students, including Julia Scheeres, whose 2005 New York Times Best Selling memoir Jesusland tells the story of the disturbing physical and physiological abuse she witnessed and suffered at Escuela Caribe during the 1980s.

The growth of the troubled teen industry, especially therapeutic boarding schools located in the United States and abroad, has given rise to many other allegations of the inhumane treatment of youth and the exploitation of families who are desperately seeking help for their teenagers. The goal of Kidnapped for Christ is to tell the stories of the students who were sent to Escuela Caribe and to give them a voice so that they may make people aware of the broader industry of schools like Escuela Caribe and the potential danger they constitute for our youth. We hope that the film will be entertaining, shocking, thought provoking and will ultimately inspire change in the way these types of schools are run and regulated.


WORKSHOP


Title: Fall 2012 Auschwitz Jewish Center Program for Students

Abroad (AJC PSA)

Description: In its fifth semester, the AJC PSA is a long-weekend

(Thursday PM through Monday AM) program in Krakw for North

American students studying overseas. The program, which

includes a scholarly visit to Owicim/Auschwitz, provides an

academic environment through which participants engage

intensively with …

Contact: DBramson@mjhnyc.org

URL: www.mjhnyc.org/a_affiliates_ajc.html

Announcement ID: 196435

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196435


Scholarships


A full PhD scholarship is being offered at Aarhus University in the new Interacting Minds Centre. Please circulate this call:

http://talent.au.dk/phd/arts/open-calls/phd-call-103/


CONFERENCE


conference on Race/religion as motive for prohibited conduct (Middlesex University, 12 November); the conference flyer is attached.

I have also been asked by Dr Jenny Taylor of Lapido Media to publicise a new book TABLIGHI JAMAAT by Dr Zacharias Pieri of the University of Exeter, which will launch their series of Handy Books for Journalists on Religion in World Affairs; 27 September at Frontline Club: http://www.frontlineclub.com/crm/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=785. The event is free, but booking is essential. The book, which provides the latest research on this group in Britain with exclusive pictures, costs £10 and can now be ordered from info@lapidomedia.com

image of books

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 7 September 2012

7 September 2012 Issue

image of books

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

In this issue:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Calls for Papers
  • Jobs
  • Lectures
  • Conferences

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


BOOKS


Liz Greene, Magi and Maggidim: The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1860-1940.

Studies in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology Vol. 3, Lampeter: Sophia Centre Press, 2012. £48.00, Paperback, 558 pp. ISBN 978-1-907767-02-9

http://www.sophiacentrepress.com/publications.html

Liz Greene’s major historical study of the Kabbalah in recent British occultism is published by the Sophia Centre Press on 4 September 2012.

Using primary sources Greene challenges the notion that western occult Kabbalah is a reinvention of ancient sources, and argues that Jewish scholars had a direct input into the modern British ‘occult revival’. For a full description and contents please see

http://www.sophiacentrepress.com/publications/MagiAndMaggidim/magiAndMaggidi

m.html

There is an advance order discount until 21 September.

A fascinating and erudite exploration of the development of modern Kabbalah. Liz Greene’s knowledge of the subject is wide and deep, and this book is masterful in its nuanced unpicking and re-weaving of the history of an occult tradition often marred by poor research and generalisations. Professor Owen Davies, University of Hertfordshire.

LIZ GREENE is a tutor for the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales Trinity St David, and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Bristol.


JOURNALS


The Journal of Hindu Studies – Advance Notice http://jhs.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc

Journal of Media and Religion, vol 11, no.3, http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/jmr/2012/00000011/00000003


CALLS FOR PAPERS


CFP: Sensing the Sacred: Religion and the Senses, 1300-1800

(The University of York, UK, 21-22 June 2013)

Date: 2012-11-05

Description: Sensing the Sacred: Religion and the Senses, 1300-1800 The University of York, England, UK 21-22 June 2013

Confirmed keynote addresses from: Nicky Hallett (University of Sheffield) Matthew Milner (McGill University) & Chris Woolgar (University of Southampton).

Contact: sensingthesacred  [at] york.ac.uk

URL: www.york.ac.uk/crems/events/sensingthesacred/

Announcement ID: 196611

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196611


We invite abstract submissions to the thematic session TRANSCULTURAL CHRISTIANITIES to be held at the 32nd ISSR (International Society for the Sociology of Religion) Conference in Turku, Finland 27-30 June, 2013. DL for submissions is October 31st.

32nd ISSR Conference

RETHINKING COMMUNITY

RELIGIOUS CONTINUITIES AND MUTATIONS IN LATE MODERNITY

Turku-Åbo, Finland, 27-30 June, 2013

STS 25

TRANSCULTURAL CHRISTIANITIES // CHRISTIANISMES TRANSCULTURELLES

Convenors:

TUIJA HOVI Åbo Akademi University (tuhovi@abo.fi)

MINNA OPAS University of Turku (minna.opas@utu.fi)

English abstract:

During the past decade, in particular, the study of Christianity has attracted great interest among anthropologists and scholars of religion. Attention has been paid especially to the forms global Christianity, especially Pentecostal-Charismatic and Evangelical Christianity, take when spreading to new locations. However, the ways local Christians around the world understand, conceptualise and find significant (or insignificant) the global nature of Christianity still remain understudied. In this thematic session, we aim to examine the role of globality in local Christians’ conceptualisations and practices of Christianity: to what extent do they consider themselves a part of a global Christian community and how do their conceptualisations affect their practice of religion.

We welcome contributions approaching these questions from a variety of denominational (and non-denominational) contexts and perspectives. The latter include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • dynamics between inclusiveness and exclusiveness

  • circulation and use of economic resources

  • interaction between missionary and local churches

  • role of different media for people’s Christian vocation

  • temporal dimension of shared Christian faith

  • dogmatic issues such as salvation, End Times, biblical fundamentalism etc.

  • conceptualisations of health, well-being and sexuality

  • views on texts and translations

French abstract

Au cours de la dernière décennie, en particulier, l’étude du christianisme a suscité un grand intérêt parmi les anthropologues et des spécialistes de la religion. L’attention a été portée en particulier sur les formes que le christianisme mondial prend lors de son épandage dans de nouveaux endroits. Toutefois, les manières dont les chrétiens locaux à travers le monde comprennent, conceptualisent et trouvent le caractère mondial du christianisme reste encore peu étudié. Dans cette session thématique, nous cherchons à examiner le rôle du mondialisme dans les conceptualisations des chrétiens locaux du christianisme – dans quelle mesure ils se considèrent comme une partie d’une communauté chrétienne mondiale – et les façons dont ces conceptualisations influent sur la pratique religieuse des gens.

Send your paper abstract to the convenors of this session (Tuija Hovi and Minna Opas) before OCTOBER 31st 2012.

Note that the ISSR/SISR rules for proposing a paper are strict so, please, follow carefully the guidelines below:

Use only standard times new roman font in 12pt and bold when asked, see below.

Give the following information in the set order:

  • Specify the session for which you send in a proposal: (STS 25)

  • Write then the title of your proposed paper in bold in the two official languages of the ISSR/SISR.

  • Next give the Family Name and First Name of the author(s) in bold, followed, but not in bold, by the institutional affiliation.

  • Then give the e-mail address of the author. If there is more than one author; give the e-mail address of the principal author with whom the Convener(s) or the General Secretary should correspond if needed.

  • The abstract should follow in the language that will be used during the presentation at the conference (200 words maximum)

  • Finally, a shorter summary of your abstract (100 words maximum) in the second official language of the ISSR-conferences should be typed in italics. If English is used in the presentation, then the translation should be in French (and vice versa)

If your proposal does not fit the model set it cannot be put on the web site and will be returned to you by the Convener or the General Secretary for adaptation by yourself to the model set.

Important notice:

Presenters of papers HAVE TO BE MEMBERS of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR). If you are not yet a member, you can become one after your paper abstract has been accepted via the web site www.sisr-issr.org. Note also that each participant may only present one paper at the conference.

For more information on the conference see

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Conferences/Conferences.htm


Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion, 2nd Annual Symposium

Call for Papers

 The 2012 Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion symposium will explore the theme: Religion and Citizenship: Re-Thinking the Boundaries of Religion and the Secular.

The symposium is organised by Socrel, the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, with funding from the Higher Education Academy, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Subject Centre. Last year’s inaugural symposium was over-subscribed and therefore early submissions are encouraged.

Keynote speaker: Dr Nasar Meer, Northumbria University

Venue: BSA Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, London

Date:  13 December 2012

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Religions today are implicated in a wide variety of publics. From contests over the environment and democracy to protests against capitalism, religions remain important factors in political and public life across diverse, and interconnected, global contexts. A variety of diverse responses have been articulated to the so-called ‘return of religion’ in the public sphere, drawing into question relations between the religious, the non-religious and the secular. As scholars have developed new theoretical understandings of the terms of these debates and questioned how these are bound up with cultural conceptualizations of citizenship, education – in schools, universities and less formal educational contexts – has often been a site where contestations of the religious and the secular have been acutely felt.

The aim of this symposium is to consider the interrelation between conceptions of the religious, the secular, citizenship and education, and to explore how these issues affect the study of religion in higher education. We hope to attract presentations of sufficient quality to lead to an edited publication.

The day will be highly participative and engaged. The symposium will be organised as a single stream so that the day is as much about discussion as it is about presentation, and therefore the number of formal papers will be limited.

Papers are invited from students, teachers, and researchers in the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, geography, theology, history, psychology, political science, religious studies and others where religion is taught and studied. Empirical, methodological, and theoretical papers are welcomed.

Presenters will circulate a five-page summary of their paper before the day so that all participants can come prepared for discussion. Presentations will last 10 minutes and will be structured into three sessions, each followed by a discussant drawing out key points. The day will conclude with a discussant-led, focused panel discussion.

Key questions to be addressed may include, but are not limited to:

What are the relationships between the religious, the secular and the public sphere, and how do these affect the study of religion, in both universities and schools?

How do different historical constructions of religion and secularity shape understandings of the civil sphere and citizenship, and what are the implications of this for the study of religion?

Does the increased public visibility of religion in national and global contexts affect how we study it?

What is the role of religious education (school and/or university) in forming citizens and shaping understandings of citizenship?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of the secular?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of citizenship?

How do different disciplines approach and study these conceptions, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches?

Abstracts of 200 words are invited by September 15 2012. Please send these to: Dr Paul-François Tremlett p.f.tremlett@open.ac.uk

Costs: £36.00 for BSA/SocRel members; £45.00 for non-members; £20.00 for SocRel/BSA Postgraduate members; £25.00 for Postgraduate non-members.


Last date for submission of abstracts extended to 21st September 2012

Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion

16th November 2012, Enterprise Centre, University of Derby

Organised by the Centre for Society, Religion & Belief (SRB), University of Derby

Funded by Digital Social Research (DSR)

http://www.derby.ac.uk/digital-methodologies-in-the-sociology-of-religion

Within an era of a growing reliance on digital technologies to instantly and effectively express our values, allegiances, and multi-faceted identities, the interest in digital research methodologies among Sociologists of Religion comes as no surprise (e.g. Bunt 2009; Cantoni and Zyga 2007; Contractor 2012 and Ostrowski 2006;Taylor 2003). However the methodological challenges associated with such research have been given significantly less attention. What are the epistemological underpinnings and rationale for the use ‘digital’ methodologies? What ethical dilemmas do sociologists face, including while protecting participants’ interests in digital contexts that are often perceived as anonymised and therefore ‘safe’? Implementing such ‘digital’ research also leads to practical challenges such as mismatched expectations of IT skills, limited access to specialized tools, project management and remote management of research processes.

Hosted by the Centre forSociety, Religion, and Belief at the University of Derby and funded by Digital Social Research, this conference will bring together scholars to critically evaluate the uses, impacts, challenges and future of Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion. We envisage that the conference will lead to an edited textbook and are currently in discussion with key publishers. For the purpose of the conference and textbook, digital research is broadly defined as research that either works within digital contexts or which uses either online or offline digital tools. Abstracts for papers that focus on one, or more, of the following themes are invited:

1. Epistemological Positioning

2. Ethical Dilemmas

3. Implementation & Practical Challenges

4. Wider impacts beyond Academia

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, as well as the title of the paper, name of the presenter, institutional affiliation, and contact details to Dr Sariya Contractor (s.contractor@derby.ac.uk) and Dr. Suha Shakkour (s.shakkour@derby.ac.uk) by 5pm on Tuesday 21st September, 2012. Shortlisted participants will be notified by 28th September 2012 and will be expected to submit summary papers (1000 words) by 1st November 2012 for circulation prior to the conference. A registration fee of £30 will apply for all speakers and delegates. A few travel bursaries are available for post-graduate students – please enquire about these by e-mail. Further details about the registration process will be circulated by mid-September2012. Please visit our website – http://www.derby.ac.uk/digital-methodologies-in-the-sociology-of-religion for further details.


JOBS


The Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Otago invites applicants for the confirmation path position of Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Religion. The position is open to candidates specialising in the study of either Buddhism or Islam.

The successful applicant will be expected to undertake research leading to publication, supervise postgraduate students, and teach undergraduate and post-graduate papers on either Buddhism or Islam, and to contribute to other papers as may be appropriate within the successful candidate’s sphere of expertise. He or she will also contribute to the administration and development of academic and intellectual programmes and be part of the Department’s Distance Learning programme.

Applicants need a PhD and knowledge of languages relevant to their area of research expertise. It is hoped that duties will commence on 1 February 2013.

Specific enquiries may be directed to Dr Will Sweetman,

Department of Theology and Religion,

Tel 64 3 479 8793, Fax 64 3 479 5158, Email will.sweetman@otago.ac.nz.

Applications quoting reference number 1201137 close on Monday 1 October 2012.

Further information: http://www.otago.ac.nz/humanresources/careers/index.php


The Max Weber Center at the University of Erfurt invites applications for the position of a

Researcher in Ancient History of Religion – 65 % (26 h/week) within the research project „Lived Ancient Religion“ (directed by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke). The position is to be filled from 1st December 2012 onwards. The initial contract is for two years. The salary is according to TV-L E 13 (starting from brutto 24855,56 € p.a.).

Lived Ancient Religion“ takes a completely new perspective on the religious history of Mediterranean antiquity, starting from the individual and “lived” religion instead of civic religion. “Lived religion” suggests a set of experiences, of practices addressed to, and conceptions of the divine, which are appropriated, expressed, and shared by individuals in diverse social spaces, from the primary space of the family to the shared space of public institutions and trans-local literary communication. The member of the team we are looking for has to work on the formation of literary and expert discourse about religion and ritual (e.g. in the field of divination) and individual appropriations of such discourses in the Imperial period and thus to contribute to the analysis of the interaction of individuals with the agents of traditions and providers of religious services in the Mediterranean world. The group’s methodological approach is defined through the notions of religious experience, embodiment, and “culture in interaction”. For further information see http://www.uni-erfurt.de/max-weber-kolleg/projekte/kooperationsprojekte/lived-ancient-religion/. The project is financed by the European Research Council.

As a member of the team, the researcher is obliged to also share into the research tasks of the team, e.g. in preparing workshops, conferences, and publications.

.

The ideal candidate needs to

 

  • have an excellent MA or comparable degree in History of Religion, Classical Philology or Ancient History

  • should aim at a doctoral degree based on her or his research project

  • have a very good knowledge of English

  • have excellent knowledge of the relevant ancient language(s)

  • have substantial experience in analysing literary texts

  • fulfil the general admissions rules of § 84 Abs. 4 Thüringer Hochschulgesetz.

 

Any admission to the doctoral program of the Max Weber Center presupposes the participation in interdisciplinary colloquia.

 

For further information please contact joerg.ruepke [at] uni-erfurt.de

 

The University of Erfurt is an equal opportunity employer and encourage in particular applications by women. Ceteris paribus seriously handicapped people will have preference.

 

Deadline

Please send your application with CV, copies of your final school and university degrees, a copy of your MA thesis, and an outline of the research project you would like to pursue puntil 14 October 2012 to: University of Erfurt • Max Weber Centre • PO Box 900 221 • D-99105 Erfurt • Germany or to

ursula.birtel-koltes [at] uni-erfurt.de

 

As the University cannot refund any costs incurred by applying, your applications will not be resent. Please use photocopies or pdf files.


University of Southern California – Assistant Professor of Asian

Religions with specialization in China or Korea

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45119>

University of Toronto – Scarborough – Professor, South Asian History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45134>

College of Wooster – Assistant Professor, East Asian History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45108>

Northeastern University – Assistant Professor, Chinese History 19th

and/or 20th Century

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45129>

University of Virginia – David Dean Chair in Asian Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45092>

Duke University – SMART CHAIR IN JEWISH STUDIES

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45107>

Catholic University of America – Assistant Professor, Medieval Islam

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45099>

McGill University – Assistant Professor, Ottoman and Turkish Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45111>

Newcastle University – Lecturer in Japanese Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45136>

University of Otago – Dunedin – Lecturer in Japanese

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45097>

Yale University – Assistant Professor, Modern or Contemporary

Japanese Literature

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45088>

Stanford University – Assistant Professor of Philosophy

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45084>

Stanford University – Professor of Philosophy

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45093>

Lehigh University – Assistant Professor, with focus on Religions

related to Africana Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45106>

University of Southern California – Assistant Professor of Asian

Religions with specialization in China or Korea

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45119>


LECTURE

Theos Annual Lecture 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

Central Hall Westminster

Monday 1st October, 6.30pm for 7.00pm

I’m writing to invite you to the fifth Theos Annual Lecture, which will be delivered by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams on 1st October 2012. In one of his final public appearances before standing down, he will speak about ‘The person and the individual: human dignity, human relationships and human limits’.

The lecture will explore ways of understanding the human person as shaped and conditioned by relations with God and others – and the risks of reducing personal dignity to individual wellbeing alone.

The evening will be chaired by Mishal Husain. Mishal presents news bulletins on BBC1, is well known internationally for her work on BBC World News and has also presented BBC2’s Newsnight. Beyond the news, Mishal has presented documentary series on Gandhi and British Islam.

Theos annual lectures explore issues of religion in public life. Previous annual lecturers include now-former BBC Director General Mark Thompson, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, General Lord Richard Dannatt and Lord Blair, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Please let us know by 24th September if you’re able to join us.

Elizabeth Hunter

Director

ANY RESPONSES/QUERIES SHOULD BE SENT TO ALANNA MACLEOD (Alanna.macleod@theosthinktank.co.uk)


CONFERENCES

PAGANS AND CHRISTIANS IN LATE ANTIQUE ROME:  INTERPRETING THE EVIDENCE

Rome, 20-21 September 2012

Palazzo Falconieri, Accademia d’Ungheria, Via Giulia 1, Roma

Programme: http://medievalstudies.ceu.hu/events/2012-09-20/pagans-and-christians-in-late-antique-rome-interpreting-the-evidence

image of books

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 31 August 2012

31 August 2012 Issueimage of books

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page. Quite a short one this week…

In this issue:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Calls for Papers
  • Jobs
  • Fellowships

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


BOOKS


Promoting Peace, Inciting Violence: The Role of Religion and Media (Media, Religion and Culture) – Jolyon Mitchell (Sept 2012)

This book explores how media and religion combine to play a role in promoting peace and inciting violence. It analyses a wide range of media – from posters, cartoons and stained glass to websites, radio and film – and draws on diverse examples from around the world, including Iran, Rwanda and South Africa.

  • Part One considers how various media forms can contribute to the creation of violent environments: by memorialising past hurts; by instilling fear of the ‘other’; by encouraging audiences to fight, to die or to kill neighbours for an apparently greater good.
  • Part Two explores how film can bear witness to past acts of violence, how film-makers can reveal the search for truth, justice and reconciliation, and how new media can become sites for non-violent responses to terrorism and government oppression. To what extent can popular media arts contribute to imagining and building peace, transforming weapons into art, swords into ploughshares?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Promoting-Peace-Inciting-Violence-Religion/dp/041555747X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346354391&sr=1-1


JOURNALS


Sociology of Religion – Advance Notice – http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc

Culture and Religion http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rcar20/13/3

Buddhist Forum http://www.shin-ibs.edu/academics/_forum/v4.php


CALLS FOR PAPERS


International Congress: Rethinking Europe with(out) religion. Deadline for abstracts 30 September 2012

Full details as PDF can be found here CFP_Rethinking Europe with(out) Religion

Sehr geehrte Interessierte an der Forschungsplattform RaT! Liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen!

Die Forschungsplattform „Religion and Transformation in Contemporary European Society“ (RaT) möchte Sie hiermit auf den im Februar 2013 stattfindenden Kongress „Rethinking Europe with(out) Religion“ aufmerksam machen.

Details sowie ein Anmeldeformular finden Sie auf der Kongress-Homepage: www.rethinkingeurope.at

Die Kolleginnen und Kollegen an Universitäten und Bildungseinrichtungen bitte ich, diese Information im Rahmen der Ihnen zur Verfügung stehenden Möglichkeiten weiterzuleiten. Bitte machen Sie Studierende auf diesen Kongress aufmerksam! Für alle Fälle hänge ich den CfP an.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen und allen guten Wünschen für einen erholsamen Sommer!


JOBS


Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45049

Lehigh University – Associate or Full Professor, medieval or modern Judaism, and Director of Berman Center for Jewish Studies http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45050

University at Albany – Assistant Professor – Eastern Mediterranean Religion http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45016

University of Toronto Mississauga – Assistant Professor, South Asian Religious Literatures

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45035


FELLOWSHIPS


Title: Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica:  Historical

Consciousness and the Jewish Historical Imagination

Location: Massachusetts

Description: The Center for Jewish Studies and the Department of

History, Harvard University invite applications for the

2013-2014 Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica, on the theme:

Historical Consciousness and the Jewish Historical Imagination.

This includes, but is not limited to Jewish historiography in

all per …

Contact: :cjs@fas.harvard.edu

URL: www.fas.harvard.edu/~cjs/

Announcement ID: 196546

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196546


Title: Gangolf Schrimpf Visiting Fellowship, Fulda Faculty of

Theology

Date: 2012-09-30

Description: The Gangolf Schrimpf Visiting Fellowship will be

awarded to a junior or senior scholar with a well-defined

research project within the field of medieval studies (e.g.

History, Theology, Philosophy, Literature) who wants to spend

at least one month, and up to three months, at the Institute

Bibliothec …

Contact: goebel@thf-fulda.de

URL:

thf-fulda.de/sites/default/files/artikel/fellowship_englische_version_akt_version_0.pdf

Announcement ID: 196478

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196478


Podcasts

Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable? Discuss.

Budding theorists may find themselves conscripted into the ideological battles over the nature of religion or, to put a finer point on the argument, how scholarship in religious studies should be done. For even if one has not openly sided with a particular group regarding what ‘religion’ is, it is very likely you do have some inkling regarding how scholarship in religious studies should be done. As Russell McCutcheon notes in this interview one of his teaching texts is a brief opinion from a lawsuit in 1893 (Nix v. Hedden) regarding the nature of tomatoes. Are tomatoes fruits or are they vegetables? And why does it matter?

For the Purposes of…

McCutcheon, like the presiding judge in this case, is not terribly interested in the intrinsic nature or essence of the ‘tomato’ but rather what the tomato will be for purposes of trade and tariffs. This case upheld the Tariff Act of 1883 which did not charge a tax on imported fruit but did charge a tax for imported vegetables. If this case appears to have nothing to do with the battles over ‘religion’ look again and ask what happens when you supplement the word ‘tomato’ with ‘religion.’ Make the categorical division not between ‘fruit’ or ‘vegetable’ but rather envision a litany of possible interpretations such as ‘religion’ is at heart really about wielding knowledge and power, money and manipulation, primordial man’s explanation of the terrors and wonders of the natural world, individual neurosis, or a deep, personal and private encounter with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity, etc. How quickly seemingly solid categories come unraveled… suddenly, I am much more comfortable becoming an arbitrator on anything, tomatoes included, than on what I supposedly study.

Okay, let’s return to the tomato argument for a moment as perhaps it will shed some light on our predicament. In order to come to a conclusion we must look at precedent (i.e. how has the word been used before). We can also compare dictionary entries and call ‘expert’ witnesses. Oxford Dictionaries even weighs in on the argument… it seems that this issue arose because scientists and cooks use the word differently. According to Oxford Dictionaries, scientifically speaking, a tomato is a fruit. In the culinary world, the tomato is referenced as a vegetable because it is savory. Notice that the argument has morphed from pertaining to what category the tomato is in based on its qualities to a matter of who is doing the speaking.

One need only remember that Gershwin classic “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” to know that how one pronounces a word denotes not just dialectic difference but class distinction as well.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ3fjQa5Hls]

The tomato has a long and varied history. A native to South America, the term originates from the Nahuatl tomatl. Although recently heralded as a cancer-fighting food, historically the tomato has an infamous reputation.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) Film Poster

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) Film Poster

A member of the night shade family, the tomato has sporadically been labeled as poisonous, or at least suspect, and some naysayers have even gone so far as to dedicate websites to (www.tomatoesareevil.com) or make cult classic films about their true diabolical nature like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. And many readers are probably aware of the tales of throwing rotten tomatoes at bad actors! What may come as a surprise to these same readers is that tourists in Spain can pay $13 to participate in the world’s largest tomato fight!

Who knew that the tomato could be so polarizing?! Who knew this tiny fruit/vegetable could arouse such vitriol?! Fruit? Vegetable? Poisonous? Nutritious? Good? Evil? Is it a panacea or pandemic? It seems that the tomato defies our categories. It appears to transcend barriers. It is irreducible. And yet where are the departments of Tomato Studies? Where are the calls for the study of sui generis Tomato?

So before we sharpen the pitchforks and enter the fray, we should note that this doesn’t seem to be an either/ or (as in a tomato must be either a fruit or a vegetable) battle at all but a squabble addressed best by thinking about context. Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Is it good or evil? My answer to the ‘tomato’ question is one I offer frequently regarding the ‘religion’ question, much to the chagrin of my students, when they ask questions like “are Mormons Christians?”… it depends on who you ask and it depends on the context. And in a classic McCutcheon twist, I might ask them, who gains and who loses if we admit or deny Mormons (or tomatoes) entry into the halls of Christendom (or fruitdom)? And are any Mormons (or grocers or botanists) stopping by our classroom to ask our opinion?

Essence of Tomato

So we may never know the true, deep meaning, of ‘religion’ or ‘tomato.’ ‘Tomato’ as a Platonic ideal may always elude us. ‘Tomato’ like ‘religion’ may defy our categories. By using this example, McCutcheon is pointing out to us that perhaps we are too wedded to our conceptions of sui generis (unique, irreducible, pristine) ‘religion’ to see the social and political implications on our scholarship. Suddenly, the situation is a lot less dire when I apply these same questions to the enigma of the tomato. But before we dismiss the tomato controversy, we need to remember that the above case was judged by the Supreme Court. So, what do we do if declaring the true essence of ‘tomato’ or ‘religion’ is not within our jurisdiction as academics?

The judge in this case, along with McCutcheon, appears to nudge us towards a more terrestrial interpretation. Perhaps we will never know what a tomato, vegetable, or a fruit really is (ontologically speaking) but for purposes of trade and tariff, we can decide what a tomato will be. After all, our categories themselves (fruit and vegetable) as well as the term ‘tomato’ are products of language. Our categories and words could have been otherwise and in other cultures often are. As McCutcheon might argue our categories and words are contingent, conditional, and contextual.

wordle

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 3 Jan 2014

wordleWelcome to the first edition of the RSP Opportunities Digest for 2014. if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check out our Christmas Special, you can do so here. We’ll be back to our normal operational capacity with our first 2014 podcast on 13 January, with Russell McCutcheon speaking on sui generis religion.

As ever, please remember that we are not responsible for any content contained herein unless it is directly related to the RSP. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page. If you are enquiring about any of the opportunities listed below, please contact the organizers directly.

To skip to specific content within this digest, please use the table of contents to the right of your screen.

Changes to the RSP Team

With every arbitrary calendrical cycle comes changes, and the RSP is no exception to this ‘rule’. It is our sad duty to inform you that Per Smith and Louise Connelly had to step down from the RSP editorial team at the end of December for their own personal and professional reasons. The RSP are infinitely grateful to Per and Louise for everything that they have done for us up until now. Per has been involved with the RSP for around a year and a half, and his enthusiasm for interviewing and bringing the RSP to the other side of the Atlantic has been invaluable. Louise has been a core member of the editorial team since the RSP began, and we do not know where we would be without her sterling work behind the scenes with the social media, opportunities digests, posters and flyers and endless marketing and web advice. We know that both will keep in touch and remain friends of the RSP as we move into our third year and beyond. Thank You.

These changes to the team prompted an effort to restructure and, as such, we have now welcomed another three members to our editorial team – Tommy Coleman, of the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga, shall be co-managing our Social Media (along with existing editor Chris Silver), Kevin Whitesides, of the University of California at Santa Barbara, shall be managing our weekly features, and Daniel Favand, of the University of Edinburgh, shall be taking charge of audio editing. We are delighted to welcome all of these new members to the RSP Team. If you are interested in finding our more about our current editorial structure and team members, see here. If you would like to find out more about the more than 150 people who have directly contributed to the RSP, see here. And if you are interested in joining our team, see below for details of one further position we are currently trying to fill.

RSP Recruiting an Assistant Editor

As part of our restructuring process, we are currently looking to add a new assistant editor to our team. This individual – or, potentially, these individuals – will be responsible for producing and promoting these very opportunities digests. The ‘Opps Digest’ is one of the essential services that we provide through the RSP and requires a little bit of work on a weekly basis. Essentially, we have an email account – oppsdigest@religiousstudiesproject.com – which can be signed up to a variety of relevant mailing lists. In addition, others from within the team and from outside occasionally send through relevant job adverts, conference announcements, CfPs etc. to this address. The Opps Digest Editor simply needs to collate relevant material from these emails once a week, and place them into a post for the website, whilst also actively sourcing new sources of information. Louise and Chris, who have previously filled this role, will be able to liaise with the successful applicant\s on how they have done this up until now, but there is plenty of room for innovation.

The successful applicant should:

  • Be involved – whether as a student (of any level) or a professional academic – within the academic study of religion (broadly conceived)
  • Have a basic familiarity with WordPess\other blogging packages, in addition to general computing and social media skills.
  • Be a reliable and independent worker. It is essential that these digests are produced to a schedule every week, although the scheduled day can be negotiated. Other members of the team can cover the occasional week, but this must be arranged well in advance.
  • Be able to commit around one hour per week for the majority of the year to this role.

At this stage, and as will all positions on the RSP editorial team, this role will be for an initial period of one year – 2014 – after which there will be the opportunity to change roles/extend commitment as appropriate. Given our current financial situation, we are unable to offer any financial incentive to the successful applicant/s. However, we hope that the chance to be involved in what is arguably the primary hub for Religious Studies online, and the opportunities which accompany this, will be incentive enough.

If you are interested in this position, please send an academic CV and a brief note of interest detailing your suitability for the role to David and Chris at  editors@religiousstudiesproject.com by 31 January 2014.

New Book

THE INVENTION OF GOD IN INDIGENOUS SOCIETIES, by James L. Cox

Indigenous societies around the world have been historically disparaged by European explorers, colonial officials and Christian missionaries. Nowhere was this more evident than in early descriptions of indigenous religions as savage, primitive, superstitious and fetishistic.

Liberal intellectuals, both indigenous and colonial, reacted to this by claiming that, before indigenous peoples ever encountered Europeans, they all believed in a Supreme Being. The Invention of God in Indigenous Societies argues that, by alleging that God can be located at the core of pre-Christian cultures, this claim effectively invents a tradition which only makes sense theologically if God has never left himself without a witness.

Examining a range of indigenous religions from North America, Africa and Australasia – the Shona of Zimbabwe, the “Rainbow Spirit Theology” in Australia, the Yupiit of Alaska, and the Māori of New Zealand – the book argues that the interests of indigenous societies are best served by carefully describing their religious beliefs and practices using historical and phenomenological methods – just as would be done in the study of any world religion.

Calls for Papers

Panel: Religious Life and Medical Traditions

ASA 2014 “Anthropology and Enlightenment” (Call for Papers Closes Jan. 5th)

Religious practices, and the cosmologies they draw upon, shape many people’s understanding of the relationships of the body, the mind, and the soul. These understandings form a critical foundation from which social, cultural, and ethical perspectives of health and practices of healing emerge. Historical and contemporary perspectives of the development of Western medical traditions and clinical institutions has provided a framework that favours Western scientific discourse. Through this discourse, alternative medical traditions and practices have become largely marginalised. Furthermore, in many communities where concepts of health and healing practice draw strongly upon religious beliefs and alternative understandings of the natural world, the efficacy of Western medical traditions and institutional privilege has been challenged or reinterpreted.

How do religious perspectives, and respective cosmologies, address or influence practices of health and healing within the contours of various, and at times disparate, medical traditions? This panel invites papers that seek to explore this question through historical and contemporary contexts that address various understandings and notions of efficacy, and the diagnosis and treatment of physical and/or mental illnesses.

Contact: Don Duprez (donduprez@gmail.com)

http://www.nomadit.co.uk/asa/asa2014/panels.php5?PanelID=2745

6th Conference of the Mediterranean Worlds – Symbols and Models of the Mediterranean

University of Calabria, Department of Humanities, September 9-11, 2014

<http://medworlds6.altervista.org/call-papers/>

The Mediterranean Sea is a milieu in which it is possible to observe,

through an interdisciplinary lens, the undertaking of elements

defining an idea which conflicts with its immediate sensitive aspect;

an idea that arises from life situations and the imaginary world of

every man. Nevertheless, it remains a context in which is possible to

observe the presence and the constant use of historical symbols,

patterns and models of those people inhabiting its shores, as embedded

in both the artistic and material production, as well as in the

literary one.

The Mediterranean Sea could be investigated as a real geographical and

historical referee, that has generated, and continues to generate

symbols; but it can be also interpreted as the metaphor and allegory

of the ‘encounters and clashes’ between near and distant people. There

are symbols and models by which is possible to perceive and understand

convergences and contacts, and disclose common identities, even when

considering specific differences of the people.

The theme of this interdisciplinary conference will focus on these issues:

  • The symbols (signs, gestures, objects, animals, persons) capable of bringing to mind meanings deeply interconnected with the development of each of Mediterranean society.
  • The importance of tangible and intangible models serving as examples to reproduce and imitate the evidence that have marked and conditioned the life of the Mediterranean people from a political, religious, economic, and social viewpoints.

We welcome the submission of 250-word abstracts for twenty-minute

papers that broadly address the above themes, and that may address,

but not be limited by, the following topics:

  • Symbols and models disclosing common identities
  • Symbolical landmarks
  • Symbols of the State and Political Power as institutional models
  • Religious symbols
  • Settlements patterns and historical-economic models
  • Natural elements (living beings typical of the Mediterranean area bearing a symbolic value)
  • Literary production as often recording the centrality of the Mediterranean as a complex and contradictory allegory
  • Redefining Mediterranean boundaries as precarious and mobile limits, but also as bridges between lands and shores
  • The metaphor of the Mediterranean and the dialectic between the hegemonic power of the centers and the potential destabilizing peripheries.

Abstract Submissions:

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and should include at least

3 descriptive keywords, the presenter’s name, email address,

organization, and mailing address. The languages of the conference

will be English and Italian.

Please send your abstract submissions to:

m.salerno@unical.it; luca.zavagno@gmail.com

Deadline:

  • Abstract must be submitted by 1 March 2014
  • Notification of acceptance will be communicated by 1 April 2014

“LE FUNÉRAIRE. Mémoire, protocoles, monuments”

PROLONGATION DE LA DATE LIMITE DE SOUMISSION

JUSQU’AU 10 JANVIER 2014

11e colloque annuel de la MAE organisé par Grégory Delaplace (LESC) et Frédérique Valentin (ArScAn) du 18 au 20 juin 2014 Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

http://www.mae.u-paris10.fr/appel-a-communications-colloque-de-la-mae-2014/

Jobs

Lecturer, Religious Studies

Mahidol University – <http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=48282>

Post-Doc-Position in History, Theology, Jewish Studies or Religious Studies

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen – <http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=48277>

New Members Wanted to Join the NSRN Blog Editorial Team

In September the NSRN launched its online blog Nonreligion and Secularity (blog.nsrn.net) which aims to provide an informative resource for scholars and professionals working in the field of nonreligion and secularity research, and offer a space for the dissemination of research-related information to a wider audience.

We are currently looking to expand and are seeking enthusiastic people to join the editorial team.

As well as helping to build upon the initial success of the blog, new team members will have the opportunity to play a dynamic role in the blog’s ongoing development and its vision for the future.

Depending on experience, successful applicants will undertake some, or all, or the following responsibilities:

  • Conducting editorial reviews of blog submissions
  • Soliciting commissions from potential blog authors
  • Responding to submissions of outlined proposals for articles
  • Copyediting and publishing posts to the blog
  • Monitoring comments and responses to published blog articles
  • Dealing with general blog enquiries
  • Promoting the blog via social media and other sources
  • Working with the other team members on ways to enhance and improve the blog website and increase exposure and traffic
  • Engaging in virtual team meetings, via email or Skype, to discuss ongoing blog developments.
  • We welcome applications from people in all stages of their academic career, including post-graduate students and early career researchers. Research experience within the field of nonreligion and secularity, or previous experience of blogging, is useful but not essential; we are also keen to hear from applicants working in other related research areas who feel they can offer a valuable external perspective on topics of N&S research.

The positions are unpaid, but they offer applicants an opportunity to increase their editorial experience and the chance to engage with researchers and authors at the forefront of nonreligion and secularity research, as well as being a beneficial addition to their CV.

If you would be interested in joining the blog team please send a short cover note and CV by email to blog editor Lorna Mumford (lorna.mumford.10@ucl.ac.uk).

Deadline for applications: Friday 17th January 2014

Support the RSP through Amazon

You can help to financially support the RSP simply by shopping on Amazon – and at no additional cost to you!. f you click through to Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com or Amazon.ca through these links, and buy ANY product during your visit, the RSP will earn referral fees. There will be no additional cost. Why not add a shortcut to your bookmarks bar and use these links every time you shop?

Please help us keep the RSP free, open and accessible by spreading the word and using this simple, cost-effective way of supporting us.

Christmas Special 2013 – Nul Point

Over the past few weeks, many of you will have been under the impression that an important event is just around the corner. Greeting cards have been sent. Food has been stockpiled. Music rehearsed… It’s clearly that time of year again. Which can mean only one thing: the RSP has been on to go for two years – can you believe this?

Nul Point Contestants

Nul Point Contestants George Chryssides, Jim Cox, Stephen Gregg, Suzanne Owen, Hanna Lehtinen, Teemu Taira, Jonathan Tuckett and David Wilson.

To celebrate, we couldn’t resist bringing you another Christmas special [other (non-)religious festivals are available]. Following on from last year’s hilarious Only Sixty Seconds, we brought together last year’s winner (Dr David Wilson), and last year’s ‘most entertaining loser’ (Jonathan Tuckett), with six other contestants, to fight for the coveted RSP Christmas trophy.

The game?

Nul Point! (any resemblance to a popular BBC television programme hosted by Alexander Armstrong is entirely coincidental). Before the show, we gave 64 of the RSP listeners 100 seconds to answer a variety of questions. The aim of the game for contestants is to correctly find the answer which the least percentage of these people answered correctly. Simples.

The contestants?

Professor George Chryssides, Professor James Cox, Dr Stephen Gregg, Hanna Lehtinen, Dr Suzanne Owen, Dr Teemu Taira, Jonathan Tuckett, and Dr David Wilson

The venue?

Liverpool Hope University, at the BASR/EASR/IAHR Conference in September 2013, with a special live studio audience.

What is the least well known book of the Bible? How many people in the UK listed their ‘religion’ as ‘Jedi Knight’ on the UK 2011 Census? What is Professor Jim Cox’s drink of choice? To find out, you need do nothing more than hit ‘Play’ and enjoy this forty minutes of pure, unadulterated, top quality Religious Studies entertainment. Remember to listen to the end for some amusing outtakes.

You can also download this podcast, and subscribe to receive it weekly, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca or Amazon.com links to support us at no additional cost as you start to enact your New Year’s resolutions – whatever they may be.

There was a picture round as part of the game show – you can view these pictures here. Interested in seeing a picture of the winner being presented with their trophy? Click here.

Non-denominational seasonal greetings to all our listeners, and best wishes for 2014. We’ll be back in January – bigger and better than ever. Many thanks to everyone who took part in this recording – the contestants, the hosts, and the studio audience. Thanks to the BASR/EASR/IAHR for facilitating this recording and adding it to the official conference schedule. Thanks to the technical team at Liverpool Hope University for the audio recording, and to the inestimable David Robertson for technical wizardry on the night, and in pulling the episode together. Thanks to those listeners and fans who helped out by providing the much-needed material for the game show. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, thanks for listening.

What is the Study of Religion/s? Self-Presentations of the Discipline on University Web Pages

Foreword

Here is the first research article on the religious studies project website. In fact, the article also deals with websites: it analyzes the ways in which religious studies (the study of religion\s) is presented on an international sample of university-websites. The authors think this is an important issue for the discipline since these websites are much used nodes of interface between the discipline and its audiences within or beyond the walls of the university. There was no Religious Studies Project website when the authors began working on this article (back in 2010), but coincidentally this seems like the perfect place to publish such a study. Since the text is quite long, Knut Melvær has developed the typographic features on the site, including pop-up footnotes (try mouseover the footnote numbers) and the “sticky” table of contents. Publishing this article online also allows us to make our data-set (“codebook”) available.

We are looking forward to your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.

The authors wish to thank Reier M. Schoder for helping us with the data collection. Our thanks also go to Steven Engler, Alexander Alberts, Håkon Tandberg, Knut Aukland, and Helge Årsheim for reading and commenting on earlier drafts.

Download the article as a .pdf (But please refer to the online article).

Introduction

Even if the ‘public intellectual’ may not be the preferred job description and role model of all scholars of religion\s (McCutcheon 2001), there is no way of getting around the fact that the study of religion\s, as a discipline practiced at universities around the world, engages in public communication outside the institutional ivory towers.1 In different capacities and to varied degrees scholars of religion\s are involved in public communication and the study of religion\s is itself also an object of public communication. Which roles is it expected to play, and which tasks is it expected to perform? How is the discipline perceived and understood in public discourse? Does it get its messages across? Has it contributed to literacy in religious matters? How is its knowledge distinguished from common-sense assumptions?2

Conversely, in the present article we investigate how the discipline presents itself to the public. What is the study of religion\s, how does it want to be understood by the public, in communication with its audiences and stakeholders? By far the main communicative interface between the discipline and the general public is the internet. People may just make a Google search for ‘religious studies’, ‘study of religion’, ‘history of religions’ or terms like these if they want to know something about this academic and intellectual enterprise. Given the way that Google’s search algorithm is currently set up, one of the top hits would likely be the relevant entry in Wikipedia, i.e. “Religious Studies”. For the critical positioning of the discipline it would be interesting, and maybe even necessary, to analyze the presentation and perception of the study of religion\s as an academic discipline in relevant segments of the internet, including various encyclopaedias or other important sources of information. The present article looks at another interface between the discipline and the public sphere: the self-presentation of the discipline, or the subject, on the websites of universities where it is currently taught.

Most universities with departments of the study of religion\s (under its various names) and offering relevant programs provide some kind of information about the discipline, its practitioners, its educational dimension and ongoing research. While the information given on these web pages is accessible to everybody and where pages may be visited for unpredictable reasons, we assume that most web pages probably have prospective and current students as their main target audience. One also expects these pages to present the relevance and profile of the discipline for a more non-specific audience, in addition to colleagues searching for research-related information and the media looking for experts and sources of information.

Such web pages may well be the most important medium for the discipline to present itself to the public and to its present and future or prospective practitioners. Based on a content analysis of a multinational sample of web pages as per the period October – December 2010 (when we retrieved the relevant data), the present article analyzes patterns of self-presentation of the study of religion\s.

Note that not all these web pages are necessarily written by practitioners of the discipline. We know of some universities where the content of the web pages is effectively beyond control of the faculty, and in many other cases the university imposes restrictions on possible content (in terms of length or kinds of content to be covered, often in the form of templates). In this article, however, we are less concerned with the perspective of the authors, but with the content found on the sites, given that the university web pages convey the impression of describing the discipline and/or the program as understood at the respective institution.

The Sample

While there appears to be no international standard on how university websites are organized, information about educational programs, information about research, and information about faculty (typically listed under departments or schools) feature separately on most websites. The present analysis focuses on two kinds of web pages: those of departments and those of programs in the study of religion\s. It includes only web pages that make some sort of general statements on the study of religion\s by addressing the nature and the working of the discipline.3

In our sampling we started with the website of our own department and those of other Norwegian universities and then cast our net wider. Our final sample comprises 101 texts gathered from websites of 70 universities located in Northern Europe/Scandinavia (Denmark [3], Finland [4], Norway [5], Sweden [7]), Western/South Western Europe (Germany [11], the Netherlands [5], Spain [2], Switzerland [6], UK ([England: 8; Scotland: 6]), North America (Canada [9], USA [22]), the Pacific (Australia [5], New Zealand [6]), and South Africa (2). (See the appendix for the full list of universities and a key to the text IDs used for references in the following.)

Our sample can seem somewhat biased towards some countries or cultural areas.4 Some readers might for example object that the four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) are represented by almost as many cases (19 in total) as the United States (22), even though the total number of departments and programs is many times higher in that country. As our sampling strategy aimed at covering national diversity (which we experience as very real distinctions in academic cultures not the least in terms of languages) this strategy clearly privileges Europe with a total of 57 cases, amounting to 56 per cent of our total text sample and 66 per cent of our university sample. Even the European sample, however, does not include all potentially relevant countries. In particular, the European sample excludes Eastern and Central Eastern Europe (mainly for reasons of limited linguistic competence).

Our sampling strategy could not attempt to achieve statistical representativeness for the simple reason that, as far as we can see, there is no reliable data available on the population or the universe (i.e. the totality of all departments and programs in the study of religion\s), and hence there is no means of knowing to what extent this population could be represented accurately by our sample. However, in sampling we sought to cover internationally recognized (by scholarly standards) departments, so that our sample can hopefully claim some degree of ecological validity. For the United States, for example, we tried to include some of the biggest graduate programs.

Even for our selection of countries, given the variety of educational landscapes, media cultures, national contexts of the discipline and the different sizes of the countries, our sample is not, and cannot be, representative in strictly statistical terms. Yet, we hope that our analysis provides some significant findings with relevance for the ongoing critical self-reflection of the discipline. Obviously, statistical data analysis can be used (and is commonly used) even if a sample is not representative and if a study does not aim at arriving at statistically representative findings. Such methods allow us to explore general patterns (and non-patterns) and recurrent themes (or idiosyncratic features) in the material.

The longest text in our sample contains 941 words (University of Alabama #27), while the shortest text has only 34 words (University of Bremen #49). There are a total of eight cases with texts numbering more than 600 words, and there are nine cases using less than 100 words. The arithmetic mean for the sample is 302 words, while the median is 217 words. Given that some texts are longer, it is also likely that they are overrepresented in the following discussion.5

While the study of religion\s is a global enterprise (Alles 2008), our sample was intended to reflect the traditionally predominant ‘Western’ topography of international discourse as it is manifested in international core publications of the field (like the major international journals and works of reference). A minor selection of texts from some further countries published in languages accessible to us would have confounded our sample more than it would have added in clarity. However, we invite scholars from other regions, or with expertise on such regions, to replicate our study and test our findings, if deemed interesting, with a different sample.

Having decided on the sample, we downloaded the texts from the various web pages. We then analyzed the texts for recurrent information and motives. As a result of several rounds of discussion, based on the textual corpus initially generated, we inductively created several categories, which we used to code the downloaded texts. These categories encompass different aspects of the meaning and identity of a scholarly discipline as transmitted at universities. Starting from its name or designation to the definition of its nature and subject matter, we look at statements about its aims, goals and purposes, its methods and main approaches, its relevance, its main thematic issues and areas of specialization, its relationships to other disciplines and field (the disciplinary matrix) and its demarcation from other discourses about its subject matter.6 Given that educational transmission is part of what makes scholarly enterprises into disciplines, we also coded the websites for statements about skills, attitudes and competence ideally transmitted to incoming practitioners of the discipline and employment prospects and career options of graduates, as these aspects are increasingly perceived to be part of education and disciplinary training. Finally, while all these statements are of a verbal nature, we were also interested in the visual aspect of the presentation of the texts.

Designations

Contrary to disciplines such as history, psychology, or sociology, the study of religion\s does not sail under the flag of one common name. Partly, this is the result of the specific genealogy of the discipline, partly of competing self-understandings, partly of different discursive and national contexts. Which designations are used in our sample? Given that we are dealing with texts in different languages, we had to collate semantically synonymous expressions into single categories. Moreover, we found that the names of departments and programs and the names used for the discipline used in the texts can at times diverge. Some cases use different designations.7

Two designations by far dominate our sample:

  • Religionswissenschaft (including religionsvitenskap, religionsvetenskap, Ciencias de las Religiones, and sciences des religions): 22 universities, amounting to slightly more than a third of all 70 universities in our sample. With one exception (Université Laval #71) all cases are from Europe (Denmark [2], Germany [5], Norway [3], Spain [1], Sweden [5], Switzerland [5]).
  • Religious Studies (including Religionsstudier): 21 universities, amounting to 30 per cent of all cases. This name is used by universities in Canada (3), Denmark (1), England (1), the Netherlands (2), New Zealand (4) Scotland (1), South Africa (1), and the USA (8).

In addition to these two predominant designations, which account for 61 per cent (43/70), i.e. almost two thirds, of all cases in our sample, there are six others that occur in between two to five instances each:

  • Comparative religion: four universities, including two in Finland, one in the Netherlands, and one in the USA (The University of Washington #30).
  • Religion: four universities, including one in Scotland, one in Canada, one in New Zealand, and two in the USA. Typically, “religion” features as a department name.
  • The study of religion: four universities, two in Canada, one in England and one in the United States (Duke University (#97/98), where one finds “the study of religion” or “the academic study of religion”).
  • Studies in Religion: three universities, all in Australia.
  • Theology and Religious Studies: two universities, both in the UK (England, Scotland).
  • History of Religions (religionshistorie and religionshistoria): two universities, one in Norway and one in Sweden.

If one were to code ‘Studies in Religion’ and ‘Theology and Religious Studies’ together with ‘Religious Studies’, that category would comprise 27 cases, which would make it the largest category. In addition, there are two unique cases that also combine Religious Studies with another designation. While Divinity clearly refers to theology, it seems that Religious Studies in the latter case also means theology:

  • Divinity and Religious Studies (University of Aberdeen #33)
  • Religious Studies and Comparative Religion (Manchester University #60)

In sum, designations such as Comparative Religion and History of Religions, which were important in former times, are now used by very few universities (less than ten per cent). While Religionswissenschaft and its cognate denominations prevail in continental Europe (with the exception of the Netherlands), Religious Studies predominates in the Anglo-sphere, with the Australian Studies in Religion as one national variety. In the UK, however, one finds several denominations, sometimes in combination with divinity/theology (which does not imply that there are no theologians or theological elements in departments and programs carrying other names). The Study of Religions is not (yet) established as a current term, even though several national and international associations carry this designation in their names8.

‘Religion’

Webpages from 29 universities, corresponding to some 41 per cent of our sample of universities, provide some kind of definitions of the nature of the study of religion\s. In one way or the other, almost all of these statements make the point that the study of religion\s studies ‘religion’, religious traditions or religious phenomena as its subject matter.9 Given this explicit delimitation and the extensive discussions about the concept and definition of ‘religion’ during the past decades, one would not have been surprised to find adumbrations of these discussions, if not explicit reflections on these issues, on the webpages. Yet, it turns out that this is not the case; one wonders whether the webpages seek to avoid being dragged into these abysmal problems.

The most prominent feature of religion evoked by the definitional statements in our sample, in eleven cases, is an appeal to the variety or diversity of religion, religious expressions or phenomena, in time and space. In two cases this corresponds to highlighting the complexity and in one case each the universality of religion or the comparative outlook of the study of religion\s.10

Only six out of 101 texts contain what we would categorize as explicit definitions of religion, i.e. statements that specify what religion is or religions are (about). We are here not thinking of general statements such as “Religion is a major force in human experience” (Indiana University #101), that religions are “historical and cultural phenomena” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill #32), or that religion is “an essential aspect of the cultures of the world and the interactions among them” (University of Toronto #74).11 Instead, we have in mind more comprehensive and precise determinations that aim at determining the nature of religion\s. Note that four out of these six definitional statements are found on continental European websites (plus one from New Zealand and one from Canada). Only one of these definitions recalls recent debates about the notion of religion:

Religion as such does not exist. It is a concept developed in the West as a label for a wide variety of human ideas and behaviour, which are centered around human interaction with postulated (non- or meta-empirical) realities.

Leiden University #68

While the different definitions play on different theoretical registers, they all emphasize the agency of religion; religion mainly occurs in the active mode. This active voice also resonates in various ‘religion is’ and ‘religion has’ statements or other verbal qualifiers (like ‘to affect’, ‘to shape’, to function’, ‘to set forward’, ‘to underpin’, ‘to matter’, etc.) which occur throughout the corpus of texts.

The texts refer to vast areas of impact of religion, mainly on politics and conflicts, but also generally pertaining to behavior and “human culture and experience” (University of Cape Town #75). Only a minority of texts point to ambivalent or contradictory effects of religion12 and/or they express the statements as a possibility (‘can’; University of Groningen #52; Södertörn University #16; University of Zurich #90). One text makes the point that religion can be a host of different things (Södertörn University #16, which then lists a series of examples). In one case, the possible impact of religion is linked to the motivational force of religious beliefs; this source also refers to conflicting claims by stating that religions “are sometimes accused of limiting or repressing people, yet also offer resources which sustain people through times of suffering and oppression” (University of Glasgow #34), which could be read as a defence of religion against its denouncers. The interdependence of religion with examples of other human constructs is repeatedly mentioned in the texts, especially with culture (yet the agency in these relations is typically assigned to religion).

The emphasis of the impact of religion and its active agency constitute a ‘claim of relevance’. It is unclear to what extent this claim results from empirical research. One way of explaining the persistent presence of this claim of relevance is the rhetorical and communicative setting of the texts, which frames them not primarily as information tools but as advertisement and marketing devices.13 Given that producers of the websites may expect their users to be primarily non-scholars, in particular potential students (and the number of students-intake is often decisive for the future viability of the departments or programs), and given that they may expect that only ‘relevant’ matters attract attention and students, this may result in a relatively uncritical overemphasis on the general importance and agency of religion. We have no means of knowing how effective this marketing strategy is. Yet, if our reading of the ‘claim of relevance’ as a sales strategy to highlight the relevance and necessity for the ‘product’ of our scholarly activities, the study of religion\s, is justified, then it raises the ethical question how far is it legitimate to proclaim things as facts that many would admit in other contexts to be mere assumptions.

Religions

As indicated above, several websites state that the study of religion\s deals with all religions or with a wide cross-cultural range of religions/religious phenomena. These general claims are illustrated on a number of websites with examples. Some 32 web pages provide names of religions (e.g. Islam), of cultural/historical religious traditions (e.g. Egyptian religion), of types of religions (e.g. world religions), of types of religious traditions (e.g. religions without writing), of historical phenomena (e.g. New Religious Movements), of larger geographical units (e.g. the Mediterranean), of macro-geographic units such as continents (e.g. African religions), of modern nations (e.g. religions in Canada) or of cities (religion in Leeds, which is the only case of that type), or related concepts (e.g. spirituality).

Numerically, one group of religions is mentioned far more often than the rest. This groups comprises Islam and Hinduism (18 cases each), Buddhism (17), Christianity (16), and Judaism (14). In our sample, these clearly are the salient examples, or prototypical religions. In practice, then, it seems that the traditional world-religion model is still the dominant one.

There is a second group of religions mentioned by far fewer, i.e. two to five, cases: Confucianism (5), Taoism (4), Sikhism (3), Jainism (2), and New Age (2). This category also comprises some collective terms such as East and South Asia (4), African religion (3), ancient Mediterranean religions (3), religions of China (2), religions in Japan (2), Asian religions (2), religions in America (2), Amerindian religions (2). All other cases are single (‘idiosyncratic’) examples.

Disciplinary Matrix

The debates about the alleged sui generis character of religion and, accordingly, the study of it, have raised the issue of its disciplinary belonging. In our sample, something less than a quarter (24/101) of the texts address the disciplinary setting of the study of religion\s. This happens on several levels. To begin with, there is the context of the university, with faculty having duties in “other university departments and academic programs” (University of Waterloo #63) or by closely cooperating “with other departments in the college and professional schools which have interests in the study of religion” (Emory University #99).

On a meta-level, the study of religion\s is sometimes classified as being part of a branch, class, division or family of academic labor. The University of Vermont regards the study of religion\s as “a crucial part of the wider study of human cultures, global affairs, and personal identities” (#28). More established terms such as the humanities or the social sciences are invoked by relatively few cases.14 From the fact that the “academic study of religion draws directly on all of the humanities and social sciences” the University of Miami concludes that “it invites us to think in a fuller, more integral way about human life” (#26).15 Three cases refer the study of religion\s as a field of study (University of Turku #9; UC Santa Barbara #22; University of Groningen #53). Only two cases identify the study of religion\s as a ‘discipline’—and even this not in the full sense of an academic discipline. While the University of Waikato speaks of a “university discipline” (#84), Duke University opts for the somewhat paradoxical term “interdisciplinary discipline” (#97), emphasizing that it “employs a wide variety of approaches and methods in order to understand the role of religion in both human experience and thought” (#97). In addition, three definitions point to its multi-, trans-, or interdisciplinary nature.16 The web pages clearly show a hesitation to affirm the disciplinary status of the study of religion\s. It is also commonly recognized that the study of religion\s has several branches or sub-disciplines. Anthropology, psychology, or sociology of religion are typical sub-disciplines, even though most active scholars in these fields may well be employed at departments in these disciplines rather than in departments of the study of religion\s.

A greater desire to spell out the disciplinary context of the study of religion\s can be found in Germany and Switzerland, where several texts (University of Bremen #49; LMU Munich #51; University of Zurich #90; University of Berne #92; University of Lucerne #93) firmly identify the study of religion\s as being a Kulturwissenschaft.17 In one case (Bremen) this label is combined with that of Geisteswissenschaft and in another case (Lucerne) with that of the social sciences. As the only non-German speaking example of this contextualisation, the University of Turku refers to a “close relation to different aspects of Cultural Sciences” (#10). Other cases classify the study of religion\s as a humanistic education (Aarhus University #8) or as an education in cultural history (University of Copenhagen #6).

In our sample, four cases explicitly insist on a distinction from theology. One main criterion of distinction put forward by the web pages is the insider/outsider separation: “What the programs offer are not theological studies from within any given religious tradition” (University of Ottawa #73); the study of religion\s “is not grounded in any particular religious tradition but deals even-handedly with religions found throughout the world” (Massey University #80). This issue is related to that of normativity: as the University of Ottawa web page makes clear, the “programs do not consider any religious tradition to be normative” (#73). The University of Alabama identifies the distinction in the different kinds of “data” used by these two “enterprises”: “the academic study of religion studies people, their beliefs, and their social systems; the theological study of religion studies God/the gods and their impact on people” (#27).18 The University of Copenhagen takes a more pragmatic perspective: contrary to theology, the study of religion\s does not educate future priests, and even where it studies Christianity it regards this as a religion in a given cultural and societal context (#6).

The demarcation of boundaries from its confessional or theological other and religious discourses is also made explicit in a few definitional statements from Europe, South Africa, and the United States. The University of Washington briefly remarks that the Comparative Religion Program from the start “intended not to teach religion, but to teach about it” (#30). The University of Lausanne proposes that religions are studied in a non-confessional and ‘exterior’ manner, which is here linked to an implicit definition or theory of religion that regards religions as products of human cultural activity (#95).19 The University of Zurich explicitly holds that it is not part of the business of the study of religion\s to fathom religious truth or to decide which religions are better than other. Moreover, scholars of religion do not need to be religious themselves (University of Zurich #91).

Topics

Besides studying a series of religions and religious phenomena in given geographical contexts, the study of religion\s is also concerned with aspects of religion (such as myth or ritual) or topics relating to religion (such as gender or power). What kind of topics (aspects of religion and issues related to religion) is the study of religion\s concerned with according to our sample of websites?20 While some websites mention such topics in a general manner, other cases refer to research topics of faculty or to potential areas of specialization for undergraduate and graduate students (or topics of past student papers); others, last but not least, list topics of courses that are offered by the respective department or as part of the respective program.

Using these criteria, from our sample of 101 texts, 39 contain relevant information. In total (in our coding) 75 keywords (identified by separate codes) emerged. The majority of these (44) are ‘idiosyncratic’ items, i.e., they are mentioned by only one text. Several of these keywords, however, have been central stage in recent research in the discipline/field. Consider topics such as (in alphabetic order) cognition, ecology (and, in addition, climate change), emotion, ethnicity, gods, health, human rights, identity, immigration, law, media, pluralism, popular religion, post-colonialism, power, race, state, and terrorism. The history of the study of religion\s is likewise mentioned by one text only (The University of Ottawa #72).21  Not represented at all are issues such as evolution or evolutionary theory and material culture (but built environments, i.e. architecture, is mentioned once).

Figure 1: Word cloud of topics mentioned on two or more web pages

Figure 1: Word cloud of topics mentioned on two or more web pages

Keywords with two or more occurrences are here presented visually in a word cloud22, where terms with the lowest frequency (2) are smallest going up in size to those with the highest frequency (11). The ‘interaction of religion’ variable functions as an umbrella code that also encompasses a variety of other keywords; note that we only coded cases using terms like ‘connections’, ‘interaction’, ‘interplay’, ‘interrelationship’, ‘intersection’, and ‘relation’, but we did not include cases that speak of the ‘effect’ of given issues on religion such as the effects of globally connected structures of communication on the emergence of religious ideas and practices mentioned by the University of Zurich (#90) or how such issues affect religion.

At the top of the list, one finds the following four broad categories: politics (10 cases from nine universities), culture (11), ethics (11 from ten universities), and history (11 from ten universities). Each of these represents over a quarter of all texts relevant for this section, and around 10 per cent of the entire sample. Numerically, they appear as the most typical and salient topics in the study of religion\s according to our sample of websites. Apparently, the web pages are primarily concerned with appealing to common ground with other disciplines.

Given that ethics is rarely discussed in major companions and handbooks, its prominence in our sample is somewhat surprising. What does that topic cover? To begin with, as in the case of politics and culture, there are the religion-ethics connections (University of Stirling #38; University of Toronto #74). Duke University addresses ethics as a specific feature of religions just like gender, visual modes, and mysticism (#98), while the University of Southern Denmark (#7) is concerned with the distinctions between religious and non-religious ethics. The department text at Emory University refers to a course on ethics (#99), but when speaking of ethics it is unclear whether that deals with ethics in relation to historical religions or with ethics from a religious background. At Indiana University, it is clearly stated that some faculty members are “primarily ethicists” (#102), and one of the five course areas at the University of Waterloo is called “theology, philosophy, and ethics” (#63). At Uppsala University students analyze difficult ethical problems (#15), while McGill has BA and MA specializations in bioethics (#66), the University of Queensland pays attention to stem-cell research (#85) and Emory University (#100) is concerned with “long-standing debates” over medical ethics (among other issues). From our perspective, all this squarely fits the business of theology and philosophy but is situated outside the realm of a discipline/field seeking to account for religion as historical phenomena (which is where the present writers situate themselves).

Aims, Skills, Competence

The identity of an academic discipline, particularly in the shape of programs of study, is also determined by the aims and goals it sets itself. In total, we coded 29 cases as containing explicit or implicit statements about the purpose of the study of religion\s and/or the aims of the programs. The two most-used key-words are knowledge (11 cases) and understanding (10 occurrences).23  Only very few cases specify the desired kind of knowledge in any way. The Complutense University of Madrid, for example, speaks of providing ‘rational and critical knowledge’ of ‘the religious fact and the evolution of the different religious traditions’ (#77).24 ‘Critical’ or ‘critique’ are recurrent keywords in seven cases, but these terms have a wide range of meanings covering, for example, source criticism and critical theory. The Université Laval proposes the development of a ‘general religious culture’, but adds to this the unfolding of a critical sense both towards one’s own experiences and towards religious and spiritual phenomena (#71).25

The University of Canterbury launches ‘cultural literacy’ as an ultimate aim and holds that one cannot achieve this if one fails to understands the role played by religion and ‘critically’ engages with them (#79). The University of Zurich seeks to provide knowledge and (inter- or trans-) ‘cultural competence’ and thereby hopes to contribute to tolerance and communication or understanding (#90). While this aim refers to a potential societal contribution by the study of religion\s, some other texts, from England and the United States, focus on the desired moral qualities of their alumni. The program at Leeds University wishes to “equip students for understanding, living and working reflectively and responsibly within a plural society” (#58). At Arizona State University, “the faculty of Religious Studies seek to foster civic responsibility and global awareness” (#96). Emory University’s Department of Religion “engages students to understand themselves better as moral agents in the world, and to help them appreciate the moral and spiritual dimensions of the interpretive activity they pursue in the study of religion” (#99). The study of religion\s is here not only conceived as having a moral dimension (in terms of research ethics), but also as having a spiritual one.

In the educational process, the aims, goals, intent and purpose of the study of religion\s are ideally converted into skills and qualifications to be acquired by students and graduates. If properly transmitted and internalized, the theoretical dimension of the academic practice translates into practical knowledge; the students will acquire a specific competence if the discipline performs well. In total, we identified 24 texts (from 21 universities) as containing statements on skills and competences. In several respects, there is an overlap with the aims and goals of the programs.26 Here is a text from the University of Queensland (#85):

Studying Religion can:

  • Develop your understanding and knowledge of the cultural foundations and current trends in many religious and spiritual movements
  • Provide insight into the cultural settings in which various religions are practised, showing ways that societies and individuals construct their own ideas of the spiritual and therefore their own sense of identity
  • Offer you the chance to learn Arabic, Greek, Pali and Sankrit [sic!] to gain insight into other cultures
  • Promote respect, appreciation and understanding of religious and cultural diversity
  • Encourage reflection on your own world view

The reader will immediately recall some keywords and leitmotivs from the aims and scope section (above). Yet, the text is apparently addressed to potential students and its intention is not to make a pronouncement on the aims and scope of the discipline but to list the benefit or pay-off that prospective students can expect to derive from studying religion. The text addresses intellectual, ethical and personal traits. It seems to suggest that the study of religion\s makes students more respectful, appreciative, and understanding with regard to cultural diversity, which is an attitude, but not a skill. Encouraging reflection on one’s world-view (note that the text here avoids speaking of religion) is neither an aim of the discipline nor is it a skill of the student, but a process leading to developing a more reflected and often mature attitude. Another text from the Pacific area, Massey University, similarly announces that students will have the opportunity for personal reflection without being directly exposed to a specific religious message: “Religious Studies will not give you the answers to life’s mysteries, but it will stimulate and inform your own reflection” (#80).

In almost identical wording (which might raise the issue of plagiarism, which unlike scholarly production seems to be tolerated in this kind of texts), two Norwegian texts assert that students will receive knowledge about the relationship between religion and society and a unique cross-cultural competence.27 Several cases appeal to skills of relevance for plural societies. This includes talk of (unspecified) “practical skills needed for understanding and operating in situations where cultures interact” (University of Helsinki #12), “skills in analysis and human interaction” (Lancaster University #55), “a multidisciplinary critical skills base in the area of religion for those in training for, or active within, professions that engage with the religious aspect of multicultural societies” (University of New England #89), “qualifications and skills appropriate for personal development, professional employment and further study in a secular society where religious issues remain influential, though are often unrecognised” and “interpersonal and intellectual skills of empathy with critical distance” (University of Waikato #58).

Some web pages speak of communicative skills in a more technical sense, that of so-called soft or transferable skills. None of these are specific to the study of religion\s. Communication and writing are connected to skills of effectively disseminating academic knowledge to other audiences. Yet, in our sample, it is only the University of Southern Denmark (#7) that emphasizes this skill. In the text, it figures next to adopting an ‘analytical-critical’ attitude towards public debates.

Career Prospects and Employment Perspectives

Some texts create a link between talking about the skills and competences students have acquired by taking a program and potential employment perspectives (#24, #38, #39, #89).28 The career options mentioned here tend to be somewhat vague; the most extreme case, which actually ends up by tracking no path of employment in particular, comes from the University of Cape Town: “Such study provides not only valuable insights into the world in which we live, but also the skills of critical analysis, conceptual thought and imaginative empathy that will allow you to pursue a rewarding career after university” (#76).

26 texts from 23 universities in our sample have something to say about career and employment prospects of their candidates. Three web pages–from Canada, New Zealand, and the USA–address the professional achievements of their alumni. Since they point to a vast array of career options they may be worth quoting in full; by providing some geographical details the Canadian case gives a more authentic and reliable feel:

Some of our Religious Studies majors have found the following jobs: Physician in Sioux Lookout, Ontario; Director of Development Agency in Uganda; Chaplain at Correctional Services Canada; Program Assistant at The Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse; Teacher of Religion in the RCSS Board; Program Co-ordinator at Catholic Family Services; Youth Pastor in a United Mennonite Church.”

University of Waterloo #64

Former graduates of our programme have gone on to become journalists, artists, musicians, film directors, teachers, gallery directors, librarians and academics.

University of New Zealand #79

Since the inception of the Religious Studies major at the University in the fall of 2000, students have explored careers in public health, medicine, law, ministry, finance, the Peace Corps, and Teach for America.

The University of Texas at Austin #25

Some statements are of a very general nature. Several texts point to the various career opportunities opened up by their respective programs, but they usually list some very broad sectors (University of Southern Denmark #8; University of New England #89; University of Lucerne #93; Arizona State University #96; Duke University #97). Emory University makes it implicitly clear that concrete career opportunities can emerge as a result of an educational intersection of a degree in the study of religion\s with other forms of education: “The broad and deep preparation that Religion Majors develop intersects effectively with preparation in such vocations as medicine, law, business, and public affairs” (#100). Similarly, VU Amsterdam states: “The path you take with your degree in Religious Studies mainly depends on the specialization you opt for in the Master’s phase” (#70).

Given its privileged outsider perspective and intent to distinguish itself from religious discourses, does the study of religion\s qualify for careers directly pertaining to religion? This case is indeed made by several texts from countries in different continents. One text claims that the program prepares candidates for occupations requiring solid knowledge about religions, the relations between religion, culture and society, and a sensitivity for inter-religious relations (University of Bayreuth #39), but the text does not provide names of applicable occupations. The University of Texas at Austin refers to fields that value “the ability to operate in a complex religious setting” (#24), but does not mention which vocations these fields may comprise in particular. The University of New England refers to “professions that engage with the religious aspect of multicultural societies” and it goes on by enumerating a series of such professions: “law, teaching, social work, counselling, journalism, public service, business, marketing, defence, and foreign service, to name but a few” (#89). While it here is the multi-religious aspect of many contemporary societies that potentially qualifies candidates, the University of Canterbury refers to religious institutions as potential employers: “Those interested in careers within religious institutions will find that it affords them a valuable perspective, complementing their faith-based education” (#79). This program seems to offer an additional qualification to that provided by religious institutions, but the work is not directly qualified as comprising religious activities. The VU Amsterdam goes one step further by letting its degree holders adopt a more direct religious role, albeit for non-religious employers: “Or you could go into education or take up a position as a spiritual advisor in a large commercial or non-profit organization” (#70).

The text from the University of Waterloo website quoted above refers to religious professions (chaplain, pastor) and in addition to the jobs held by alumni the text directly refers to such professions: the study of religion\s “Leads to careers such as teaching, chaplaincy, pastoral ministry, and counselling” (#64). The ministry is also given by five other universities as a career option for their graduates. While three cases are from the United States (University of Texas at Austin ##24/25; University of Miami #26; Duke University #97), the remaining ones, in addition to Canada (Waterloo), are from Sweden (Uppsala University #15) and Scotland (University of Glasgow #34); in the latter case, a specialist program is offered for those opting for that vocation.

Turning to specific careers besides those related to knowledge directly related to religion, becoming a school or high-school teacher is the option mentioned by most texts in the category–in total 13 cases, among these seven from Scandinavia and the remaining cases spread across the Europe, North America and the Pacific (University of Amsterdam, Glasgow, Waterloo, Miami, New England, Canterbury). Four cases, among them three from Europe, speak of education in general, without specifically mentioning work as a teacher (VU Amsterdam, Complutense University of Madrid, University of Lucerne, Duke University).

After teaching, academic work, i.e. doing research or working at a University, is listed most often (10 cases from eight universities across the world). This is followed by journalism (nine cases). Teacher, research/academics, and journalism are the three career options mentioned by far most often in our sample.

This top three-group is followed in frequency (four to six cases each) by a series of four occupations, where we can find some regional variation. In addition to the ministry (see above), five cases refer to the media (which, of course, covers a wide range of jobs). With one exception (The University of Canterbury #79), all these cases are from Europe. Culture, including work in a cultural section, a council of cultural affairs, and as cultural advisor, totals four cases, which again are all from Europe. Work in a museum is also listed by four European texts. Law and medicine, on the other hand, are listed only by universities from the United States (with one exception, The University of New England #89, which also lists law).

Four cases, but from three universities (two from the USA, one from New Zealand), refer to social services; to this category one might possibly include the work in the social field mentioned by University Complutense of Madrid (#77). Also four cases (from three universities) refer to work with the government (two cases from the USA, one from the Netherlands). Related career options include the diplomatic/foreign service (three cases: one from the USA, one from Australia, one from Switzerland), public service (three cases with the same distribution by countries). Three European cases (University of Turku #9; University of Gothenburg #13; VU Amsterdam #70) regard the issue of societal integration (presumably of minority groups) as potentially offering career options to their graduates.

Counselling is listed by the University of Waterloo (#64), the University of New England (#89), and the University of Amsterdam (#69). The University of Amsterdam (#69), the University of Canterbury (#79), and the University of Berne (#92) present travel and tourism as offering career options to their graduates. The latter university also mentions work in libraries (three cases in total) and publishing (two cases).

Some additional 25 career options are given by two or one cases only (in addition to the spiritual advisor and some others mentioned above). Some of them are obviously more vague than others and some terms may have different shadings of meaning in different national context. They are here collated to form seven thematic clusters:

  • defence, politics, public administration, public affairs, state
  • development work, humanitarian organization, international organization, NGO’s, peace corps
  • discrimination, migration, minorities
  • physician, public health
  • artist, gallery director
  • business, finance, human resources welfare, marketing, staff management
  • communication, dissemination, information

Visual Representations of the Study of Religion\s

Most university websites have photos and pictures in addition to the textual material. Images tend to liven up text-heavy web pages and complement the themes communicated in the texts. Arguably, such images and photographs tell their own story of what the study of religion\s is. They are also crucial in ensuring the multi-medial experience that now seems to be expected on the web. Our sample for this discussion comprises 151 individual images downloaded from the web pages and 10729 screenshots.30 17 of these do not have any images on them. 54, i.e. more than half, have one image (this also includes some visual collages, i.e. i.e. a combination of several images and graphic elements). 31 of the pages have between two and four images. The remaining five show between five and seven images.

From the 151 images two main categories can easily be identified: images related to (1) the subject ‘religion’ (86) and (2) to the educational context (41).

Images from the ‘educational context’31 category depict situations where students and scholars are engaged in a lecture, seminars or reading in libraries. Most of these images do not include any signifier for religion. Arguably, for prospective students these images portray what the study of religion\s practically appears like at the universities. In a sense they are objective representations of the study of religion\s as a social practice: people who discuss, read, and write. Even if some of the images may originate from fieldwork, we see no scholars of religion in the field (engaged in participant observation), studying manuscripts or the like. This resonates with the absence of reflexive elements in the texts (as analyzed above).

There are 17 images of the various department and university buildings where the study of religion\s is located. Most (12) of these images are of a building in classical architectural style. In addition, there are eight pictures of staff-members, either as portraits or as group-photos.

How is religion presented in these images? Our analysis of the textual materials has brought to light that there is a strong tendency to represent religion as a force, having an impact on a range of other spheres. In addition to this ‘claim of relevance’, religion is conceptually related to psychology, identity, politics, ethics and existentialism. Moreover, the texts tend to present religion as a historical universal. Do the images reflect the same emphasis on relevance and universality?

34 of the total sample of 86 images related to religion depict material structures, mainly statues (25) and buildings (churches, mosques, stupas) (21). There are 26 occurrences of actual people in this category, 17 of these engaged in what seems to be a ritual context, evenly distributed between scenes from Christian and Hindu contexts, in addition to some few portraying Buddhists, Jews and Sikhs. (This selection seems to be rather evenly distributed across countries.) The overlap between material structures and people is surprisingly small; there are only eight occurrences where the two codes overlap, and since two of these occur in collages (#52–3; #101–2), only five pictures remain that depict people are set in either interaction or proximity with a religious structure (#16 [two pictures]; #46; #63; #97). It is obvious that the anthropological emphasis communicated by the texts is not supported by the images. Even if somebody must have built these material structures at some time, the images portray religion as historical monuments, things of the past, something static and fixed.

When taking a closer look at the images that portray people (26) we find that more than half (17) show people in a ritual context.32 We see Hindus and Buddhists performing puja (#63), Christians of both priesthood and laity praying (#16), Jews praying in front of the Western Wall (#97), and a Japanese crowd engaged in a Shinto festival (#16). The other half comprises without exception portraits and full-figure photos of people in some form of religious attire (#9; #52–3; #82). Despite the tendencies in the textual material to represent religion as a force in human lives, and as something with relevance to life’s many aspects, this message is not transmitted by the selection of images.

Recall the main topics listed on the web pages. From the top of the list (politics, culture, ethics, history), only two can said to be a recurring theme in the image material. We get a sense of history from the old buildings, statues and religious sites. If ethics is a regulation of behaviour, one could argue that it is implicitly visualized in images of rituals, but it does not occur in any more direct manner. In a broad sense, ‘culture’ is present in any photography. In the texts, religion is related to culture more in the sense of being present in ‘other areas’ of (a) culture. Surprisingly, none of the images place religion or religious actors in such a setting, nor, for that matter, in contexts related to politics33 or ethics. Even if these topics may be abstract constructions, it is not difficult to imagine how they could be visualised. As a matter of fact, the relationship between religion and politics appears visually in newspapers and news broadcasts on a daily basis. Religion is often embedded in public institutions and the places of everyday life be it images of Catholic saints on hospital walls, images of Mecca in kebab shops, pupils wearing religious symbols or the presence of Mormon pioneers in a busy city street. The examples are plenty and could be used to support the kind of claims made in texts.

There are no images that identifiably relate to the remaining terms in the topics section such as cognition, ecology, climate change, health, human rights, identity, immigration, law, media, post-colonialism, power, race, state, and terrorism, cinema and film, the economy, public life, word-views, death/dying, mysticism, shamanism, violence, the interaction or interface of religion with other ‘systems’, globalization and gender.

Above (section RELIGIONS) we saw that there is especially one group of religions that are mentioned more than others. The same goes for the sample of pictures, but with a slightly different ranking: Christianity (26), Hinduism (16), Buddhism (11), Islam (9), Judaism (7).34 These are clearly a representation of the commonly recognized ‘world religions’. The rest of the pictures (16) comprise images relating to Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, New Age, Paganism, Shintoism and Confucianism, which may give the impression of some variety of religious traditions. Other prominent religions such as Mormonism, the Baha’i Faith, Jainism, Scientology, or the internal diversity within the ‘world religions’ are not represented.

There are several cases (11) where the images are presented in a collage. In some few cases (2) collages are used as part of the header on the page with the department logo. What all these have in common, is that they compile images from different religious traditions, from East and West. In a sense, this visualizes the plurality of religion\s and the global perspectives often claimed in the texts. Let us take a look at one example. On the website for Victoria University of Wellington we found the portraits of Virgin Mary, Krishna, John Lennon and former US president George W. Bush (retrieved 2011-23-03).

Figure 2, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (March 23, 2011)

Figure 2, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (March 23, 2011)

These portraits are arranged around the message “Never in the history of the world has the study of religion mattered more”. Where Virgin Mary and Krishna are figureheads for Christianity (Catholicism) and Hinduism (Krishnaism) respectively, Lennon and Bush appear as important persons in contemporary religious scenarios. Arguably, Bush and Lennon juxtapose American mainstream Protestantism, power and politics (Bush) and alternative spirituality (Lennon); note that Lennon is much more centrally situated in the composition (even though somewhat to the left), while Bush appears as right wing marginal figure. This is one of the very few visual representations found on a study of religion\s web page that suggests that the discipline does not only deal with the prototypical religious histories, but also with modern politics and popular culture. Interestingly, as if to confirm our diagnosis this collage was subsequently replaced by a row of five pictures, out of which four are views from outside of religious buildings without the presence of any human beings (and correspondingly the textual message, which reflected the ‘claim of relevance’, has been taken out).35

Figure 3, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (May 29, 2011)

Figure 3, Collage on Victoria University of Wellington web page (May 29, 2011)

Conclusion

For religion, most texts seeking to represent the study of religion\s in our international sample of web pages flag its diversity, agency or impact; they mainly communicate a ‘claim of relevance’, probably serving as a kind of selling point. Key topics in the study of religion\s highlighted by the texts are mainly politics, culture, ethics, and history. Methods are rarely mentioned on the web pages. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism are the religions mentioned most often by far; implicitly, the discipline seems still dominated by a ‘world religions’ approach. In general, however, the meta-analysis of the state of the discipline according to its public self-presentation on the university web pages point to a rather limited degree of intellectual coherence both with regard to selection of information and its content. Reflexive statements, i.e. statements that self-critically address the parameters of the study of religion\s on a meta-level, are almost absent in our sample; the web pages show an alarmingly low degree of reflexivity. This is in striking contrast to vigorous debates that have characterized the field during recent decades. As we see it, this should be reflected more prominently on future web pages. This leads us to some observations and recommendations concerning best practice.

Recommendations

In light of what we have learned from this analysis, with all due caveat we want to end on a constructive note: How should the study of religion\s be represented on university websites: what are the best practices? There are many ways to address this question. For example, plenty of good advice can be found in foras36 about web content management, but that is beyond our scope in this article. Instead, we will restrict our observation to the main categories of our analysis. We do not claim to sit on the definitive solution to this challenge, but we hope to stimulate to greater attention being paid to how the study of religion\s is represented on the web:

  • Designations. While acknowledging the need for departmental identity and institutional history, it may be useful to flag a reference to a disciplinary umbrella, i.e. the study of religion\s. It is also important to highlight association membership and point to other institutions where there is a close relationship. E.g. The Department of Religious Studies belongs to the discipline of the study of religion\s and is a member of the IAHR. We have an exchange arrangement with the School of Divinity in Edinburgh.
  • Religion. Presentations should include a reflection on the issue of defining the subject matter and the inherent problems of the concept. If there is a need for “claiming relevance”, efforts should be made to provide concrete (rather than general) examples where such relevance is achieved or to present this as a guiding hypothesis rather than as an ontological or historical truism. E.g. As scholars of religion we feel obligated to always reflect on the question “What is religion?”. ‘Religion’ can be defined differently depending on whom you ask and where the question is posed. At our department we tend to teach and research religion as a global phenomenon that can be found in all societies with varying impact on culture and society: from the apocryphal Gospels’ influence on modern popular culture to the Goddess devotion in India.
  • Religions. Webpages should not uncritically reproduce and privilege the notion of “world-religions” and be aware of different taxonomical approaches. E.g. We offer courses in Buddhism, New Religious Movements and Islam. In each different tradition, different periods and geographies are surveyed: from modern Zen Buddhism, Wicca, to East-European Sufi-practices.
  • Disciplinary Matrix. Presentations should more accurately portray how they deploy sub-disciplines and achieve inter-disciplinarity, or multi-methodology (if desired). To us, in some educational contexts it seems important to explicitly make the distinction from theology since the two are often confused in public. That being said, maybe it is time to turn the coin and emphasize what we may perceive as our strengths, rather than just stating that the study of religion\s is not theology. E.g. Several scholars at our department work with scholars from other disciplines, such as the Department of Sociology. In our program you are given the opportunity to learn how methods such as philology and statistics are used to research religion. The study of religion\s is often confused with theology; while both disciplines share an interest in “religion”, our program provides a comparative and agnostic approach, and does not privilege any specific religious traditions.
  • Topics. While it is tempting to make lists and general remarks of the topics one might deal with in the study of religion\s, try to restrict such list to those which actually are prominent within the research and study programs at the department. This creates proper expectations and gives relevant information for both potential collaborators and prospective students. E.g. At our department we are interested in how religion intercepts with politics. We do also offer courses where you can study the relationship between gender discourses and Muslim ideologies.
  • Aims, Skills, Competence. It is common for disciplines within the humanities to struggle with certain (utilitarian?) expectations related to employment prospects and public benefit. While such expectations invites us to form ideas of what skills and abilities we want in a study of religion\s graduate, we should not undermine the value of knowledge for its own sake. E.g. We challenge our students to develop a better understanding of religion\s and have the ability to approach religious with a comparative and critical mindset. Our students should also be able to relate what they know about religion\s to other fields in culture and society.
  • Career Prospects and employment perspectives. Hopefully, most of those with a background in the study of religion\s are in some form of career or employment. We should make an effort to find out what their education is actually used for, and portray this on the websites through for example testimonials. This also invites departments to think about certain occupational areas they want to focus on. E.g. If you are interested in international relations and diplomacy, our Department offers courses in Religion and Politics that have been reported to be useful for our students in such professions.
  • Visual Representations. This is one of the aspects where websites (per 2011) have the greatest need to improve. It should not be hard to come up with original and relevant images, photographs and even videos to present and visualise both religion as it is studied (rather than as it is visualized in tourist guidebooks), but also the study of religion\s as something consisting of scholars and students at work.

Knut at work

Knut at work

  • Reflexivity. The underlying leitmotiv of several of these recommendations is to stimulate to greater reflexivity. We should no longer hesitate to acknowledge our own positionalities and perspectives, including their limitations; to our eyes, rather than limiting the appeal of the texts this will improve their credibility.

Bibliography

Alles, Gregory D. (ed.) 2008, Religious Studies: a global view, Routledge, London.

Alles, Gregory D. 2011. “What (kind of) good is Religious Studies.” Religion 41: 217-223

Antes, Peter 2002. “Why should people study History of Religions?” In Giulia Sfameni Gasparro (ed.), Themes and Problems of the History of Religions in Contemporary Europe. Proceedings of the International Seminar Messina, March 30-31 2001 / Temi e problemi della Storia delle Religioni nell’Europa contemporanea. Atti del seminario Internazionale Messina, 30-31 Marzo 2001, Edizioni Lionello Giordano: Cosenza, 41-52.

Engler, Steven and  Michael Stausberg 2011. “Introductory essay. Crisis and creativity: opportunities and threats in the global study of religion\s.” Religion 41: 127-143.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 2001. Critics not Caretakers: redescribing the public study of religion. State University of New York Press: Albany.

Stausberg, Michael 2011. “The Bologna process and the study of religion\s in (Western) Europe.” Religion 41: 187-207.

Appendix

Errata

  • “African religion” → “African religions”

Notes

1 See Engler / Stausberg 2011 for the disciplinary status of the study of religion\s. As noted there, the idiosyncratic use of the backslash, which is followed here, is meant to index a series of theoretical and meta-theoretical questions regarding the referents and framing of ‘religion’ and ‘religions’.

2 While the public understanding of science and technology has become a field of study in its own right (witness publications such as the journal Public Understanding of Science, published by SAGE since 1992), the public understanding of humanities and social sciences seems comparatively underdeveloped.

3 Information provided on faculty is not included because such pages typically do not make statements about their respective understandings of the discipline (and even if they do, this information is that of individuals and not of institutions) but mainly provide information on career, publications, fields of research and courses taught by the individual faculty member. Nor do we include information on single courses, partly because such courses can be offered even where there is no department or specialized staff available, partly because the boundaries are unclear (a course on Buddhism, for example, can be offered by study of religion\s departments, by South Asian area studies programs or by Indian languages departments), and partly in order not to inflate our sample.

4 See the appendix for a full index of the cases.

5 Our study combines strategies often referred to as ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ forms of analysis. In order to reflect the quantitative distribution of cases, in writing we tried, as much as possible, to stick to the following stylistic rule: when speaking of “few” cases we are referring to between two and five cases; when speaking of “some” cases, we are referring to between six and ten; “several” refers to between 11 and 20; “many” to between 21 and 60; “most” refers to 61 and more.

6 For reasons of space and relevance the following discussion does not include results of all coding exercices.

7 Consider the example of Leiden University (#68). The University has the Leiden Institute for Religious Studies (LIRS), which offers different master’s programs, including a Master in Religious Studies. This program has seven tracks, including once called Comparative Religion. This program has several courses, including Comparative Religion: Themes and Topics in the Study of Religion, Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, and a Required General Course Religious Studies. On different levels, Leiden University thereby uses no less that three designations (Religious Studies, Comparative Religion, Study of Religion).

8 E.g. the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion/La Société Canadienne pour l’Étude de la Religion, the Finnish Society for the Study of Religion, the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR), and the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR).

9 In addition, a very small group of webpages extends the scope of the discipline to cover, e.g., “folk beliefs, worldviews, and ideologies” (University of Helsinki #12) or “the faiths, world views, practices, and ways of life that have, both historically and in the contemporary world, shaped the actions and allegiances of human beings” (Emory University #100).

10 Diversity: Aarhus University (#8); Philipps-Universität Marburg (#47); LMU Munic (#51); Université Laval (#71); University of Zurich (#90). Diversity and complexity: University of Otago (81#); Victoria University of Wellington (#83); University of Zurich (#91).  Diversity and universality: The University of New England (#88-89). Diversity and comparison: University of Washington (#30).

11 There are eight cases for universality or omnipresence of religion in our sample.

12 Religions “bring people together, but they also play a role in conflicts, and time after time they lead to public debate.” (University of Groningen #52); “In der spätmodernen Migrationsgesellschaft können Religionen das friedliche Zusammenleben ebenso erleichtern wie erschweren.” (University of Zurich #90).

13 See Antes (2002) for an attempt to identify “profit making strategies” (41) to promote the discipline. According to Antes the genuine contribution of the discipline is to “go on and concentrate on religion as a shaping force of culture and society, as an introduction to human variety in worldviews and as models for concord and discord among people.” This resonates with texts published on several homepages.

14 Examples for the classification as “humanities” come from New Zealand (Massey University # 80; Victoria University of Wellington #83) and Australia (University of New England #89). The University of Alabama speaks of “the anthropological approach to the study of religion as practiced in the public university” as being “a member of the human sciences (#27).

15 One wonders if that recalls the language of an integral humanism as proposed by Eliade.

16 Interdisciplinary: LMU Munich (#51); multidiscplinary: University of Ottawa (#72); transciplinary: University of Lausanne (#95: “L’histoire et les sciences des religions regroupent différentes disciplines qui se spécialisent dans l’étude scientifique des religions”).

17 Kulturwissenschaft is an umbrella term for which there is no real equivalent in any other language. In the German context, this term, which has replaced Geisteswissenschaften as a guiding notion, typically includes a range of disciplines or fields such as anthropology, ethnology, history, literary and media studies and sometimes also the social sciences. In the German speaking countries, claiming legitimate membership in this family of disciplines has been crucial for the study of religion\s as a platform of affirming its non-theological and post-phenomenological identity.

18 One can imagine that many theologians would regard this as a caricature of their business.

19 “Ces disciplines étudient les religions d’un point de vue non confessionnel, ‘extérieur’, et les envisagent comme un produit de l’activité culturelle humaine” (University of Lausanne #95).

20 When coding our sample for issues (aspects/topics) we ignored cases discussed in relation to definitional matters as well as the selection of religions/regions and methods discussed in other parts of this essay. Some themes are borderline cases. Consider Bible, philosophy, and theology. Since the Bible is an aspect of some religions rather than of religion\s in general, we ignored this here. Philosophy and theology can be aspects of religion\s insofar as many religions can be said to have their own philosophies or theologies (in which case they would be relevant for this section), but philosophy and theology can also refer to academic disciplines–and since the cases mentioning these words seem to refer to the latter meaning of these terms we ignored them here.

21 Even the much debated issue of fundamentalism is mentioned only once.  Here are some other topics we found noteworthy: amulets, capitalism, clothing,  holocaust, justice, museum, war.

22 The word cloud is created with Wordle (http://wordle.net, retrieved 2012–11–30)

23 The third term in terms of frequency is ‘to analyze’ or ‘analysis’ (six cases). Somewhat less frequently used is the verb ‘to interpret’ or the adjective ‘interpretive’ (two cases each). Three texts speak of insight (twice as noun, once as verb). The verb ‘to learn’ occurs twice and so does the noun ‘empathy’. Two texts speak of ‘examining’, whereas ‘inquiry’ and ‘to comprehend’ only occur once each. Also words referring to explanation and theory are mentioned only once each (in both cases in the verbal form).

24 “Proporcionar un conocimiento racional y crítico del hecho religioso y de la evolución de las diferentes religiones” (Complutense University of Madrid #77). The text continues by referring to instruments of analysis and critique.

25 “En plus de permettre le développement d’une culture religieuse générale (les approches générales du fait religieux ou les grandes traditions religieuses à travers le monde), les cours favorisent l’évolution d’un sens critique, tant à l’égard de sa propre expérience qu’à celui des phénomènes religieux et spirituels” (Université Laval #71).

26 The capability of analysis or to analyze is the skill mentioned by most cases (9), followed by understanding/to understand (5) and the ability to interpret (4). Insight is mentioned as a skill in three cases. Three cases engage speak of ‘reflection’. Among the cognitive skills mentioned by one or two cases we find ‘to compare’, ‘to describe’, ‘to examine’, ‘to explain’ and ‘to explore’.

27 “I kombinasjon med støttefaget får du kunnskap om forholdet mellom religion og samfunn og en unik tverrkulturell kompetanse” (University of Bergen #1). “Du får kunnskap om forholdet mellom religion og samfunn og en unik tverrkulturell kompetanse” (University of Oslo #3).

28 The notion of ‘employability’ has achieved worldwide resonance in higher education; for its implications, limitations, relevance, and career in Western Europe with regard to the study of religion\s see Alles 2011; Engler/Stausberg 2001; Stausberg 2011.

29 Observant readers may noe that this sample is slightly larger than the sample of texts (consisting of 101 web pages). The reason for this is that some websites randomize between a set of images on their site everytime you access the page in a web browser.

30 Unfortunately, we failed to take screenshots in the first phase of data collection, but did so only some months later (on May 29, 2011). In the meanwhile, of course, some web pages had changed their appearance, not the least their visual content. We still think that our findings are relevant and valid.

31 Images of cheerful students enjoying lively discussions are probably merely ‘stock photos’ indiscriminately used for whichever department sites. One exception is the University of Bayreuth where actual photos from the department’s students are used.

32 Note that the images appear to keep on changing rather quickly. Several of the images mentioned in the following can in the meanwhile no longer be seen on the web pages.

33 There is one notable exception, where the profile of president George W. Bush is used in a collage (see below).

34 In the texts Islam and Hinduism are mentioned more often.

35 http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacr/about/overview-intros/religious-studies.aspx (retrieved 2011-06-27)

36 The online magazine A List Apart is a good place to start learning more on writing for the web (http://www.alistapart.com/topics/content/writing/ [Retrieved: 03.01.13]).

The Problem with Myth

One of the things that has become persistently clear to me throughout my PhD work is that we have to be pedantic about our terminology. The vast majority of our technical terms are used “out there” by people in their everyday lives. But how “they” use a word and how “we” use it can often be markedly different. In fact, how “we” use a word is an overgeneralisation that assumes “we” all use the word in the same way. So as interesting as Paul-François Tremlett’s introduction to the work of Levi-Strauss was, one thing persistently bugged me throughout the interview: what is a myth?

“Myth” is a fairly common occurrence throughout the interview and not once is it defined. Is the meaning of myth so obvious that all the listeners know what it means? Perhaps it might be, perhaps the meaning of myth is self-evident to all who hear the word. But I wonder, while it might be self-evident to many, if pressed on the matter and forced into giving verbal expression would they all say the same thing? Perhaps not:

  • Mircea Eliade:

Every myth shows how a reality came into existence, whether it be the total reality, the cosmos, or only a fragment – an island, a species of plant, a human institution … [it] becomes the paradigmatic model for all human activities’(1957[1987]:97-98).

  • Ninian Smart:

A story which forms the identity of an individual, his/her fellows, and/or the cosmos in which they inhabit (Smart, 1981:26).

  • Alan Dundes:

A myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and man came to be in their present form … The critical adjective sacred distinguishes myth from other forms of narrative such as folktales, which are ordinarily secular and fictional (Dundes, 1984:1).

  • David Leeming:

the expression of a social ethos’ or the ‘basic assumptions that define a person, a family, or a culture – with the informing reality that resides at the centre of being (Leeming, 1990:4).

  • William Hansen:

a traditional oral story of alleged historicity (Hansen, 2002:2-5).

  • Joseph Nagy:

a collectively shared story about supernaturally powerful beings whose adventures and interactions are set in some primeval time before the “historical time” of legend (2002:125)

  • Finally, Levi-Strauss:

a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction (1955[1993]:229)

This is to mention but a handful of the various definitions of “myth” and what should be obvious is that they do not all cohere. Hansen and Nagy, for example, in speaking of “primeval time” and “alleged historicity” understand myth as something inherently false. A definition which many argue corresponds to myth’s everyday use: e.g. ‘in ordinary English to say ‘It’s a myth” is just a way of saying “It’s false”’ (Smart, 1969:18). Further, Eliade, Dundes and Nagy confine themselves to an understanding of myth that indicates that it can only occur within religions. But for both Eliade and Dundes the extent to which we apply myth is dependent on a definition of religion which in both cases relies on a definition of “sacred” (and its dichotomous “secular”). And as Bascom points out in Dundes’ volume, the distinction between the sacred and the secular is a fairly messy matter (Bascom, 1984:12). Indeed, could we not then include Evolution and Big Bang as myths? Both explain how the world and man came to be in their present form. Such is certainly possible in the case of Smart, Leeming, and Levi-Strauss. The latter in particular put the point quite vividly: ‘the kind of logic in mythical thought is as rigorous as that of modern science, and […] the difference lies, not in the quality of the intellectual process, but in the nature of things to which it is applied’ (Levi-Strauss, 1993:230). All that is perhaps consistent across these definitions and more is that myth is a kind of story.

What is interesting about this latter problem – that myth can be applied to religious and non-religious things alike – is that it nevertheless reduces to the former problem of the implied falsity of a myth. But perhaps more vividly than the former problem it gives us good reason not to use “myth” within our scholarly language. Take the following point from Tremlett’s extremely useful introduction to the work of Levi-Strauss: ‘Levi-Strauss argues that what “we” in “the West” call history is in fact myth by another name’ (Tremlett, 2008:56). Conversely, what we call myth is also history. But if so, what difference is there in calling a story myth or history? If Evolution can be called both history and myth what differs between each usage? It is, I suggest, the fact that when we speak, for example, of the Evolution myth we think of something that is false-prone and when we speak of the Evolution theory (here a synonym for history) we think of it as true-prone. The question of which is used depends on who is speaking. Smart points out that an anthology of mythology is unlikely to include the stories of Jesus’ life, death, and rebirth: ‘This is a leftover from Christian (and Jewish and Muslim, be it said) tendencies to treat their own stories as true and historical and other people’s stories as unhistorical and untrue’ (Smart, 1996:130). While Christian stories may well find themselves included in anthologies these days, the point to be taken from this is that for the Christian these stories are true and not regarded as myth. No one, I hazard, thinks of their own stories as myths.

Fitness-Myths

Stealing some terminology from Smart’s “Interpretation and Mystical Experience” (1965[2009]) and applying them to Schutz’s discussion in “Equality and the Meaning Structure of the World” (1957[1964]) I suggest the following: to call something a “myth” is to engage in a particular way of hetero-interpreting the stories of others. Schutz makes a distinction between subjective and objective interpreting. All subjective interpreting is meaning constituted in terms of “Me” or “Us” and all objective interpreting is meaning constituted in terms of “Him/Her” or “Them” (Schutz, 1964:251-257). I replace “subjective” and “objective” here with Smart’s terminology of auto-interpreting and hetero-interpreting. The reason for this is because Schutz accepts that objective interpreting is nevertheless subjective in that it is performed in the “Here and Now”, an idea expounded earlier in “On Multiple Realities” (1945[1962b]). That is, all subjective interpretations are those interpretations which are framed in terms of the “Here and Now” that I occupy. By auto-interpreting I conceive whatever is being interpreted as within my “Here”. Thus my “Here” may extend to a number of fellows (my in-group) when I speak in terms of “We/Us”. By hetero-interpreting something I conceive it as not within my “Here”. Anything that is not “Here” is “There”. But this “There” of the out-group is understood in terms of my “Here”. Underwritten in any positive definition of “Them” is the implied “I/We are not Them”.

Both the in-group and the out-group have their own stories. When auto-interpreting the stories of our in-group we conceive these stories as history (true-prone) because to do otherwise would be to call into question the “Here and Now” we occupy. When it comes to hetero-interpreting the stories of the out-group we can conceive them as either history or myth. The most common reason for calling these hetero-interpreted stories myths is because they contradict the stories that have been auto-interpreted as history. E.g. if Evolution is part of our history, Creation becomes a myth. If the two stories are contradictory and the former has been accepted then the latter must be denied. Insofar as the stories of the out-group do not contradict the stories of the in-group they may be hetero-interpreted as history. The in-group might be quite happy to accept the out-group’s story of a bloke called Jesus who went around preaching. The example of the “Historical Jesus” also indicates the complexity involved in some hetero-interpretations as while there may be universal agreement that Jesus was baptised by St. John and was crucified by Pontius Pilate, other elements of the story of Jesus may still be regarded as myth. The point to be taken is that hetero-interpreting can conclude that stories are history or myth but the same cannot be said of auto-interpreting. If the in-group auto-interprets a story as myth this begs the question of against what this story is being compared to. What happens in moments of “mythicisation” – when history becomes myth – is not auto-interpreting but rather partitioning whereby the in-group is divided into a new in-group and out-group. Such an example would be the inclusion of Christian stories in anthologies of myth. What occurs here is not that the story is auto-interpreted as myth, but rather the stories are removed from the “Here and Now”. This partitioning is affected by shifting the stories “There” if some members of the group try to retain them as history and/or “Then” if the distinction is one between contemporaries and predecessors.

Based on this sketchy argument the point to be emphasised is that even if we accept Levi-Strauss’ line that what “we” call history is really myth by another name it nevertheless does not escape the fact that to call a story myth is to render it false. The critical issue for scholars of religion is how, then, to use “myth”. Can we call a story a myth if the members of that group who tell it do not regard the story in question a myth? Surely to do so would be to treat them as an out-group and in calling those stories myth imply their falsity, and thereby imply the stupidity of the out-group for taking them to be true. The problem here is not in treating them as an out-group. It would be quite unproblematic to speak in terms of myth if we are studying the out-group’s responses to the stories of another out-group. But this involves objective interpretation: interpreting, that Schutz suggests in “Common-sense and Scientific Interpretation” (1953[1962a]), involves no “Here”. Properly speaking the “Here and Now” is never lost, rather the objective interpreter attempts to reconstruct the “Here and Now” of the out-group. The question is whether as scholars of religion we engage in this objective interpretation, or engage in subjective interpretation establishing our own new “Here and Now”, or continue to uphold the wider “Here and Now” of some in-group. The problem of myth is not the term in itself but rather the sort of “Here and Now” from which it is deployed. The recognition of Levi-Strauss and others that myth is no different from history contains within it a call to further reflexivity about the “Here and Now” of we scholars of religion.

References

  • Bascom, W. (1984); “The Forms of Folklore: The Prose Narrative” in Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth; University of California Press, London; pg.5-29
  • Dundes, A. (ed.) (1984); Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth; University of California Press, London
  • Hansen, W. (2002); The Handbook of Classical Mythology; ABC-CLIO, California
  • Leeming, D. (1990); The World of Mythology; Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Levi-Strauss (1993); “The Structural Study of Myth” in Structural Anthropology vol.1; trans. by C. Jocobson and B. Schoepf; Penguin, Harmondsworth; pg.206-231
  • Nagy, J. (2002); “Myth and Legendum in Medieval and Modern Ireland” in Myth: a New Symposium; ed. by G. Schrempp & W. Hansen; Indian University Press, Bloomington; pg.124-138
  • Schutz, A. (1962a); “Common-sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action” in Collected Papers I: The Problem of Social Reality; ed. by M. Natanson; Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague; pg.3-47
  • Schutz, A. (1962b); “On Multiple Realities” in Collected Papers I: The Problem of Social Reality; ed. by M. Natanson; Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague; pg. 207-259
  • Schutz, A. (1964); “Equality and the Meaning Structure of the Social World” in Collected Papers II: Studies in Social Theory; ed. by A. Brodersen; Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague; pg.226-268
  • Smart, N. (1969); The Religious Experience of Mankind; Collins, London
  • Smart, N. (1981); Beyond Ideology; Collins, London
  • Smart, N. (1996); Dimensions of the Sacred; Collins, London
  • Smart, N. (2009); “Interpretation and Mystical Experience” in Ninian Smart on World Religions vol.1: Religious Experience and Philosophical Analysis; ed. by J. Shepherd; Ashgate, Farnham; pg.53-62
  • Tremlett, P.F. (2008); Levi-Strauss on Religion: The Structuring Mind; Equinox, London

Reflections on Teaching Religious Studies Online

mec2As we find new and innovative ways to teach students, we as instructors are charged (sometimes without formal or proper orientation) to adopt new methods of instruction.

Reflections on Teaching Religious Studies Online

By Christopher F. Silver, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Published by the Religious Studies Project, on 8 May 2013 in response to the Religious Studies Project Interview with Doe Daughtrey on Teaching Religious Studies Online (6 May 2013)

This podcast explores the nature of learning within online learning and the benefits and disadvantages of this type of curricular design. The interview was conducted with Doe N Daughtrey an instructor at Arizona State University and at Mesa Community College. While her work falls within a wide range of topics from Mormonism to new forms of spirituality, she speaks to the student and instructor experience of teaching online courses, particularly within the field of Religious Studies. Certainly the online medium in Higher Education has grown exponentially over the past 10 years.  As an instructional tool, it creates some new challenges for the instructor never before encountered within academia. An obvious example noted by Daughtrey is in relation to student interactions within discussion boards. In more traditional classrooms, students are cognizant of their behavior and their exchanges with other students. However, within the virtual world, students appear more bold and vocal in their opinions. Some students struggle not only with writing but proper projection within writing. When writing and responding to fellow students in an online forum, students may not be mindful of others perception. It is difficult for the instructor to instill in students a cultural sensitivity of others who are different from the student.  Congruently, the instructor also has to deal with the permanency of such exchanges as textual exchanges. In a traditional classroom, such exchanges, if they do occur, come and go and the instructor can immediately address and correct inappropriate behavior. Another issue addressed by Daughtrey is the issue of time as related to the course. In traditional classroom exchanges, students and the instructor are in a space together for a specific time frame (McKeachie, 1999). In the online world, the exchanges can be potentially 24 hours depending on the availability of each student and instructor. As far as inappropriate exchanges are concerned, students can have heated or controversial disagreements during times when the instructor is not online to monitor the exchange. Much can happen during that period of time with the potential to spiral into a much larger situation before the instructor is able to intervene.

In addressing such issues and concerns, Daughtrey implies that the textual space of the online course creates a communicative void typically filled with body language and voice inflection in traditional classrooms. As a potential solution to such situations, Daughtrey has used voice recordings in lieu of textual responses for her students. This at least provides the students with her voice inflection in which to infer intention from her feedback. She notes that this has been helpful in her online courses. Another solution Daughtrey proposes is for students to keep a private online journal of their thoughts. This helps keep sensitive discussions and thoughts out of the online forums insuring smoother online courses.  Finally one of the other telling themes of Daughtrey’s podcast is the limitation of online resources for Religious Studies courses. Daughtrey argues that there are many online resources which can assist in the construction of online courses, but that there is no content specific support for Religious Studies. Such support would help in the delivery of student education. She suggests that more should be done to address content and curricular issues in detail.

In reviewing this podcast, there are a couple of issues which arise. I think it is important to provide the reader with my own background here, as much of the conversation speaks to experience and not simply to instructional design and implementation. My own education has been a nexus of three fields of study: Psychology, Religious Studies, and Education. Much like Dr. Daughtrey, I have taught online courses in a variety of fields including Religious Studies online. Many of the concerns that she notes within the podcast are a common theme in teaching Religious Studies at a secular institution. Certainly when coupled with a largely conservative religious landscape among the student body, issues of ontology will certainly arise. Online learning provides a much more personal space in which to communicate opinions and ideas. In this regard, some students may assume that radical opinions and a lack of social mindfulness have no implications. For instructors such assumptions create issues. Certainly the formality and etiquette of the classroom may not translate into the online medium of instruction. I would propose an alternative method for addressing such issues. Many of the concerns related to behavior and content are related to the asynchronous method of online instruction. This method is called asynchronous because the content is unidirectional. For example discussion boards, YouTube videos, even this Podcast is an example of a unidirectional delivery of information. Its antithesis is called synchronous learning. It is a real time exchange of information. Examples of this might be a video conference on Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, a live chat room in real time, or even a phone conversation.  I would suggest that online instruction should be a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous delivery models for optimal learning. Certainly if a university does not have the resources for synchronous online instruction, there are some free open source alternative programs to assist an inspiring instructor.  This at least allows the interaction between student and teacher and presents information in a traditional format of instruction. Instructors can then project their personality into their instruction beyond a textual exchange. Moreover, students can interact in real time learning the social expectations of the instructor.  This is important when considering the challenges of teaching a controversial topic such as religion (Carlson and Blumenstyk, 2012).

While religion is a social norm for many in the United States and beyond, certainly social norms and classroom culture are a complex issue for many instructors. Not all students ascribe to a post-modern paradigm of different yet equal among the growing multicultural and multiethnic American and Western European populations. Some regard their coexistence with those who view religion or even race differently as a necessary evil of public education. Much of the confusion noted by Daughtrey in regards to online education is that the online world may be implicitly perceived as our private space of interaction, where the rules and values we ascribe to within daily interactions do not apply in the online discussion board. We as instructors are no longer simply Teachers or Professors but a combination of Information Technology Professionals and Cultural Advocates all wrapped into one role. While I cannot speak to the religious landscape of Arizona, I can speak to the Southeastern United States. I, too, teach in secular college and university. Much of the curricular agenda is dependent on accreditation and course objectives.  Still, instructors must create the perception of value for Religious Studies education and encourage students to learn more about the world in which they live. In my own courses, such discussions are heated simply because religion is equated with Christianity. The idea that other religions would be academically equal to Christianity can be offensive to some students. For many of my students, religion is a form of personal identity. It is who we are, not simply a belief or what we do. Many cannot compartmentalize it or objectify their belief. Therefore to have such discussions, academic or otherwise, requires a new paradigm of behavior and inquiry in religion’s examination by students. This type of student internalization of religious identity and perceived threat is not limited to the field of Religious Studies.  For example, a colleague of mine and psychologist of religion Michael Nielsen at Georgia Southern had a similar experience.  As Nielsen (2012) has noted, many students come to courses on religious topics either assuming the content will confirm their ontological position or to argue for their belief as the dominant truth. Nielsen’s perspective is but one of many examples where students do not understand the overall curricular purpose and goal of academic explorations of religion. They want to internalize it in some way.

This Podcast primarily focuses on instructional issues related to teaching Religious Studies online. These issues are certainly juxtaposed within the secular state-run institution of higher learning. It is likely that there are differences in the liberal arts and religiously affiliated styles of Higher Education. I would suggest that they likely differ in their curricular goals depending on the overall mission of the college or university. It is unclear how these differences translate in online learning and education. Certainly, it would have been interesting if Dr. Daughtrey would have addressed such differences within her podcast. Additionally, I am left with the question of curricular structure. What are some of the different ways Religious Studies are taught and the resources which may be available to a new instructor charged with online learning? It would be nice to see a conversation which goes beyond the politics of religious identity and online learning (although this is certainly an interesting topic overall).  With differences in Religious Studies educational theory, there may yet be another layer to the instructional onion we call religious education. With these criticisms in mind, this is not to say that the experiential perspective is not useful in education. In fact, this is the meat of an instructional design model. As we find new and innovative ways to teach students, we as instructors are charged (sometimes without formal or proper orientation) to adopt new methods of instruction. While one may argue that a good instructor should always be learning, there is likely a point of diminishing returns in which the instructor is expending energy in acquiring new instructional skillsets such as the various Online Learning Systems (OLS) while also tracking and evaluating student performance within their course. Professors may not have the time to devote to learning all the features of OLS and therefore the overall instructional product may suffer from skillset limitations. Additionally, institutions may be tempted to increase enrollment in online classes to save money, further diverting the instructor from exploring their research areas as well as gaining additional OLS skills. So certainly the economics of online learning play a role here too.

There is no doubt that OLS models of learning have benefits and disadvantages in academia. As a former Information Technology Professional and, typically, an early adopter of new technologies, I view online learning with circumspect. If it is to be incorporated, it should be a hybrid delivery model with classroom and online time for the students. If that is not possible, then the instructional design should include synchronous and asynchronous delivery of material. Evaluation of student performance is not simply about assignment quality and test accuracy, but it is about the real-time monitoring of learning, the observation of the student as they make their academic journey. Online learning loses the thrill of watching students achieve their “Aha” moments. There needs to be a technological solution found to incorporate the human aspects of the classroom in online learning.

This material is disseminated under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. and can be distributed and utilised freely, provided full citation is given.

About the Author

mec2Christopher F. Silver is an Ed. D. Candidate in Education and Leadership at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga USA. He has a masters degree in research psychology from the UT Chattanooga and a masters degree in Religion and Culture from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo Ontario Canada. He is currently conducting research on American Atheism exploring the complexities of self-identity adjectives in how atheist and agnostic participants self-describe. In addition, Mr. Silver also serves as an instructor at UT Chattanooga teaching courses in psychology and currently serves as an information technology research consultant.

Mr. Silver has collaborated in the fields of religious studies, psychology and sociology of religion. His current collaboration is as a research manager for the US team of the Bielefeld (Germany) International Study of Spirituality. His email address is Christopher-Silver@utc.edu. He is also an Assistant Editor at the Religious Studies Project, and has conducted a number of interviews, and previously written the piece A Word by Any Other Name: The Emergent Field of Non-religion and the Implications for Social Meaning for the website.

References

  • McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Nielsen, M. (2012). Teaching Psychology of Religion at a state university. Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Newsletter, 36(2), 2-5.
  • Carlson, S. & Blumenstyk, G. (2012). For Whom is college being reinvented? The Chronicle of Higher Education. 59(17).

Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?

[Martin] alludes to a greater problem: the imbalance of power, the greater influence of Christianity in Western academia, compared with other religions, both major and minor.

Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?

By Raphael Lataster, University of Sydney

Published by the Religious Studies Project, on 23 January 2013 in response to the Religious Studies Project Interview with Dale Martin on Religious Studies and Biblical Studies (21 January 2013).

Editor’s Note: A version of this post was published earlier today with a couple of minor but important changes made by Chris and mistakenly not communicated to the author. These unauthorised changes have been removed, and the version presented below meets with the approval of both Mr Lataster and the editors. The RSP would like to apologise to Mr Lataster, and to our readers, for any unintended misrepresentation of this important piece.


Around the half-way mark of Jack Tsonis’ interview with Professor Dale Martin, a contention was raised, that if true, is damaging to Religious Studies (and related disciplines), and betrays the value and one of the key initial purposes of the field. It is obvious to many of us that Religious Studies is useful, due in part to the critical, secular, etic approach to religion that it encourages. (Although this does not necessitate that Religious Studies scholars be irreligious, or be forbidden to or encouraged to avoid teaching or researching their own personal faith). Tsonis questions Martin on criticism that many Religious Studies scholars are effectively arguing for the usefulness of religion, demonstrating a pro-religious agenda. Tsonis mentions one academic claiming that Religious Studies scholars “claim the prestige of the university while following the rules of the seminary.” Tsonis wonders if this is a real phenomenon, and what effects this may have on our colleagues’ methodologies, funding, and employment prospects. Martin’s answer is thoughtful, but also damning.

In attempting to deny the claim, Martin acknowledges that many scholars working in Biblical Studies are Christians, and many of them are of the conservative type. He then says that the claim does not align with his experience, citing examples of scholars teaching on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, without personally practicing or arguing for those faiths. It seems that not only has Martin acknowledged the issue in a roundabout way, but also alludes to a greater problem: the imbalance of power, the greater influence of Christianity in Western academia, compared with other religions, both major and minor. This discussion prompted me to reminisce about my own experiences in my first year of working in the scholarly world, particularly in initiating my Master’s research dissertation.

I faced opposition from within the department to the extent that I had considered abandoning the project. These challenges presented themselves despite the fact that I had not yet decided the angle, or of course, the conclusions. What was the topic that proved so challenging to research? Jesus mythicism, the contention that there may not have been a ‘historical Jesus’. I would eventually pass, with the examiners – themselves scholars of Religious Studies – agreeing that a review of the methods of many Biblical scholars is necessary (for example, the increasingly-maligned Criteria of Authenticity) and that it is entirely rational to be sceptical over the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Such conclusions should not necessarily be so controversial in a field dedicated to the critical and non-confessional study of religion. More worryingly, there were instances where I felt pressure to alter the direction of the project, in order to allow for more ‘Christian-friendly conclusions’.

But why would such respected scholars wish to interfere with the most fundamental of academic freedoms? It may have had something to do with their personal religious beliefs about Jesus. Interestingly however, such belief is not actually required for such a reaction. One example is provided by noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, one of many secular New Testament experts. Professor Ehrman is an outspoken atheist, yet dogmatically defends the historicity of Jesus and the usefulness of his teachings, while harshly and fallaciously (Lataster 2013) criticising those scholars that are audacious enough to be more sceptical than he (Ehrman 2012). Hector Avalos argues that even many non-Christian scholars are influenced by the political power, and finances, of pro-Christian organisations (Avalos 2007). Avalos claims that positive attitudes towards the Bible, Christianity, and religion in general, is often seen as necessary in order to keep these academic disciplines relevant, and funded.

Hoping that Avalos’ gloomy conclusions were wrong, and that experiences such as my own are rare, I would then discover a powerful Christian undercurrent in a related – and perhaps more esteemed – field; ancient history. While studying the historical Jesus under one of Tsonis’ colleagues from the Ancient History department of Macquarie University, I ‘learnt’ that there is a “resurrection-shaped dent in the historical record.” I would then participate in a public debate against one of my own Religious Studies postgraduate colleagues, and another Ancient Historian from Macquarie University, where my (Christian) opponents used their authority as subject-matter experts in attempting to convince the audience that it is perfectly rational to believe that a miracle-man was brought back from the dead by an unproven deity. It didn’t matter to this ancient historian that his resurrection claim is burdened by a crippling prior probability, is supported by extremely poor sources, or that there are far more probabilistic – and naturalistic – explanations, despite his agreeing with my reasonable claim that history is probabilistic. Christian influences can even be found in Philosophy departments, once great bastions of rationalism and scepticism, via Philosophy of Religion (Quadrio 2009).

Back to the interview, Martin further addresses the contention that Religious Studies scholars border on being crypto-theologians, and defends his ‘insider’ status. He argues that his Biblical criticisms ought to be given more weight (compared with a non-believer’s criticisms) as he is a Christian, and might be expected to aggressively defend his faith and agree more with his fellow adherents. As with the speculative criterion of embarrassment, Martin’s criticisms are partly interesting due to their counter-intuitive nature. These relatively small criticisms however, must be weighed against the fact that Martin still believes the unsubstantiated and question-begging claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, by God. Fortunately, in a recent debate, he correctly acknowledges that Jesus’ resurrection cannot be established historically, though this belief does form a part of his worldview (Licona et al. 2012), his values, and ultimately, would be expected to directly or indirectly affect his researching and teaching on Christianity. Martin might indeed offer the occasional criticism here or there, resulting in minor conflict with his fellow believers, but he stops short of, and would not be expected to, criticising and renouncing Christianity and Christian beliefs as a whole.

Further commenting on what became the dominant theme of the interview, Martin offered a surprising and seemingly unreasonable counter to the claim that Religious Studies scholars are apologising for religion. Instead of denying this claim, he accuses English, History, and Political Science scholars as being apologists for modern liberalism. Rather than outright denying or acknowledging what may be a vitally important issue in education, Martin offers a tu quoque justification. i.e. “Everyone else does it.” With the discussion drawing to a close, Martin demonstrates an example of my claim that what he offers is only relatively benign pseudo-criticism of his faith. He criticises researchers who attempt to show the similarities of Christianity to other religions and myths (an important and historical foundation of Religious Studies), while asking scholars to be more open-minded to the potential truth of supernatural events and experiences. I am not arguing that the perspectives of ‘insiders’ are not valuable, that religious believers are unwelcome in Religious Studies departments, and related fields, or that religion is not a force for good in the world. I merely wish to share my own experiences on the matter, and to encourage scholars to leave their personal beliefs at the door, as they enter the sacred grounds of the University.

This material is disseminated under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. and can be distributed and utilised freely, provided full citation is given.

About the Author

With a background in pharmacy, medicine, and finance, Raphael Lataster is a hopeful PhD candidate, having recently passed his Master of Arts (Research), undertaken in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, with Distinction. His main research interests include Christian origins, logic, epistemology, justifications and social impacts of secularism, Taoism, overpopulation and sustainability concerns, pantheism, and pandeism. Raphael wrote his Master’s thesis on Jesus mythicism, concluding that historical and Bayesian reasoning justifies a sceptical attitude towards the ‘historical Jesus’. For his doctoral work, Raphael will analyse the major philosophical arguments for God’s existence (as argued by William Lane Craig, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga and Thomas Aquinas), attempt to demonstrate the logical impossibility of the monotheistic concept, explore the theological tendencies of Philosophy of Religion, and formulate a conditional logical argument for a pantheistic weltanschauung. Raphael is currently writing and attempting to publish numerous articles summarising his Master’s dissertation, and exploring the themes of his proposed doctoral project. Raphael is always open to – and encourages – feedback and advice, especially regarding the politics and processes of academia and publishing, and alternative worldviews.

References

Avalos, Hector. The End of Biblical Studies. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.

Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012.

Lataster, Raphael. Jesus scepticism: An examination of the arguments for various ‘Jesus as a myth’ theories. Master’s thesis, Sydney University, 2013.

Licona, Michael, and Dale Martin. Did Jesus Rise Physically from the Dead? Arva, ON: The Navigators, 2012. Video recording.

Quadrio, Philip A. Kant and Rousseau on the critique of philosophical theology: The primacy of practical reason. Sophia 48, no. 2 (2009): 179-193.

 

Studying Nonreligion within Religious Studies

How we can position the study of non-religion within the discipline of Religious Studies? Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Those of you who have been listening to the Religious Studies Project for some time will be somewhat familiar with the emerging sub-field of ‘non-religion’ studies. Perhaps you have listened to our podcast with Lois Lee, the founder of the Non-religion and Secularity Research Network, and wanted to know more? Or maybe you have heard Chris’s incessant ‘yes, but what about the ‘ non-religious?’ question in interviews and roundtables and wondered what this all has to do with Religious Studies? Whether or not either of these happened, we hope that you will enjoy this roundtable discussion with Dr Louise Connelly, Christopher Cotter, Dr Frans Jespers, Ethan Quillen, Dr Steven Sutcliffe, and Dr Teemu Taira.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us.

At the suggestion of Dr Steven Sutcliffe, Chris convened a group of scholars to discuss the study of non-religion within a Religious Studies framework. How do we define non-religion? What does such a demarcation have to offer our discipline? What is the scholar’s role in assigning labels such as ‘religious’ or ‘non-religious to individuals or groups who may eschew such labels? Are the ‘spiritual but not religious’ to be considered ‘non-religious’? And why would we even want to use the term ‘non-religion’ anyway? These questions and more form the basis of what became quite a lively discussion.

L Connelly ImageLouise Connelly, Ph.D., currently works as an Online Learning Advisor for the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh. She also teaches short-courses in Hinduism and Buddhism through the Office of Lifelong Learning at the University of Edinburgh. Her Ph.D. thesis is titled “Aspects of the Self: An analysis of self reflection, self presentation and the experiential self within selected Buddhist blogs” (University of Edinburgh). Her research interests include early Buddhism, visual culture, the use of social media, and Buddhist ritual and identity in the online world of Second Life. Her recent publications include ‘Virtual Buddhism: An analysis of aesthetics in relation to religious practice within Second Life’, Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet (2010); ‘Virtual Buddhism: Buddhist ritual in Second Life’ in Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds, Campbell (ed.) (2012); and Campbell and Connelly, ‘Religion and the Internet’ in the Encylopedia of Cyber Behavior,  Zang (ed.) (2012). See her personal blog or website for a full CV.

 

Christopher R. Cotter is a PhD Candidate at Lancaster University, UK. His thesis, under the supervision of Professor Kim Knott, focuses upon the lived relationships between the concepts of ‘religion’, ‘nonreligion’, and the ‘secular’, and their theoretical implications for Religious Studies. In 2011, he completed his MSc by Research in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, on the topic ‘Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students’. Chris has published on contemporary atheism in the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, is Editor and Bibliography Manager at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, and co-editor (with Abby Day and Giselle Vincett) of the volume Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular (Ashgate, 2013). See his personal blog, oracademia.edu page for a full CV.

Frans Jespers is associate professor of Science of Religion at the Faculty of Theology of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (Frans, please do send a bio when you get a chance – sorry about our lack of information in English!)

 

 

Steven Sutcliffe is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Edinburgh where he teaches and researches in the areas of ‘new age religion’ and ‘holistic spirituality’, in the effects of the discourse and practice of ‘religion’ in contemporary culture and society, and on theory and method in the study of religion, including the history of its modern academic study. He is the author of Children of the New Age, editor of Religion: Empirical Studies, and co-editor (with Marion Bowman) of Beyond the New Age.

Circular Academia: Navigating the Dangerous Waters of Term Re-Assignment for the Religious Studies Project.

Dr. Teemu Taira holds a research fellowship at the Academy of Finland at the department of Comparative Religion, University of Turku, Finland. He received his PhD in 2006 from the University of Turku and his recent research has focused on three areas: (1) religion and the secular in the British and Finnish media, (2) the new visibility of atheism, and (3) discursive study on ‘religion’. Taira’s current project examines discourse on religion and the secular in the Finnish media. For a full list of Taira’s publications in English and Finnish languages, see www.teemutaira.wordpress.com.

image of books

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 2 November 2012

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a image of booksvariety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

pdf summary document can now be download. This can be printed and circulated to colleagues or put up on a notice board.

In this issue:

  • Journals
  • Courses
  • Call for Papers
  • Conferences
  • Jobs
  • Grants/Prizes

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


JOURNALS


Theology and Science, vol 10, issue 4 http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rtas20/10/4

Sociology of Religion, advance notice, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/by/section

Bulletin of Asia Institute, 2012 http://www.bulletinasiainstitute.org/

Bulletin has also announced the publication of Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, Oxford 2009: Mary Boyce and the Study of Zoroastrianism

Ars Orientalis Volume 42, a thematic issue based on Objects, Collections, and Cultures, the second biennial symposium of the Historians of Islamic Art Association, held in October 2010, at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler

URL: www.asia.si.edu/research/articles/

Announcement ID: 198239

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198239


COURSES


Applications are now open for the e-learning course, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Europe: Modern Challenges

Description: Applications are now being accepted for the e-learning course, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Europe: Modern Challenges. Following two successful years, the course will commence in late February 2013. More than fifty participants from around the world – Australia and New Zealand, China, Japan,….

Contact: eth22 [AT] cam.ac.uk

URL: www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/courses/jcme.asp

Announcement ID: 198262

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198262


CALLS FOR PAPERS


CFP: Religious Revivals in Southeast Asia: Transnational and Comparative Perspectives

Date: 2012-12-15

Description:  We are inviting abstract submissions (max.200 words) for the panel on Religious Revivals in Southeast Asia: Transnational and Comparative Perspectives, to be held at SEA Symposium 2013 at the University of Oxford, UK. As of now, we have enough submission covering Islam. We are looking for

abstracts …

Contact: ermin.sinanovic.ba [at] usna.edu

URL: projectsoutheastasia.com/academic-events/sea-symposium-2013/panels#panel9

Announcement ID: 198174

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198174


Love and Religion in Pop Culture

Location: Illinois

Date: 2012-12-01

Description: The Journal of Popular Romance Studies calls for essays, interviews, and pedagogical materials for a special forum on love and religion in popular culture, anywhere in the world. The forum is guest-edited by Lynn S. Neal (author of Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction).

Contact: managing.editor@jprstudies.org

URL: jprstudies.org/submissions/special-issue-call-for-papers/#religion

Announcement ID: 198287

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198287


CFP: Religion, Civil War and Emancipation

Conference: May 20-22, 2013

Location: Virginia

Date: 2012-12-19

Description: Overview of Conference: The 2013 Annual Conference of the Baptist History & Heritage Society, Faith, Freedom, Forgiveness: Religion and the Civil War, Emancipation and      Reconciliation in Our Time, will be May 20-22, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. The conference will be co-sponsored by the Virginia Bapti …

Contact: brucegourley@baptisthistory.org

URL: www.baptisthistory.org/bhhs/conferences/2013-bhhs-annual-conference.html

Announcement ID: 198315

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198315


CFP: Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes: Cosmography of the Pagan Soul

Keynote Speaker:  Ronald Hutton

We welcome papers that explore the following questions:

In today’s post-modern, urbanized world, where everything is a commodity, how and where do Pagans find their sacred places? How should we protect and maintain these sites? In colonized worlds, how do we avoid the appropriation of these lands? If Goddess is immanent in nature, what makes some places more sacred than others? How is our spirituality shaped by the land and our relationship with the land shaped by our spirituality?

Proposals of up to 1000 words are due by January 1, 2013 and may be uploaded at  http://www.cherryhillseminary.org/blog/announcements/call-for-papers/


CFP – 2nd Announcement

The Departments of Folkloristics and Comparative Religion at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, together with the Donner Institute, are organizing an international interdisciplinary conference to honour the work of Professor Lauri Honko (1932–2002)

THE ROLE OF THEORY IN FOLKLORISTICS AND COMPARATIVE RELIGION

21–23 August 2013

University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

The language of the conference is English.

Timetable:

Call for papers, deadline 31 March 2013

Registration, deadline 31 May 2013

For more detailed information concerning the conference see the attached documents or visit our website:

http://honkoconference.utu.fi/

Also now on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/416180771776969/


CONFERENCES


INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF BENGAL STUDIES, 2013

Date: 2012-12-31

Description:  3rd INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF BENGAL STUDIES 19th – 22nd November, 2013 University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India

Papers are invited for the 3rd International Congress of Bengal Studies scheduled to be held during 19th 22nd November, 2013.

The 3rd Congress will be hosted by the University of Calcutta,

Contact: icbs2013 [at ] gmail.com

URL: bangabidya.wordpress.com

Announcement ID: 198167

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198167


Religion and Development: An Agenda for the 21st Century

Date: 2013-01-31

Description:  HIRENTHA: Journal of the HumanitiesRedeemer’s University (RUN), Ogun State, Nigeria The twin issues of religion and development have had a long history of engagement in the humanities. From the perspectives of history and international relations, language and literature, and theatre arts, there hav …

Contact: hirentha@yahoo.com

Announcement ID: 198111

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198111


Workshop Participants at Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference

Location: Quebec

Date: 2012-11-15

Description: Call for Workshop Participants VAF 2013 Annual Meeting in Gasp, Quebec, Canada Deadline: November 15, 2012.

The Forum Workshop at the 2013 VAF needs your expertise. The Gasp-Perc region currently faces a number of challenges iN preserving and interpreting its cultural sites.

Contact: Tania.Martin [AT] arc.ulaval.ca

URL: www.vafweb.org/conferences/2013/

Announcement ID: 198238

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198238


JOBS


Freie Universitaet Berlin – Postdoctoral Research Associate in

History of European Astroculture

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45713

Kathmandu University – Visiting Lecturer in Buddhist Studies and

Tibetan/Sanskrit

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45697

University of Bristol – Lecturer in East Asian Religions

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45759

University of Southern California – Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching

Fellowship in Japanese Religions

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45735

1640 Chair of Divinity

University of Glasgow

Deadline: 18 November 2012

http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AFJ410/1640-chair-of-divinity/

Teaching Assistant/Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow – Moral Philosophy

University of Glasgow

Deadline: 22 November 2012

http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AFJ505/teaching-assistant-postdoctoral-teaching-fellow/

One-year Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship in Japanese Religions for Fall 2013 at the University of Southern California.

H-Net Jobs Guide listing: https://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45735


GRANTS/PRIZES


STANLEY WEINSTEIN DISSERTATION PRIZE

Date: 2012-12-31

Description: The Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University is pleased to announce the third competition for the Stanley  Weinstein Dissertation Prize, honoring Professor Weinsteins

many contributions to the study of East Asian Buddhism in North America. The prize will be awarded once every two years

Contact: nicholas.disantis@yale.edu

Announcement ID: 198253

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=198253


The AHRC and the United States’s National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have launched a joint funding initiative that focuses on collaborative projects that use humanities disciplines to further develop understanding about health, well-being, disability, medical science, technology and/or other aspects of the health sciences.

Applications should address areas relevant to the AHRC’s Science in Culture theme.  Projects must also involve academics in both the UK and the United States.  Awards are for between 1 to 3 years, with funding ranging from $25,000 (£15,000) and $100,000 (£62,000) per annum.  Applications are submitted to the NEH’s Collaborative Research Programme.

Information about the scheme can be found on the AHRC’s website, with specific call guidelines available on the NEH’s website (see p.4 of their guidelines.)

Closing Date: 6 December 2012.


STANLEY WEINSTEIN DISSERTATION PRIZE

Prize Date:    2012-12-31

Date Submitted:     2012-10-25

Announcement ID:     198253

The Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University is pleased to announce the third competition for the Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize, honoring Professor Weinstein’s many contributions to the study of East Asian Buddhism in North America. The prize will be awarded once every two years to the best Ph.D. dissertation on East Asian Buddhism written in North America during the two previous years. The dissertation must be based on original research in the primary languages and should significantly advance our understanding of East Asian Buddhism. East Asian Buddhism is understood for this competition to refer to those traditions in East Asia that take Chinese translations of the Buddhist scriptures as their basis (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese). Studies of East Asian Buddhist communities in the West are not eligible for consideration.

The recipient of the award will be invited to give a public lecture at Yale under the auspices of the Council of East Asian Studies. There is an honorarium of $1,000.

Ph.D. programs in Buddhist Studies/Religious Studies in North America are invited to nominate one dissertation that was completed during the academic years 2010-11 and 2011-12.*

The deadline for this nomination is December 31, 2012. The nomination must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation, readers reports for the thesis, and one representative chapter of the thesis. All materials should be sent to Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize, Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University, P.O. Box 208206, 34 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520-8206.

A three-person committee will select three theses to be read in their entirety by all committee members. The authors of these three theses will be requested to submit the entire theses in PDF format for this final stage of the selection. The result of the competition will be announced by the beginning of the next academic year.

  • Nominations by the authors themselves will not be accepted.

For more information, please contact koichi.shinohara [AT] yale.edu

Wouter Hanegraaff on Western Esotericism

In this interview, recorded at the EASR Annual Conference at Södertörn University, Professor Wouter Hanegraaff tells us about what he dubs “the biggest blank spaces of neglected territories in the study of religion”, namely Western esotericism. He tells how he first came over the German Folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert’s book Pansophie (1936) and discovered a group of renaissance thinkers he had never heard of, but whose work evidently had influenced western culture in a profound way. It soon came to show that scholars in the academy wasn’t eager to go into it or take it seriously. Hanegraaf gives us insight to how this developed from being neglected sources of Western thought to an established field of study. He also goes into the question of definition; challenges and approaches within the study of Western esotericism; how the study of Western esotericism relates to the study of religion as a whole; the (non-)universality of esotericism; and additionally his blog Creative Reading and the accessibility of academic knowledge.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And apologies for the background noise at the end of the interview. Wouter Hanegraaff is a professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. He has written extensively on many topics among them New Age, Gnosticism, Magic and last but not at least Western Esotericisim. He is currently president of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE and member on the editorial board of Aries(Brill), Numen (Brill), Religion Compass and Esoterica. His latest book Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2012) was subject for a panel-discussion at the EASR Annual Conference. Those with a new-founded interest in the subject can also keep an eye out for his forthcoming book Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2013). Full CV and list of publications on Prf. Wouter Hanegraaff’s webpage. Additionally, the article by Egil Asprem mentioned during the interview can be bought or accessed here.

This is also the first interview conducted by our new sub-editor, Knut Melvær. Knut is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen (Norway). He is currently researching ‘spirituality’ as a folk-category and cultural domain in Norway 1930–2010. His background and particular interests are in theories of religion, new religious movements, Ainu- and Japanese religion as well as methodologies in religious studies. He is a review-editor of Aura, and currently co-editing a special issue of DIN on the topic of ‘Gods’ (December 2012). Knut has a personal website and also an infrequently updated academia.edu profile.

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 19 Oct 2012

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pastimage of booksed from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

PDF summary document can now be downloaded. This can be printed and circulated to colleagues or put up on a notice board.

In this issue:

  • Journals
  • Books
  • Call for Papers
  • Conferences
  • Jobs
  • Networks

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


JOURNALS


Paranthropology, Vol. 3, no. 4 http://paranthropologyjournal.weebly.com/free-pdf.html

Sociology of Religion, vol.73, issue 3, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/73/3.toc?etoc


BOOKS


Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World

Christopher I. Beckwith

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9871.html

Warriors of the Cloisters tells how key cultural innovations from Central Asia revolutionized medieval Europe and gave rise to the culture of science in the West. Medieval scholars rarely performed scientific experiments, but instead contested issues in natural science, philosophy, and theology using the recursive argument method. This highly distinctive and unusual method of disputation was a core feature of medieval science, the predecessor of modern science. We know that the foundations of science were imported to Western Europe from the Islamic world, but until now the origins of such key elements of Islamic culture have been a mystery.


Sacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East

Edited by Anne Porter and Glenn M. Schwartz

Eisenbrauns, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-57506-236-5

List Price: $59.50

Your Price: $53.55

http://www.eisenbrauns.com/item/PORSACRED

What is sacrifice? How can we identify it in the archaeological record? And what does it tell us about the societies that practice it? Sacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East

investigates these and other questions through the evidence for human and animal sacrifice in the Near East from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic periods. Drawing on sociocultural anthropology and history

in addition to archaeology, the book also includes evidence from ancient China and a riveting eyewitness account and analysis of sacrifice in contemporary India, which engage some of the key issues

at stake. Sacred Killing vividly presents a variety of methods and theories in the study of one of the most profound and disturbing ritual activities humans have ever practiced.


CALLS FOR PAPERS

CFP: Fall narratives: an interdisciplinary perspective 18th-19th June 2014, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

As the 340th  anniversary of John Miltons death approaches, we seek to explore the theme of the Fall in a diverse, interdisciplinary context.

The conference, which is organised with the intention of leading to a publication of proceedings, will examine the concept of the Fall across a range of disciplines and languages. The temporal scope extends from antiquity to contemporary times.

We welcome proposals with research interest such as, but not limited to, Literature, Religion, Languages, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Art, Film and Visual Culture, Cultural Studies and economics.

Potential topics include (but again, are not limited to) the following:

* Milton and Paradise Lost

* Concept of moral and philosophical Falls

* Fall of angels (and demons)

* Adam and Eve

* Religious falls

* Literary falls

* Cinematic falls

* Contemporary falls: in finances, politics, media, sports, entertainment etc.

* Fall of empires: historical, economical, cultural.

* Fall of regimes

* Fall of ideologies, ideas, world views, political/ religious movements, etc.

* The linguistics of falling

  • The psychology of falling

Abstracts of approximately 200 words should be sent to:

Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche and Dr ine Larkin

z.hadromi-allouche@abdn.ac.uk

a.larkin@abdn.ac.uk

Deadline for submission is 31st March 2013.

Should you have questions about the conference or the submissions, please contact the organisers at

z.hadromi-allouche [at] abdn.ac.uk

a.larkin [at] abdn.ac.uk


CFP: Scientiae 2013: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World

Deadline for Abstracts: 20th October 2012

Conference to be held at University of Warwick (UK), 18th-20th April 2013

Conference website: http://go.warwick.ac.uk/scientiae

Paper and panel proposals are invited for Scientiae 2013: the second annual conference on the emergent knowledge practices of the early-modern period (ca. 1450-1750).  The conference will take place on the 18-20th of April 2013 at Warwick University in the UK, building on the success of Scientiae 2012 (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver) which brought together over 100 scholars from around the globe.

The premise of this conference is that knowledge during the period of the Scientific Revolution was inherently interdisciplinary, involving complex mixtures of fields and objects that had not yet been separated into their modern “scientific” hierarchies. As such our approach needs to be equally wide-ranging, involving Biblical exegesis, art theory, logic, and literary humanism; as well as natural philosophy, alchemy, occult practices, and trade knowledge. Scientiae is for scholars working in any area of early-modern intellectual culture, with the emergence of modern natural science serving as a general point of reference. The conference offers a forum both for the sharing of research and the sparking of new investigations, and is open to scholars of all levels.

The keynote speakers will be Peter Dear (Professor of the History of Science at Cornell University) and Stephen Clucas (Reader in Early-Modern Intellectual History at Birkbeck, University of London).

Topics and questions may include, but are by no means limited to:

— Theological origins and implications of the new science

— Nature and scripture: which interprets which?

— What do images contribute to our understanding of early modern knowledge?

— Genealogies of “reason”, “utility”, and/or “knowledge”

— Humanism and the scientific revolution

— Paracelsianism, Neoplatonism, alchemy: where are we now?

— What were the relations between the new science and magic and demonology?

— Health and medicine: separable economies?

— Morality and the natural world: an on-going relationship?

— Period conceptions and practices of intellectual property

— Poetics and science: habits of thought?

— Renaissance philosophy and the development of a “new” cosmology and

anthropology.

— Information and knowledge: a clear divide?

— Science and Medicine:  Global Knowledges?

— Early-modern literature and the new knowledge: friends, or foes?

— Advances or reversals of period logic/dialectic

Other prominent speakers expected at Scientiae include: Constance Blackwell, Isabelle Charmantier, Penelope Gouk, Raphael Hallet, Judy Hayden, Kevin Killeen, Sachiko Kusukawa, Vivian Nutton, Brian Ogilvie, Stephen Pender, Claire Preston, Jennifer Rampling, Anna Marie Roos and Richard Serjeantson.

Abstracts proposing individual papers of 25 minutes should be between 250 and 350 words in length. For panel sessions of one hour and 45 minutes, a list of speakers (with affiliations) and 500-word abstract is required. Roundtable discussions or other formats are acceptable.

The deadline for abstracts is the 20th October 2012.

All submissions should be made at

http://go.warwick.ac.uk/scientiae/submit, if you

have any questions please contact the conference convenor David Beck-

D.C.Beck [at] warwick.ac.uk<mailto:D.C.Beck [at] warwick.ac.uk>


32nd ISSR Conference

RETHINKING COMMUNITY RELIGIOUS CONTINUITIES AND MUTATIONS IN LATE MODERNITY Turku-Åbo, Finland, 27-30 June, 2013

Conference website:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Conferences/Conferences.htm

Call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf

Deadlines: October 31th 2012:

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions (STS) and Working Groups (WGT), to be sent to the SESSION ORGANISER (S)

-Abstracts of proposed papers for the Thematic Sessions of the New Researchers Forum (NRF) and Miscellaneous papers (MPL) for the NRF, to be sent to the Session Organiser

-Abstracts of Miscellaneous Papers (MPL) to be sent to the GENERAL SECRETARY

The conference lanaguages are English and French.

Important notice: Organisers of Thematic Sessions (STS) and Working Groups (WGT) and Presenters of papers have to be mambers of the International Society for the Sociology of Religions (ISSR). Each participant may only present one paper at the conference.

Submission details available in the full call for papers:

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Newsletters/Network%20%28PDF%20and%20Word%29/Network%2043.pdf


CFP: The Quran and Islamic Tradition in Comparative Perspective unit of the ISBL welcomes proposals for both individual papers and pre-arranged panels at the international meeting at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, July 7-11, 2013.

Suggested topics might include, but are not limited to:

*Prophets and miracles in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – comparative perspectives

*Vocational journeys in Islamic and other religious traditions

*Parallels to biblical, Jewish, and Christian tradition in the Quran and Islamic literature

*Relationships between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim exegetical traditions

*The various discursive expressions of intercommunal exchange and relations, including both dialogue and polemic

*Islam in European discourse; Muslim cultural, religious, social, and political life in the West

We especially welcome papers of a theoretical or methodological nature that explore the ramifications of the comparative study of the Bible and Jewish and Christian tradition alongside the Quran and Islamic tradition.

Proposals for panels or individual papers can be submitted online at http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/Internationalmeeting.aspx.

The deadline for submission of proposals is February 1, 2013. Please note that membership in the Society of Biblical Literature is required in order to submit a paper proposal.

Please contact the program unit chairs for more information: Michael Pregill, Dept. of Religious Studies, Elon University (michael.pregill@gmail.com); Zohar Hadromi-Allouche, Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen

(z.hadromi-allouche [at] abdn.ac.uk)


CONFERENCES


AHP 15: Rgyal rong Tibetan Life, Language, and Folklore in Rgyas bzang Village

Description:  The editors of Asian Highlands Perspectives (AHP) are pleased to announce: AHP 15: Rgyal rong Tibetan Life, Language, and Folklore in Rgyas bzang Village by G.yu ‘brug and CK Stuart This study of Rgyas bzang (Jizong) Village includes a brief summary of G.yu ‘brug’s life, local languages and location

Contact: kevin.stuart [at] gmail.com

Announcement ID: 197929

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197929


Alternative Enlightenments: an interdisciplinary conference

Date: 2013-04-26

Description:  How distinct is the concept of Enlightenment from the era of European history long taken to have discovered or invented it? This conference proposes an examination of Enlightenments in the plural, welcoming both revisionary accounts of the Age of Enlightenment and explorations of

Enlightenment in o …

Contact: wcoker [at] bilkent.edu.tr

URL: www.bilkent.edu.tr/~cci/CCI/Alternative_Enlightenments_Symposium.html

Announcement ID: 197689

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197689


Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World

The aim of this colloquium is to explore how authoritative texts, culture heroes, and authors were invoked ritually for cursing, protection, and divination in the ancient and late antique Near Eastern and Mediterranean world. The speakers represent a wide range of specializations in ancient ritual practice, including Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian materials.

Monday, October 22, 2012

8:30 AM – 5:30 PM

306 Royce Hall

UCLA

Program:

8:30-8:35am: Welcome by Ra’anan Boustan (UCLA) and Jacco Dieleman (UCLA)

8:35-8:45am: Joseph E. Sanzo (UCLA), “Introductory Remarks:

Authoritative Traditions and Ritual Power in the Ancient World”

Session One

8:45-9:30am: Jacco Dieleman (UCLA), “Cultural Memory and Claims to Authority in Ancient Egyptian Magic”

9:30-10:15am: Jeremy D. Smoak (UCLA), “Yhwh’s Shining Face and the Ritual Logic of the Iron Age Judean Amulets from Ketef Hinnom”

10:15-10:30am: Coffee Break

Session Two

10:30-11:15am: Michael Swartz (The Ohio State University), “Past and Future in Jewish Divination Traditions”

11:15am-12:00pm: Ra’anan Boustan (UCLA) and Michael Beshay (UCLA):

“Biblical Kingship, Imperial Ideology, and Ritual Power in The Testament of Solomon”

12:00pm-1:30pm: Lunch Break

Session Three

1:30-2:15pm: Joseph E. Sanzo (UCLA), “Beyond the Label: A New Approach to the Relationship Between ‘Christian’ Traditions and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity”

2:15-3:00pm: Theodore de Bruyn (University of Ottawa, Canada): “Genre, Tradition, Ritual, Culture, and Social Location: The Case of the Charitesion”

3:00-3:45pm: Jacques van der Vliet (Leiden University, the Netherlands), “Courting the Angels: Celestial Liturgy in Late-Antique Egyptian Magic”

3:45-4:00pm: Coffee Break

Session Four

4:00-4:45pm: Sarah Iles Johnston (The Ohio State University), “Myth as an Authoritative Discourse in Magic”

4:45-5:30pm: David Frankfurter (Boston University), “The Great, The Little, and the Authoritative Tradition in Magic of the Ancient World”

Cost: RSVP requested, please contact: Joseph E. Sanzo, sanzojsanzo [at] aol.com

For more information please contact

Johanna Romero

Tel: (310) 825-1181

romero [at] international.ucla.edu

www.international.ucla.edu/cnes


CHANGING BELIEFS AND SCHISMS IN NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS

Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building,

London School of Economics, Saturday 1 December 2012

http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/howToGetToLSE.htm

To register: WE ARE NOW TAKING PAYPAL BOOKINGS: www.inform.ac/seminar-payment

Or post a booking form (attached) and a cheque payable to ‘Inform’ to Inform, Houghton St., London WC2A 2AE. (Inform@lse.ac.uk; 020 7955 7677).

Tickets (including buffet lunch, coffee and tea) paid by 12 November 2012 cost  £38 each (£18 students/unwaged).

NB. Tickets booked after 12 November 2012 will cost £48 each (£28 students/unwaged).

A limited number of seats will be made available to A-Level students at £10 before 12 November 2012 (£20 after 12 November). A party of 5 or more A-Level students from one school can include one member of staff at the same price.


JOBS


Job Title: Junior Position in Ministry Studies

Employer: Harvard University

Application Deadline: Unspecified

Job Detail:                         http://www.PostdocJobs.com/jobs/jobdetail.php?jobid=1112604

University of Saskatchewan – Asian History in Gender and Sexualities

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45574

University of Sydney – Director, Sydney Southeast Asia Centre

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45549

Worcester State University – Assistant Professor East Asian History

(Tenure Track)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45586

Woolf Institute – Academic Director, Centre for the Study of

Muslim-Jewish Relations

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45585

University of Sydney – LECTURER IN PHILOSOPHY

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45582

Department of Theology and Religion

Durham University

Chair in the Study of Religion

https://ig5.i-grasp.com/fe/tpl_durham01.asp?s=EXgIfLQnAyPBgDdPyv&jobid=74398,4025564854&key=61234847&c=769898514822&pagestamp=setmhqahnftztruqvm


NETWORK


Possible Name: Folklore Archives’ Network (FAN)

It would be our pleasure to invite representatives of archives as well as other individuals interested in folklore archiving to join the network by contacting the co-ordinator Ave Goršič by e-mail at <avetupits@folklore.ee> by December 1, 2012. Your suggestions concerning the archive network are warmly welcome.

Participants of the round table: Ave Goršič (Estonia), Risto Järv (Estonia), Anu Korb (Estonia), Svetlana Kosyreva (Russia), Kati Mikkola (Finland), Mari Sarv (Estonia), Janika Oras (Estonia), Rabindranath Sarma (India), Lina Sokolovaitė (Lithuania), Svetlana Tsonkova (Bulgaria), Ergo-Hart Västrik (Estonia).

In the era of digital revolution and under the circumstances of economic depression, folklore archives in different countries face and share similar problems. The need for a more intense cooperation in the field of folklore archiving was underlined at the round table of the 85th anniversary conference of the Estonian Folklore Archives in Tartu on September 24–25, 2012, which brought together archivists and researchers from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia. Participants of the round table suggested launching an international network of folklore archives that would bring together both institutions (representatives of folklore archives) and individuals whose research is related to folklore archives.

Some of the ideas concerning the network included:

  •  Website with links to participating archives and researchers, providing preliminary information in a common foreign language (English) on archives, researchers/archivists and their topics, and about the accessibility of digitised collections of different institutions.

  •  Network meetings and online groups to discuss possibilities for joint financing, cooperation in the field of collecting campaigns, technical upgrading, etc.

  •  Joint seminars, conferences and panels in international conferences.

  •  Newsletter in English, published and disseminated electronically.

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 5 October 2012

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a image of booksvariety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

pdf summary document can now be download. This can be printed and circulated to colleagues or put up on a notice board.

In this issue:

  • Journals
  • Books
  • Call for Papers
  • Conferences
  • Events
  • Jobs
  • Funding

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


JOURNALS


Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal  http://paranthropologyjournal.weebly.com/

Contemporary Islam, vol 6, no. 3 http://www.springerlink.com/content/ux0271102158/

Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol 21, no.3 http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cjcr20/27/3


BOOKS


Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History

Eric Reinders and Fabio Rambelli

http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=168259&SntUrl=153728


Four-volumes anthology on “Buddhism and Religious Diversity”

Perry Schmidt-Leukel

University of Muenster

Volume one in on Buddhism’s relation to other Eastern Religions, volume two on Buddhism’s relation to Christianity, volume three on its relations to Islam and Judaism and volume four on the inner-Buddhist discourse on religious diversity as such and the place of Buddhism among the religions.

All texts in these books present or reflect on Buddhist perspectives or focus on socio-historical aspects of its relations to the religious other. For more information see:

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415525343/


The Invention of Religion in Japan

Jason Ananda Josephson

University of Chicago, 2012

Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of what we call “religion.” There was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning. But when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign

treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this Western idea. In this book, Jason Ānanda Josephson reveals how Japanese officials invented religion in Japan and traces the sweeping intellectual, legal, and cultural changes that followed.

http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Religion-Japan-Ananda-Josephson/dp/0226412342


CALLS FOR PAPERS


CFP Deadline extended: Viennese Jews and the Christian Question (NEMLA 2013)

Location: Massachusetts

Deadline: 2012-10-05

Description:  Seeking proposals for papers on the engagement of assimilated Jewish writers and artists in discourses on Christianity, religion and spirituality in Viennese Modernism. Literary or interdisciplinary approaches to topics such as Jewish perspectives on Christianity vis vis science, philosophy….

Contact: ckita [at] holycross.edu

Announcement ID: 197484  http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197484


CFP: Beyond Binaries: Toward a Continuum Model of Religious Normativity

Location: Tennessee

Date: 2012-11-27

Description:  Beyond Binaries: Toward a Continuum Model of Religious Normativity March 23-24, 2013 The University of Texas, Austin, TX The keynote speakers for this conference are:Professor David BrakkeJoe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity at The Ohio State University Professor Kevin TrainorProfessor …

Contact: byebyebinaries[at] gmail.com

Announcement ID: 197451

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197451


CFP: Politics of Religion Graduate Student Symposium

Location: Florida

Date: 2012-12-01

Description:  This years symposium will be centered on the theme Politics of Religion. Due to our commitment to collaborative scholarship, students from all fields with interdisciplinary interests in the study of religion and at all levels of graduate study are encouraged to submit paper proposals.

Contact: fsureligionsymposium [at] gmail.com

Announcement ID: 197507

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=197507


CFP: SEVENTH INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON SOCIO-RELIGIOUS STUDIES

Religion, utopias and alternatives to contemporary dilemmas

Havana, July 2-5, 2013

The Department of Socio-religious Studies of the Center for Psychological and Sociological Research (CIPS) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment of Cuba calls scholars on religion, academics and religious believers to participate in the SEVENTH INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON SOCIO-RELIGIOUS STUDIES, sponsored by religious institutions and non-governmental organizations, that will be held on July 2-5, at the Hotel Nacional in El Vedado, Havana.

It is well-known the role of religion as an important producer of interpretation frameworks of social reality, and as generator of social transformation practices, halting or reproducing injustice situations. Amid a turbulent international scene, marked by unresolved socioeconomic and political crises, to approach some of these processes requires complex analyses that transcend mere description to think of alternative proposals or to contribute to spread initiatives, from small religious spaces, that attempt to bring about a more equitable and just world with greater respect for nature and greater opportunities for all human beings.

From this perspective, the event aims to focus the reflections on the following topics:

·         Religion, power and hegemony

·         Religion and the environment

·         Religion and social inequities

·         Religion and diversity

·         Theoretical and methodological approaches

·         Religion, migration and cultural  identity

·         Religious actors, dialogues and transformation.

·         Religion and mass media

·         Institutions, spirituality and religious networks

·         Religion, consumption and market

The Seventh Meeting, like the previous ones held by the Department of Socio-religious Studies, every three years since 1995, aims at creating an environment conducive to dialogue among the participants, exchange of knowledge and sharing experiences.

The official language of the event is Spanish, but translation requests by English speakers can be addressed upon previous notice by the Organizing Committee. All participants will receive documentation related to the event and information of interest about the city and the country.

Presentations can be made in lectures, workshops, panels, posters and by means of audiovisual aids.

The official travel agency is CUBATUR. Contact Person: Arlene Alvarez (eventos1 [at] cbtevent.cbt.tur.cu ).

The registration fee is 150.00 CUC (Cuban Convertible Currency Cubana) for participants; 120.00 CUC for accompanying persons; and 75.00 CUC for students (previous accreditation).

All those interested in participating must fill the data form and e-mail it to: desr_encuentro [at] cips.cu, before November 15, 2012 to be considered by the Organizing Committee:

Dra. Ofelia Pérez Cruz

Head of the Organizing Committee

VII Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Sociorreligiosos

Calle B No. 352 esquina a 15, El Vedado. Ciudad de la Habana

CP 10400, Cuba.

Telephones: (53-7) 831-3610 y 833-5366  FAX: (53-7) 833-4327

Web Site: www.cips.cu

 


CFP: January 2013 issue of Paranthropology will have the theme of “Thinking About Experience.”

Some of the general themes for this issue will include:

* Different ways of talking about experience

* Different ways of interpreting experience

* How to write about personal and social experience meaningfully

* Experience as an aspect of consciousness

* The consequences of taking experience seriously… and so on.

The deadline for submissions to the January issue will be 15th December 2012. Please see www.paranthropology.co.uk for submission guidelines. If you have an idea for an article that you would like to discuss with the editor please get in touch via discarnates [at] googlemail.com


CFP: THE ROLE OF THEORY IN FOLKLORISTICS AND COMPARATIVE RELIGION

Call for Panels and Papers – 1st Announcement

The Departments of Folkloristics and Comparative Religion at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, together with the Donner Institute, are organizing an international interdisciplinary conference to honour the work of Professor Lauri Honko (1932–2002)

21–23 August 2013

University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Timetable:

Call for papers, deadline 31 March 2013

Registration, deadline 31 May 2013

For more information, please visit the conference website at: http://www.honkoconference.utu.fi/ (this will open soon)

Additional information: honko-conference [at] utu.fi


CFP: Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia

Call for Papers mid-term Conference “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia”

Date: June 26 to 29, 2013

Place: University of Goettingen, Germany Organized by: Competence network “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia” (DORISEA), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. See http://www.dorisea.de/en.

Keynote Speaker: Robert Hefner, Boston University.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts: November 30th, 2012. Please send your abstracts to dorisea [at] uni-goettingen.de and indicate in which panel you would like to participate.

Conference topic

In global comparison, Southeast Asia stands out as a region marked by a particularly diverse religious landscape. Various “ethnic religions”

interact with so-called “world religions”, all of the latter – with the exception of Judaism – being represented in the region. While religion has oftentimes been viewed as an antithesis to modernity, scholarship has shown that religion shapes (or: is intertwined with?) modernization processes in crucial ways and that its role in contemporary Southeast Asian societies is intensifying. The mid-term conference “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia” will explore this link between “religion”

and “modernity” by focusing on three dimensions of religious dynamics, namely mediality, politics and mobility. In the spirit of Southeast Asian studies as a holistic, i.e. trans-disciplinary approach, we invite papers from fields as diverse as history, anthropology, sociology, political science, media studies, geography or linguistic studies that investigate the peculiar dynamics of religion in times of globalization, and the ways in which these dynamics mediate change and continuity in Southeast Asia.

Panel 1: materializing Religion: on Media, Mediation, Immediacy

Given that religion “is the practice of making the invisible visible, of concretizing the order of the universe, the nature of human life and its destiny, and the various dimensions and possibilities of human interiority itself” (Robert Orsi 2005: 74), the study of religion necessarily has to scrutinize correlating processes and resources of its materialization. Accordingly, we have to acknowledge that the worlds of religions and the media are not separate or competing spheres of influence, but converge. The study of religion, then, is interrelated with the study of media, mediation and audience perception, of sacred books and images, material objects and the human senses, of religious practices in a public sphere, which is extensively permeated by modern communication technologies. Research on the dynamics of religion in modern Southeast Asia will profit from such a perspective.

Invited are papers on the interface of media and religions in Southeast Asia. Hereby, priority is given to four dimensions of the media and mediation of religions.

  • Concept of “medium” beyond mass media. This involves discussing the medium not only as a means of communication between humans but also between humans and spiritual powers (ritual activities and visual representations through the medium photography; performing arts; ghost pictures and films). In its modern genealogy, the term “medium” always carries a double meaning. Therefore, we include and discuss spirit possession and mediumship as distinct forms of materialization – creating immediacy through embodiment Particular attention will be paid to the modalities of processes of mediation.

  • Constitution and circulation of codes of representation: norms and deviation. The communication of “religious” contents via media is subject to regulation, from legal restrictions and censorship to historically and culturally constituted codes of representation (including aesthetic ones). In this context, the question may arise as to what medium / media are considered “apt” to communicate religious contents. Hereby, the authoritative role of the medium “text” has to be taken into serious consideration.

  • Medium, loss and preservation. Media (be it textual, pictorial or material) are used in an effort to document and to preserve, or to remind: this relates to loss, to death (portraits) and cultures of remembrance. Questions surrounding individuality / collectivity emerge here as well as questions of temporal mediation and transmission (the medium as transcending time).

  • Relation between religious authority and medium / media. New media such as radio or the Internet allow persons without formal religious training to get to a position of religious authority. The effects can be considered as dissolving religious authority and/or as fundamentally democratising. On the other hand, the spread of religious teachings increases through the use of such media, and they are, of course, used intensely by religious authorities.

Papers should address at least one of the above-mentioned dimensions, be empirically grounded and theoretically informed.

Panel 2: Secularization of Religion, Sacralization of Politics? The State of Religion in Southeast Asia

Scholars of Southeast Asia have tirelessly emphasized the tight interplay between politics and religion in the region and questioned the very salience of “religion” and “politics” as separate spheres. From the veneration of national heroes in Vietnamese temples to the declaration by former Prime Minister Mahathir that Malaysia was an Islamic state, a neat distinction between the “religious” and the “political” seems hard to sustain. In terms of theory, this observation has generally led to a refutation of the cornerstone of modernization theory, namely secularism, as a Eurocentric line of thought. This panel seeks to go beyond the simple refutation of the secularization thesis and welcomes contributions that are both theoretically informed and empirically grounded in their investigation of the manifold relations between “religion” and “politics” in Southeast Asia – from the much noted politicisation of religion, to the ritual and performative dimensions of the political.

Historical accounts have long emphasized the mutually constitutive ties of religion and politics in the region. Religion in Southeast Asia has indeed never been solely a tradition, a belief system, the combination of belief and ritual or an instrument to explain the world. Since the introduction of the world religions Hinduism, Buddhism (both vehicles), later Islam and Christianity from the neighboring regions, these world religions have been, like their tribal beliefs systems, which existed before and together with them, instruments to create and to legitimize rules and rulers and to organize societies. This is a general feature since the times when the earliest kingdoms and empires were founded along the trade routes between India and China in the first centuries AD.

Postcolonial nation-states have intervened directly in the definition of what “religion” entails, from designating a particular religion as “state religion”, incorporating certain religious idioms into national ideology, to legally regulating the religious sphere. Indonesia’s Pancasila ideology that incorporated various “world religions” under a Judeo-Christian-Muslim notion of “religion” (Ramstedt 2004), the parallel processes of representational re-vitalization and institutional weakening of Buddhism in Laos (Morev 2002), or, more recently, the “nationalisation of Islam” in the context of globalization and neoliberal capitalism in Malaysia (Fischer 2008) are all examples of possible articulations of the national and the religious in contemporary Southeast Asia. While processes of globalization, migration, economic, ecological or demographic changes are reaching today the “last frontiers” of Southeast Asia’s rural, jungle and highland areas, so does the reach of the modern state: intensifying globalization has not brought about the demise of the nation-state. Yet, transnational religious networks – such as the Pentecostal Church – do contest the monopoly of the state over certain arenas, such as education, or reject the national as the main frame of reference and identity marker by referring to a land “in which God, not the (…) state, has dominion”

(Glick Schiller & Karagiannis 2006:160).

Rather than to equate “politics” with “the state”, in this panel, we seek to explore the manifold linkages between the “religious” and the “political” in globalized Southeast Asia, from the formal institutions and regulatory mechanisms policing the religious sphere to the political claims of religious networks. Importantly, we are not only interested in the ways in which the secular and the religious are respectively defined in local, national and global contexts, but also how religious and state officials draw the internal boundaries of what “religion” entails, marginalizing, for instance, “(its) less objectified and less rationalized manifestations” labeled as “animism” (Lambek 2012).

Papers may address – without being limited to – the following set of questions:

Which political strategies do social actors deploy in the struggle for political, or, respectively, religious authority and to which ends? How are such attempts subverted, instrumentalized or resisted? How is religious authority used to gain political authority and how is the latter used to ‘authenticate’ (e.g. national, religious) identities and its ‘others’? How does the regulation of religion by the nation-state – for instance through law and education – relate to the context of economic globalization? How are transnational religious influences ‘mediated’ with national religiosities?

Panel 3: Spatial Dynamics of Religion between Modulation and Conversion

The panel aims at exploring the spatial dimension of religious change. A reflection on religious practices in Southeast Asia, where different religions share sacred places, multi-religious rituals are common and religious mobility blurs into other forms of travel, clearly shows that religious change is always entangled with dynamics of movement and place-making. But how are these entanglements to be approached empirically and conceptually? Change can be understood on a conceptual and experiential continuum between modulation – as a reproduction and variation within conventional sets of rules, orientations and meanings – and conversion – as a break with previous social and cosmological orientations. The spatial can be conceived as being constituted through the triality of extension, place and movement. Depending on the ways these formal dimensions of change and space take material shape, the dynamics of religion are articulated in historically specific ways which will be the focus of the panel. Papers may address – without being limited to – the following topics:

The movement between places can be understood as a spatial articulation of dynamics of religion. Pilgrimage, for example, potentially facilitates experiences of connectivity, similarity and alterity of places and religions. How do such experiences of movement and distant places mediate experiences and conceptualizations of religious change unfolding between modulation and conversion?

Even without geographic mobility, conversions often imply a spatial dimension. They may involve a shift of or a reorientation within spatial orders (e.g., the integration of certain groups in new structures of religious centers and peripheries). How do such shifts within spatial orders mediate religious change? How are social, political, economic and cultural dynamics related to religion through encompassing spatial orders?

Places are constituted through practices of inclusion and exclusion which can both accommodate a diversity of religious forms as well as demonstrate the purity of a single religious form. What are the different ways of dealing with diversity in religious places? How are spatial articulations of inclusion and exclusion practically implemented in processes of place-making and how are they related to experiences of modulation or conversion?

Religious places are neither self-contained nor mono-functional in yet another dimension. They may, for example, simultaneously be sites of sacred power, national remembrance, tourism and commerce. How are multiple connectivity and multi-functionality achieved and managed through spatial practices of movement and place-making (e.g., pilgrimage, migration, spatial distribution of objects and activities, establishing of topographies, etc.) in relation to religious change?


CONFERENCES


TURNING THE TIDE TOGETHER: A DIALOGUE ON HIV-AIDS, FAITHS AND PUBLIC POLICY

30th October 2012

10.00 – 4.30

University of Chester

Speakers and Papers include:

Dr Irene Ayallo (Gladstone Fellow in Contextual Theology): ‘HIV-AIDS and Public Policy Making Processes in Kenya: Assessing the Participation of People Living with HIV and the role of the Anglican Church of Kenya’

Dr Chris Baker (University of Chester): ‘Religion and the Public Sphere’

Dr Wayne Morris (University of Chester): ‘HIV-AIDS in International Policy Frameworks: Reflections in Light of a Theology of Personhood’

Jacqui Baverstock (Croydon NHS): ‘Disclosing HIV-AIDS: Reflections from Practice in a Multi-Faith Context’

Dan Nield (University of Chester): Taking a HIV Test: A Spiritual Experience?

Further Details and a booking form can be found at: www.chester.ac.uk/cfpp/events<http://www.chester.ac.uk/cfpp/events>

Conference Costs: £40.00 (£20.00 for unwaged/students) including all refreshments and lunch.

For further details, please contact Wayne Morris: w.morris [at] chester.ac.uk<mailto:w.morris [at] chester.ac.uk>


The Congress of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR)

27 – 30 of August 2013

Lausanne, Switzerland.

For more information, please visit the congress website http://www.unil.ch/iapr2013/

Registration and abstracts submission will be open in October 2012.


EVENTS


The Forum on Religion at LSE is pleased to announce the Michaelmas Term 2012 events

Full details are below, and can also be found on the website of the Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion at http://www2.lse.ac.uk/anthropology/research/PRNR/Events/events.aspx

The seminar by Linda Woodhead on 7 November is an opportunity to interact with one of the leading sociologists of religion in the world, and someone who has a unique vantage point on religion and society, via her stewardship of the AHRC/ESRC programme. The seminar room holds about 40 people, so come early to avoid disappointment.

The next day, November 8, we will welcome Charles Hirschkind, an anthropologist from UC Berkeley; this is a rare visit for Charles to the UK, and his perspective on Salafi Islam is one you’ll not want to miss.

On December 6, the Forum will further last Summer Term’s focus on ethics, by co-hosting a debate among Julian Baggini, Angus Ritchie, and Mark Vernon.

In addition to these events, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the launch of a new MSc on Religion in the Contemporary World. This is a welcome development to the portfolio of LSE MSc programmes, and the first intake will start in October 2013. The MSc is based in the Anthropology Department, but is open to all who have an interest in studying religion, secularism, humanism, and related topics from a social-scientific perspective. Students will be able to take courses from across a range of LSE Departments, from Anthropology to International Relations, Government, and more. Further details can be found here:

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/study/graduate/taughtProgrammes2013/MScReligionInTheContemporaryWorld.aspx


JOBS


Assistant Professor in East Asian Religions

JOB GUIDE NO.: https://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45358

Florida State University, Religion

For full consideration, applicants should submit a vita and supporting materials (transcripts, course outlines, samples of written work, and at least three letters of recommendation) by Wednesday, October 31, 2012. Materials may be submitted via email to sstetson [at] fsu.eduor by mail to East Asian Religions Search, Florida State University, Department of Religion, Dodd Hall M05, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520. The Florida State University is a Public Records Agency and an Equal Opportunity/Access/Affirmative Action Employer.


Hamilton College – 2-Year Post Doctoral Fellow in Japanese History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45454

Montana State University – Bozeman – Assistant Professor, Asian History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45395

St. Bonaventure University – Assistant Professor, Asian History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45434

University of Sydney – LECTURER IN KOREAN STUDIES

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45397

University of Wisconsin – Whitewater – Assistant Professor, Asian History

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45449

Leibniz Institute of European History – Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter/-innen Digital Humanities (Digital History / Digital Theology)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45380

Temple University – Indian Religions

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45381

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45404

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor in religion and community in modern South Asia (1600-present)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45409

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor in religion and

community in modern South Asia (1600-present)

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45409

Tulane University – Assistant Professor, Islamic/Middle Eastern

history

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45390

University of Pennsylvania – Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45404


FUNDING


Details of a call for Large Grants under the Science in Culture, Digital Transformations and Translating Cultures themes are now available.

Successful proposals under the Large Grants call are expected to support research activities of a scale and ambition beyond that normally required for a standard AHRC grant.  They should display significant transformative potential within the relevant theme area.

Funding for each grant awarded will be between £1m and £2m (fEC) over a period of between 36 and 60 months. Approximately 2-4 Large Grants are expected to be funded under each theme (subject to quality and overall balance within the theme).

Closing dates for outline proposals are as follows:

  • Digital Transformations – 4pm on Thursday 10 January 2013
  • Science in Culture – 4pm on Tuesday 15 January 2013
  • Translating Cultures – 4pm on Thursday 17 January 2013

Further information: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funding-Opportunities/Research-funding/Themes/Pages/Theme-Large-Grants.aspx

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 14 September 2012 Edition

 

14 September 2012 Issue

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

In this issue:

  • Book Series
  • Journals
  • Calls for Papers
  • Jobs
  • Documentary
  • Workshop
  • Scholarship
  • Conference

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.

 


BOOK SERIES


The Secular Studies series

GENERAL EDITOR:

Phil Zuckerman, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, PITZER COLLEGE

There are more secular people in the world than ever before. And various forms and manifestations of secularity—atheism, agnosticism, humanism, skepticism, and anti-religious movements—are enjoying increased attention and scrutiny. The scholarly examination of secular identity, secular groups, secular culture(s), and political/constitutional secularisms—and how these all relate to each other, as well as to the broader social world—is thus more timely than ever. Moreover, studying secularism also teaches us about religiosity; as secularism is almost always in reaction to or in dialogue with the religious, by studying those who are secular we can learn much, from a new angle, about the religion they are rejecting.

The Secular Studies series is meant to provide a home for works in the emerging field of secular studies. Rooted in a social science perspective, it will explore and illuminate various aspects of secular life, ranging from how secular people live their lives and how they construct their identities to the activities of secular social movements, from the demographics of secularism to the ways in which secularity intersects with other social processes, identities, patterns, and issues.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

Submissions should take the form of a 4-6 page proposal outlining the intent, scope, and argument of the project, its merits in comparison to existing texts, and the audience it is designed to reach. Please include a detailed annotated Table of Contents, ideally 2-4 sample chapters if available, and a current copy of your curriculum vitae.

PLEASE DIRECT QUERIES AND SUBMISSIONS TO:

Dr. Phil Zuckerman

Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College

1050 North Mills Avenue

Claremont, CA 91711

phil_zuckerman@pitzer.edu

Jennifer Hammer

Senior Editor

New York University Press

838 Broadway, Floor 3

New York, NY 10003-4812

jennifer.hammer@nyu.edu

For more information or details on submission guidelines, please visit: www.nyupress.org


JOURNALS

 

Sociology of religion, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc

Journal of Hindu Studies, http://jhs.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc


CALLS FOR PAPERS


“Occultism, Magic and the History of Art” (Graduate

Conference, University of Cambridge, 3-4 December 2012)

Date: 2012-09-30

Description: Graduate Conference 2012/13: “Charming Intentions:

Occultism, Magic and the History of Art”,(University of

Cambridge, 3-4 December 2012) This two-day graduate conference

will investigate the intersections between visual culture and

the occult tradition, ranging from the material culture of

primitive …

Contact: dcjz2@cam.ac.uk

URL:

www.hoart.cam.ac.uk/events/graduate-conference-2012-13-charming-intentions-occultism-magic-and-the-history-of-art

Announcement ID: 196882

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196882


“Making Sacrifices”: Visions of Sacrifice in American and

European Cultures

Location: Massachusetts

Date: 2012-10-01

Description: CFP: “Making Sacrifices”: Visions of Sacrifice in

American and European Cultures November 3, 2012; Salzburg

Institute of Gordon College Symposium, Gordon College, Wenham,

MA As Italian premier Mario Monti recently did, politicians are

increasingly calling on citizens to make sacrifices for the

futur …

Contact: salzburg.symposium@gordon.edu

URL: www.gordon.edu/SalzburgInstitute

Announcement ID: 196785

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196785


SST Postgraduate Conference 2012

University of Cambridge, DECEMBER 3 AND 4

How Shall the Next Generation Live? Theology as Responsibility

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated: “The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is … how the coming generation is to live.”His concern broached the need to take responsibility for others and part of that responsibility was in leaving a legacy of sound doctrine. Taking Bonhoeffer’s concern as our framework, the second SST Postgraduate Conference invites postgraduates from all traditions and none to discuss how current theology can/should serve future generations.

The conference will take place in the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity, between the hours of 12 – 5 PM on Monday 3 December, and 9 – 6 PM on Tuesday 4 December. Delegates will be welcomed by Professor Judith Lieu (Cambridge), and plenary sessions will be given by Professor Graham Ward, Professor George Newlands, Dr. Susannah Ticciati, Revd Dr. Stephen Plant and Revd Dr. Gregory Seach.

The conference is sponsored by the SST and the Cambridge Faculty of Divinity, and is free of charge. We regret that we cannot provide delegates with accommodation or an evening meal. To register, please send your name, contact information and details of your university/institution to registersstpostgrad2012@ymail.com by 31 OCTOBER.

CALL FOR PAPERS

Paper abstracts are to be 250 WORDS and related to the conference theme. We particularly welcome papers which make reference to doctrine. THE SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS 15TH OCTOBER, AND APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE SENT TO sstpostgrad2012@ymail.com. Applicants will be contacted by the end of the month. Papers will be allotted 20 minutes for delivery with 5-10 minutes for questions.

Possible topics include (but are not restricted to):

  1. How academic theology should serve the next generation

  2. The contribution theology can or should make to society

  3. Theology and its interaction with politics/economics/culture

  4. The role of theology in contemporary ethical discourse

  5. The place of scripture in twenty-first century theology

  6. The function of Christian doctrine in twenty-first century theology

  7. Spiritual practice informing twenty-first century theology

  8. ‘Prayer and righteous action’

  9. Theological reflection and praxis

Some bursaries towards travel expenditure are available, however we warmly encourage postgraduates to apply to their institutions for financial support where this is available. Those wishing to apply for a bursary should indicate this when submitting an abstract, giving details of their expenditure and need. Decisions on bursaries will be made by the end of October.

Please note that this conference is intended for postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Established academics are warmly welcome to participate in the Society’s main annual conference, which will be publicised in December.

Please forward this message to postgraduates in your institution. To download a poster to display on your notice board, visit www.theologysociety.org.uk. If you are a postgraduate, we invite you to visit our ‘SST Postgraduate Conference’ Facebook page for news and accommodation information, and hope to see you in December.

Nicki Wilkes and Ruth Jackson

Conference Organisers


Title: Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Description: Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality (JMMS)

is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal. JMMS seeks to be

as inclusive as possible in its area of inquiry. Papers address

the full spectrum of masculinities and sexualities,

particularly those which are seldom heard. Similarly, JMMS

address …

Contact: joseph@gelfer.net

URL: www.jmmsweb.org

Announcement ID: 196563

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196563


Title: Reminder: Call for papers: Medieval and Renaissance

Pilgrimage

Location: Michigan

Date: 2012-09-07

Description: Striding toward Salvation: Medieval and Renaissance

Pilgrimage in Europe and the Mediterranean. During the Middle

Ages and Renaissance, pilgrimage provided an important path to

spiritual salvation; as such, a whole range of individualsfrom

peasants to kings, serfs to sultansundertook these sacred jo

Contact: edkelley@svsu.edu

Announcement ID: 196697

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196697


Title: Last call for submissions for Edited Collection,

Supernatural: Fan Phenomena

Date: 2012-09-15

Description: Last call for abstracts for consideration for the new

Supernatural (Fan Phenomena) title from Intellect Press. This

will be part of the series of Fan Phenomena books, which aim to

explore and decode the fascination we have with what

constitutes an iconic or cultish phenomenon and how a

particular pe …

Contact: lzubernis@wcupa.edu

Announcement ID: 196713

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196713

Title: RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN AFRICA AND ASIA: Discourses and

Realities

Date: 2012-10-30

Description: Following the 55 BANDUNG 55 Seminars of the 55th

Anniversary of 1955 Bandung Asian-African Conference held in

Indonesia in October/November 2010, a series of books under the

label of Bandung Spirit Book Series is in the course of

publication. The coming book is dealing with “RELIGIOUS

DIVERSITY IN A …

Contact: darwis.khudori@univ-lehavre.fr

URL: www.bandungspirit.org

Announcement ID: 196724

   http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196724


2013 International Society for the Sociology of Religion Conference

Turku, Finland: 27-30 June.

RETHINKING COMMUNITY

Religious continuities and mutations in late modernity

SESSIONS ARE NOW POSTED!!

Once the local committee has begun its work, we will post a link here so you can visit the conference website.  That website will contain information about housing, transportation, and other particulars.


Call for Papers

Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives Conference

Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, United Kingdom

 

1-3 August 2013

Congregational music-making has long been a vital and vibrant practice within Christian communities worldwide. Congregational music reflects, informs, and articulates local convictions and concerns as well as global flows of ideas and products. Congregational song can unify communities of faith across geographical and cultural boundaries, while simultaneously serving as a contested practice used to inscribe, challenge, and negotiate identities. Many twenty-first century congregational song repertories are transnational genres that cross boundaries of region, nation, and denomination. The various meanings, uses, and influence of these congregational song repertoires cannot be understood without an exploration of these musics’ local roots and global routes.

This conference seeks to explore the multifaceted interaction between local and global dimensions of Christian congregational music by drawing from perspectives across academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, history, music studies, and theology. In particular, the conference welcomes papers addressing or engaging with one or more of the following six themes:

  • The Politics of Congregational Singing

The choices congregations make to include (or exclude) certain kinds of music in their worship often have significant political ramifications. Papers on this topic may consider: what roles does music play in local congregational politics? How do congregations use musical performance, on the one hand, to build and maintain boundaries, or, on the other, to promote reconciliation between members of differing ethnicities, denominations, regions, or religions?

 

  • Popular Music in/as Christian Worship

Christian worship has long incorporated musical styles, sounds, or songs considered ‘popular’ or ‘vernacular.’ To what extent does congregational music-making maintain, conflate, or challenge the boundaries between ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’? How do commercial music industries influence the production, distribution, and reception of congregational music, and, conversely, how do the concerns of congregational singing shape praxis within the realm of commercial music?

 

  • From Mission Hymns to Indigenous Hymnodies

This theme invites critical exploration of how congregational music has shaped—and been shaped by—Christian missionary endeavours of the past, present, and future. How have colonialism and postcolonialism influenced congregational musical ideologies and practices? Who defines an ‘indigenous hymnody,’ and how has this category informed music-making in the postmissionary church? What does the future of music in Christian missions hold?

 

  • Congregational Music in the University Classroom

What preconceived notions of Christian beliefs, Christian music-making, or the Christian community do instructors face in the 21st century? What should the study of congregational music involve in the training of clergy and lay ministers? How do the experiences and perspectives of university students challenge the way congregational music is practiced and taught?

 

  • Towards a More Musical Theology

Though it has been over twenty-five years since Jon Michael Spencer called for the cross-pollination of musicological and theological studies in ‘theomusicology,’ the theological mainstream still rarely pays attention to music. How might acknowledging the diversity of human musical traditions influence theological reflection on ecclesiology, eschatology, or ethics? What might insights from musicology and ethnomusicology bring to bear on contemporary debates within Christian theology?

 

  • A Futurology of Congregational Music

Papers on this subtheme will offer creative, considered reflection on the future of congregational music. What new emerging shapes and forms will—or should—congregational worship music take? Will congregational song traditions become more localized, or will they be further determined by global commercial industries? What must scholars do to provide more nuanced, relevant, or critical perspectives on Christian congregational music?

We are now accepting proposals (maximum 250 words) for individual papers and organised panels of three papers.  A link to the online proposal form can be found on the conference website at  http://www.rcc.ac.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=prospective.content&cmid=182.

Proposals must be received by 14 December 2012.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 28 January 2013, and conference registration will begin on 2 February 2013. Further instructions and information will be made available on the conference website.


Title: TRANSCULTURAL UNDEADNESS: HISTORIES AND INCARNATIONS OF

MULTIETHNIC HAUNTINGS AND HORROR

Location: Pennsylvania

Date: 2012-10-20

Description: MELUS 2013 March 14-17, 2013 Downtown Pittsburgh

Deadline: October 20, 2012 One point of departure for this

session is our conference location, Pittsburgh, the home base

of veteran horror filmmaker George A. Romero. Starting with his

now-classic 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, Romero has

built  …

Announcement ID: 196770

   http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196770


Call for Papers: Engaging Sociology of Religion

BSA Sociology of Religion conference stream, Annual Conference of the

British Sociological Association

Grand Connaught Rooms, London, 3-5 April 2013

How does sociology of religion engage with topical issues affecting contemporary society?

How can field-specific theories and models help in understanding religion’s role in recent

global and local social movements (the Occupy movement, transitions in the Arab world,

London riots in 2011), the economic crisis and austerity, social mobility, the ‘Big Society’,

cultural pluralisation, climate change, and so on? How have – and how should – sociologists

of religion engage broader public arenas? What could be the specific contribution of

sociology of religion to public discussion? We invite papers that address topical issues such

as the above, but also papers on core issues in the sociology of religion, including – but not

limited to – the following:

* ‘Public’ Sociology of Religion

* Religion, Social Movements and Protest

* Religion and Welfare (including Faith-Based Organisations)

* Religion and inequalities (gender, ethnicity, class)

* Religion and media

* Religion and State in the 21st Century

* Social Theory and Religion

* Secularism and secularisation

Abstract submission to be completed at: www.britsoc.co.uk/events/Conference

Deadline for abstract submission: 5 October 2012.

E-mail: bsaconference@britsoc.org.uk for conference enquiries; t.hjelm@ucl.ac.uk or

j.m.mckenzie@durham.ac.uk for stream enquiries. Please DO NOT send abstracts to these

addresses.


JOBS


University of Kansas – Assistant or Associate Professor of Religious

Studies with a concentration in Judaism

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45212>

Brigham Young University – History Faculty, Open Field/Rank

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45197>

University of Tennessee – Knoxville – Assistant Professor, Early and

medieval Islam (622-1600CE)

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45173>

Cornell University – Thomas and Diann Mann Professorship in Modern

Jewish Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45208>

University of Colorado – Boulder – Jewish History, Assistant

Professor, tenure-track

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45184>


Join the ECF convenor team: Want to have a say in how the BSA Early Career Forum (ECF) is run? Do you have great ideas for events for the ECF and want to get involved? The BSA ECF is looking for a new convener to join the existing team. Your responsibilities will include attendance at BSA council meetings (once a year), organizing the ECF workshops at the annual conference, organizing other ECF workshops and events throughout the  year, maintaining regular contact with ECF members via JISCmail and social media and representing ECF views to the BSA Council and Executive Management Team.  If you are interested in joining the team, please send your CV and a short blurb indicating why you want the position and what skills you would bring to it to lkillick@pacific.edu by Sept 24th 2012.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 


PhD Position in Buddhist Studies

Vacancy number: 12-213

The Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) invites applications for two fulltime PhD positions in the field of Buddhist Studies, specialization open, to begin 1 January 2013, or thereafter.

Review of applications will commence by 15 October 2012 and continue until the position is filled or this call is closed. (http://www.hum.leiden.edu/lias/)

 


DOCUMENTARY


http://www.kidnappedforchrist.com/#!about

Kidnapped for Christ is a feature-length documentary film, which follows the stories of several American teenagers who were sent to an Evangelical Christian reform school located in The Dominican Republic called “Escuela Caribe.” The school is run by Americans and is advertised as a “therapeutic Christian boarding school” whose mission is to “help struggling youth transform into healthy Christian adults.” While many have praised the school for saving the lives of hundreds of troubled teens, in the past several years many former students have begun to speak out against the school, claiming that they suffered both psychological and physical abuse during their time there. The film’s director, Kate Logan, set out to document the experiences of the students at this remote boarding school and was given unprecedented access to film for seven weeks on campus in the summer of 2006. Through candid interviews with distressed students and footage of staff imposing extreme discipline and punishments she was able to reveal the shocking truth of what was actually going on at Escuela Caribe.

The film centers on the story of David, a straight-A student from Colorado who was sent to Escuela Caribe in May of 2006 after coming out to his parents as gay. Like many others, David was taken in the night without warning by a “transport service” and was never told where he was going or when he would be brought back home. David was not the only student whose life was impacted by the school’s severe approach to discipline. The filmmakers followed many other students who also experienced degrading punishments and who struggled to understand what was happening to them. The film also features interviews with former students, including Julia Scheeres, whose 2005 New York Times Best Selling memoir Jesusland tells the story of the disturbing physical and physiological abuse she witnessed and suffered at Escuela Caribe during the 1980s.

The growth of the troubled teen industry, especially therapeutic boarding schools located in the United States and abroad, has given rise to many other allegations of the inhumane treatment of youth and the exploitation of families who are desperately seeking help for their teenagers. The goal of Kidnapped for Christ is to tell the stories of the students who were sent to Escuela Caribe and to give them a voice so that they may make people aware of the broader industry of schools like Escuela Caribe and the potential danger they constitute for our youth. We hope that the film will be entertaining, shocking, thought provoking and will ultimately inspire change in the way these types of schools are run and regulated.


WORKSHOP


Title: Fall 2012 Auschwitz Jewish Center Program for Students

Abroad (AJC PSA)

Description: In its fifth semester, the AJC PSA is a long-weekend

(Thursday PM through Monday AM) program in Krakw for North

American students studying overseas. The program, which

includes a scholarly visit to Owicim/Auschwitz, provides an

academic environment through which participants engage

intensively with …

Contact: DBramson@mjhnyc.org

URL: www.mjhnyc.org/a_affiliates_ajc.html

Announcement ID: 196435

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196435


Scholarships


A full PhD scholarship is being offered at Aarhus University in the new Interacting Minds Centre. Please circulate this call:

http://talent.au.dk/phd/arts/open-calls/phd-call-103/


CONFERENCE


conference on Race/religion as motive for prohibited conduct (Middlesex University, 12 November); the conference flyer is attached.

I have also been asked by Dr Jenny Taylor of Lapido Media to publicise a new book TABLIGHI JAMAAT by Dr Zacharias Pieri of the University of Exeter, which will launch their series of Handy Books for Journalists on Religion in World Affairs; 27 September at Frontline Club: http://www.frontlineclub.com/crm/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=785. The event is free, but booking is essential. The book, which provides the latest research on this group in Britain with exclusive pictures, costs £10 and can now be ordered from info@lapidomedia.com

image of books

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 7 September 2012

7 September 2012 Issue

image of books

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page.

In this issue:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Calls for Papers
  • Jobs
  • Lectures
  • Conferences

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


BOOKS


Liz Greene, Magi and Maggidim: The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1860-1940.

Studies in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology Vol. 3, Lampeter: Sophia Centre Press, 2012. £48.00, Paperback, 558 pp. ISBN 978-1-907767-02-9

http://www.sophiacentrepress.com/publications.html

Liz Greene’s major historical study of the Kabbalah in recent British occultism is published by the Sophia Centre Press on 4 September 2012.

Using primary sources Greene challenges the notion that western occult Kabbalah is a reinvention of ancient sources, and argues that Jewish scholars had a direct input into the modern British ‘occult revival’. For a full description and contents please see

http://www.sophiacentrepress.com/publications/MagiAndMaggidim/magiAndMaggidi

m.html

There is an advance order discount until 21 September.

A fascinating and erudite exploration of the development of modern Kabbalah. Liz Greene’s knowledge of the subject is wide and deep, and this book is masterful in its nuanced unpicking and re-weaving of the history of an occult tradition often marred by poor research and generalisations. Professor Owen Davies, University of Hertfordshire.

LIZ GREENE is a tutor for the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales Trinity St David, and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Bristol.


JOURNALS


The Journal of Hindu Studies – Advance Notice http://jhs.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc

Journal of Media and Religion, vol 11, no.3, http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/jmr/2012/00000011/00000003


CALLS FOR PAPERS


CFP: Sensing the Sacred: Religion and the Senses, 1300-1800

(The University of York, UK, 21-22 June 2013)

Date: 2012-11-05

Description: Sensing the Sacred: Religion and the Senses, 1300-1800 The University of York, England, UK 21-22 June 2013

Confirmed keynote addresses from: Nicky Hallett (University of Sheffield) Matthew Milner (McGill University) & Chris Woolgar (University of Southampton).

Contact: sensingthesacred  [at] york.ac.uk

URL: www.york.ac.uk/crems/events/sensingthesacred/

Announcement ID: 196611

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196611


We invite abstract submissions to the thematic session TRANSCULTURAL CHRISTIANITIES to be held at the 32nd ISSR (International Society for the Sociology of Religion) Conference in Turku, Finland 27-30 June, 2013. DL for submissions is October 31st.

32nd ISSR Conference

RETHINKING COMMUNITY

RELIGIOUS CONTINUITIES AND MUTATIONS IN LATE MODERNITY

Turku-Åbo, Finland, 27-30 June, 2013

STS 25

TRANSCULTURAL CHRISTIANITIES // CHRISTIANISMES TRANSCULTURELLES

Convenors:

TUIJA HOVI Åbo Akademi University (tuhovi@abo.fi)

MINNA OPAS University of Turku (minna.opas@utu.fi)

English abstract:

During the past decade, in particular, the study of Christianity has attracted great interest among anthropologists and scholars of religion. Attention has been paid especially to the forms global Christianity, especially Pentecostal-Charismatic and Evangelical Christianity, take when spreading to new locations. However, the ways local Christians around the world understand, conceptualise and find significant (or insignificant) the global nature of Christianity still remain understudied. In this thematic session, we aim to examine the role of globality in local Christians’ conceptualisations and practices of Christianity: to what extent do they consider themselves a part of a global Christian community and how do their conceptualisations affect their practice of religion.

We welcome contributions approaching these questions from a variety of denominational (and non-denominational) contexts and perspectives. The latter include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • dynamics between inclusiveness and exclusiveness

  • circulation and use of economic resources

  • interaction between missionary and local churches

  • role of different media for people’s Christian vocation

  • temporal dimension of shared Christian faith

  • dogmatic issues such as salvation, End Times, biblical fundamentalism etc.

  • conceptualisations of health, well-being and sexuality

  • views on texts and translations

French abstract

Au cours de la dernière décennie, en particulier, l’étude du christianisme a suscité un grand intérêt parmi les anthropologues et des spécialistes de la religion. L’attention a été portée en particulier sur les formes que le christianisme mondial prend lors de son épandage dans de nouveaux endroits. Toutefois, les manières dont les chrétiens locaux à travers le monde comprennent, conceptualisent et trouvent le caractère mondial du christianisme reste encore peu étudié. Dans cette session thématique, nous cherchons à examiner le rôle du mondialisme dans les conceptualisations des chrétiens locaux du christianisme – dans quelle mesure ils se considèrent comme une partie d’une communauté chrétienne mondiale – et les façons dont ces conceptualisations influent sur la pratique religieuse des gens.

Send your paper abstract to the convenors of this session (Tuija Hovi and Minna Opas) before OCTOBER 31st 2012.

Note that the ISSR/SISR rules for proposing a paper are strict so, please, follow carefully the guidelines below:

Use only standard times new roman font in 12pt and bold when asked, see below.

Give the following information in the set order:

  • Specify the session for which you send in a proposal: (STS 25)

  • Write then the title of your proposed paper in bold in the two official languages of the ISSR/SISR.

  • Next give the Family Name and First Name of the author(s) in bold, followed, but not in bold, by the institutional affiliation.

  • Then give the e-mail address of the author. If there is more than one author; give the e-mail address of the principal author with whom the Convener(s) or the General Secretary should correspond if needed.

  • The abstract should follow in the language that will be used during the presentation at the conference (200 words maximum)

  • Finally, a shorter summary of your abstract (100 words maximum) in the second official language of the ISSR-conferences should be typed in italics. If English is used in the presentation, then the translation should be in French (and vice versa)

If your proposal does not fit the model set it cannot be put on the web site and will be returned to you by the Convener or the General Secretary for adaptation by yourself to the model set.

Important notice:

Presenters of papers HAVE TO BE MEMBERS of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR). If you are not yet a member, you can become one after your paper abstract has been accepted via the web site www.sisr-issr.org. Note also that each participant may only present one paper at the conference.

For more information on the conference see

http://www.sisr-issr.org/English/Conferences/Conferences.htm


Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion, 2nd Annual Symposium

Call for Papers

 The 2012 Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion symposium will explore the theme: Religion and Citizenship: Re-Thinking the Boundaries of Religion and the Secular.

The symposium is organised by Socrel, the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, with funding from the Higher Education Academy, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Subject Centre. Last year’s inaugural symposium was over-subscribed and therefore early submissions are encouraged.

Keynote speaker: Dr Nasar Meer, Northumbria University

Venue: BSA Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, London

Date:  13 December 2012

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Religions today are implicated in a wide variety of publics. From contests over the environment and democracy to protests against capitalism, religions remain important factors in political and public life across diverse, and interconnected, global contexts. A variety of diverse responses have been articulated to the so-called ‘return of religion’ in the public sphere, drawing into question relations between the religious, the non-religious and the secular. As scholars have developed new theoretical understandings of the terms of these debates and questioned how these are bound up with cultural conceptualizations of citizenship, education – in schools, universities and less formal educational contexts – has often been a site where contestations of the religious and the secular have been acutely felt.

The aim of this symposium is to consider the interrelation between conceptions of the religious, the secular, citizenship and education, and to explore how these issues affect the study of religion in higher education. We hope to attract presentations of sufficient quality to lead to an edited publication.

The day will be highly participative and engaged. The symposium will be organised as a single stream so that the day is as much about discussion as it is about presentation, and therefore the number of formal papers will be limited.

Papers are invited from students, teachers, and researchers in the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, geography, theology, history, psychology, political science, religious studies and others where religion is taught and studied. Empirical, methodological, and theoretical papers are welcomed.

Presenters will circulate a five-page summary of their paper before the day so that all participants can come prepared for discussion. Presentations will last 10 minutes and will be structured into three sessions, each followed by a discussant drawing out key points. The day will conclude with a discussant-led, focused panel discussion.

Key questions to be addressed may include, but are not limited to:

What are the relationships between the religious, the secular and the public sphere, and how do these affect the study of religion, in both universities and schools?

How do different historical constructions of religion and secularity shape understandings of the civil sphere and citizenship, and what are the implications of this for the study of religion?

Does the increased public visibility of religion in national and global contexts affect how we study it?

What is the role of religious education (school and/or university) in forming citizens and shaping understandings of citizenship?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of the secular?

Are there distinct regional, national or international conceptions of citizenship?

How do different disciplines approach and study these conceptions, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches?

Abstracts of 200 words are invited by September 15 2012. Please send these to: Dr Paul-François Tremlett p.f.tremlett@open.ac.uk

Costs: £36.00 for BSA/SocRel members; £45.00 for non-members; £20.00 for SocRel/BSA Postgraduate members; £25.00 for Postgraduate non-members.


Last date for submission of abstracts extended to 21st September 2012

Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion

16th November 2012, Enterprise Centre, University of Derby

Organised by the Centre for Society, Religion & Belief (SRB), University of Derby

Funded by Digital Social Research (DSR)

http://www.derby.ac.uk/digital-methodologies-in-the-sociology-of-religion

Within an era of a growing reliance on digital technologies to instantly and effectively express our values, allegiances, and multi-faceted identities, the interest in digital research methodologies among Sociologists of Religion comes as no surprise (e.g. Bunt 2009; Cantoni and Zyga 2007; Contractor 2012 and Ostrowski 2006;Taylor 2003). However the methodological challenges associated with such research have been given significantly less attention. What are the epistemological underpinnings and rationale for the use ‘digital’ methodologies? What ethical dilemmas do sociologists face, including while protecting participants’ interests in digital contexts that are often perceived as anonymised and therefore ‘safe’? Implementing such ‘digital’ research also leads to practical challenges such as mismatched expectations of IT skills, limited access to specialized tools, project management and remote management of research processes.

Hosted by the Centre forSociety, Religion, and Belief at the University of Derby and funded by Digital Social Research, this conference will bring together scholars to critically evaluate the uses, impacts, challenges and future of Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion. We envisage that the conference will lead to an edited textbook and are currently in discussion with key publishers. For the purpose of the conference and textbook, digital research is broadly defined as research that either works within digital contexts or which uses either online or offline digital tools. Abstracts for papers that focus on one, or more, of the following themes are invited:

1. Epistemological Positioning

2. Ethical Dilemmas

3. Implementation & Practical Challenges

4. Wider impacts beyond Academia

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, as well as the title of the paper, name of the presenter, institutional affiliation, and contact details to Dr Sariya Contractor (s.contractor@derby.ac.uk) and Dr. Suha Shakkour (s.shakkour@derby.ac.uk) by 5pm on Tuesday 21st September, 2012. Shortlisted participants will be notified by 28th September 2012 and will be expected to submit summary papers (1000 words) by 1st November 2012 for circulation prior to the conference. A registration fee of £30 will apply for all speakers and delegates. A few travel bursaries are available for post-graduate students – please enquire about these by e-mail. Further details about the registration process will be circulated by mid-September2012. Please visit our website – http://www.derby.ac.uk/digital-methodologies-in-the-sociology-of-religion for further details.


JOBS


The Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Otago invites applicants for the confirmation path position of Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Religion. The position is open to candidates specialising in the study of either Buddhism or Islam.

The successful applicant will be expected to undertake research leading to publication, supervise postgraduate students, and teach undergraduate and post-graduate papers on either Buddhism or Islam, and to contribute to other papers as may be appropriate within the successful candidate’s sphere of expertise. He or she will also contribute to the administration and development of academic and intellectual programmes and be part of the Department’s Distance Learning programme.

Applicants need a PhD and knowledge of languages relevant to their area of research expertise. It is hoped that duties will commence on 1 February 2013.

Specific enquiries may be directed to Dr Will Sweetman,

Department of Theology and Religion,

Tel 64 3 479 8793, Fax 64 3 479 5158, Email will.sweetman@otago.ac.nz.

Applications quoting reference number 1201137 close on Monday 1 October 2012.

Further information: http://www.otago.ac.nz/humanresources/careers/index.php


The Max Weber Center at the University of Erfurt invites applications for the position of a

Researcher in Ancient History of Religion – 65 % (26 h/week) within the research project „Lived Ancient Religion“ (directed by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke). The position is to be filled from 1st December 2012 onwards. The initial contract is for two years. The salary is according to TV-L E 13 (starting from brutto 24855,56 € p.a.).

Lived Ancient Religion“ takes a completely new perspective on the religious history of Mediterranean antiquity, starting from the individual and “lived” religion instead of civic religion. “Lived religion” suggests a set of experiences, of practices addressed to, and conceptions of the divine, which are appropriated, expressed, and shared by individuals in diverse social spaces, from the primary space of the family to the shared space of public institutions and trans-local literary communication. The member of the team we are looking for has to work on the formation of literary and expert discourse about religion and ritual (e.g. in the field of divination) and individual appropriations of such discourses in the Imperial period and thus to contribute to the analysis of the interaction of individuals with the agents of traditions and providers of religious services in the Mediterranean world. The group’s methodological approach is defined through the notions of religious experience, embodiment, and “culture in interaction”. For further information see http://www.uni-erfurt.de/max-weber-kolleg/projekte/kooperationsprojekte/lived-ancient-religion/. The project is financed by the European Research Council.

As a member of the team, the researcher is obliged to also share into the research tasks of the team, e.g. in preparing workshops, conferences, and publications.

.

The ideal candidate needs to

 

  • have an excellent MA or comparable degree in History of Religion, Classical Philology or Ancient History

  • should aim at a doctoral degree based on her or his research project

  • have a very good knowledge of English

  • have excellent knowledge of the relevant ancient language(s)

  • have substantial experience in analysing literary texts

  • fulfil the general admissions rules of § 84 Abs. 4 Thüringer Hochschulgesetz.

 

Any admission to the doctoral program of the Max Weber Center presupposes the participation in interdisciplinary colloquia.

 

For further information please contact joerg.ruepke [at] uni-erfurt.de

 

The University of Erfurt is an equal opportunity employer and encourage in particular applications by women. Ceteris paribus seriously handicapped people will have preference.

 

Deadline

Please send your application with CV, copies of your final school and university degrees, a copy of your MA thesis, and an outline of the research project you would like to pursue puntil 14 October 2012 to: University of Erfurt • Max Weber Centre • PO Box 900 221 • D-99105 Erfurt • Germany or to

ursula.birtel-koltes [at] uni-erfurt.de

 

As the University cannot refund any costs incurred by applying, your applications will not be resent. Please use photocopies or pdf files.


University of Southern California – Assistant Professor of Asian

Religions with specialization in China or Korea

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45119>

University of Toronto – Scarborough – Professor, South Asian History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45134>

College of Wooster – Assistant Professor, East Asian History

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45108>

Northeastern University – Assistant Professor, Chinese History 19th

and/or 20th Century

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45129>

University of Virginia – David Dean Chair in Asian Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45092>

Duke University – SMART CHAIR IN JEWISH STUDIES

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45107>

Catholic University of America – Assistant Professor, Medieval Islam

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45099>

McGill University – Assistant Professor, Ottoman and Turkish Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45111>

Newcastle University – Lecturer in Japanese Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45136>

University of Otago – Dunedin – Lecturer in Japanese

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45097>

Yale University – Assistant Professor, Modern or Contemporary

Japanese Literature

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45088>

Stanford University – Assistant Professor of Philosophy

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45084>

Stanford University – Professor of Philosophy

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45093>

Lehigh University – Assistant Professor, with focus on Religions

related to Africana Studies

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45106>

University of Southern California – Assistant Professor of Asian

Religions with specialization in China or Korea

<http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45119>


LECTURE

Theos Annual Lecture 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

Central Hall Westminster

Monday 1st October, 6.30pm for 7.00pm

I’m writing to invite you to the fifth Theos Annual Lecture, which will be delivered by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams on 1st October 2012. In one of his final public appearances before standing down, he will speak about ‘The person and the individual: human dignity, human relationships and human limits’.

The lecture will explore ways of understanding the human person as shaped and conditioned by relations with God and others – and the risks of reducing personal dignity to individual wellbeing alone.

The evening will be chaired by Mishal Husain. Mishal presents news bulletins on BBC1, is well known internationally for her work on BBC World News and has also presented BBC2’s Newsnight. Beyond the news, Mishal has presented documentary series on Gandhi and British Islam.

Theos annual lectures explore issues of religion in public life. Previous annual lecturers include now-former BBC Director General Mark Thompson, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, General Lord Richard Dannatt and Lord Blair, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Please let us know by 24th September if you’re able to join us.

Elizabeth Hunter

Director

ANY RESPONSES/QUERIES SHOULD BE SENT TO ALANNA MACLEOD (Alanna.macleod@theosthinktank.co.uk)


CONFERENCES

PAGANS AND CHRISTIANS IN LATE ANTIQUE ROME:  INTERPRETING THE EVIDENCE

Rome, 20-21 September 2012

Palazzo Falconieri, Accademia d’Ungheria, Via Giulia 1, Roma

Programme: http://medievalstudies.ceu.hu/events/2012-09-20/pagans-and-christians-in-late-antique-rome-interpreting-the-evidence

image of books

Religious Studies Opportunities Digest – 31 August 2012

31 August 2012 Issueimage of books

We are not responsible for any content contained herein, but have simply copied and pasted from a variety of sources. If you have any content for future digests, please contact us via the various options on our ‘contact’ page. Quite a short one this week…

In this issue:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Calls for Papers
  • Jobs
  • Fellowships

And don’t forget, you can always get involved with the Religious Studies Project by writing one of our features essays or resources pages. Contact the editors for more information.


BOOKS


Promoting Peace, Inciting Violence: The Role of Religion and Media (Media, Religion and Culture) – Jolyon Mitchell (Sept 2012)

This book explores how media and religion combine to play a role in promoting peace and inciting violence. It analyses a wide range of media – from posters, cartoons and stained glass to websites, radio and film – and draws on diverse examples from around the world, including Iran, Rwanda and South Africa.

  • Part One considers how various media forms can contribute to the creation of violent environments: by memorialising past hurts; by instilling fear of the ‘other’; by encouraging audiences to fight, to die or to kill neighbours for an apparently greater good.
  • Part Two explores how film can bear witness to past acts of violence, how film-makers can reveal the search for truth, justice and reconciliation, and how new media can become sites for non-violent responses to terrorism and government oppression. To what extent can popular media arts contribute to imagining and building peace, transforming weapons into art, swords into ploughshares?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Promoting-Peace-Inciting-Violence-Religion/dp/041555747X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346354391&sr=1-1


JOURNALS


Sociology of Religion – Advance Notice – http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent?etoc

Culture and Religion http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rcar20/13/3

Buddhist Forum http://www.shin-ibs.edu/academics/_forum/v4.php


CALLS FOR PAPERS


International Congress: Rethinking Europe with(out) religion. Deadline for abstracts 30 September 2012

Full details as PDF can be found here CFP_Rethinking Europe with(out) Religion

Sehr geehrte Interessierte an der Forschungsplattform RaT! Liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen!

Die Forschungsplattform „Religion and Transformation in Contemporary European Society“ (RaT) möchte Sie hiermit auf den im Februar 2013 stattfindenden Kongress „Rethinking Europe with(out) Religion“ aufmerksam machen.

Details sowie ein Anmeldeformular finden Sie auf der Kongress-Homepage: www.rethinkingeurope.at

Die Kolleginnen und Kollegen an Universitäten und Bildungseinrichtungen bitte ich, diese Information im Rahmen der Ihnen zur Verfügung stehenden Möglichkeiten weiterzuleiten. Bitte machen Sie Studierende auf diesen Kongress aufmerksam! Für alle Fälle hänge ich den CfP an.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen und allen guten Wünschen für einen erholsamen Sommer!


JOBS


Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45049

Lehigh University – Associate or Full Professor, medieval or modern Judaism, and Director of Berman Center for Jewish Studies http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45050

University at Albany – Assistant Professor – Eastern Mediterranean Religion http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45016

University of Toronto Mississauga – Assistant Professor, South Asian Religious Literatures

http://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=45035


FELLOWSHIPS


Title: Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica:  Historical

Consciousness and the Jewish Historical Imagination

Location: Massachusetts

Description: The Center for Jewish Studies and the Department of

History, Harvard University invite applications for the

2013-2014 Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica, on the theme:

Historical Consciousness and the Jewish Historical Imagination.

This includes, but is not limited to Jewish historiography in

all per …

Contact: :cjs@fas.harvard.edu

URL: www.fas.harvard.edu/~cjs/

Announcement ID: 196546

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196546


Title: Gangolf Schrimpf Visiting Fellowship, Fulda Faculty of

Theology

Date: 2012-09-30

Description: The Gangolf Schrimpf Visiting Fellowship will be

awarded to a junior or senior scholar with a well-defined

research project within the field of medieval studies (e.g.

History, Theology, Philosophy, Literature) who wants to spend

at least one month, and up to three months, at the Institute

Bibliothec …

Contact: goebel@thf-fulda.de

URL:

thf-fulda.de/sites/default/files/artikel/fellowship_englische_version_akt_version_0.pdf

Announcement ID: 196478

 http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=196478