CFP: Formatting Non-religion in Late Modern Society – Institutional and Legal Perspective (Eurel 2018)

EUREL Conference 2018

University of Oslo

26-27 September 2018

 

  • Submission of abstracts 28 February 2018
  • Notification of results 31 March 2018

 

Formatting Non-religion in Late Modern Society – Institutional and Legal Perspective invites scholars across disciplines to address the conceptualisation and knowledge of nonreligion in the late modern society. The starting point of the conference is that nonreligion is a culturally contingent concept that displays sociocultural variations across different geographical regions and socio-political systems. With an increasing nonreligious population, the maps of religious belonging needs to be reconfigured, which also could impact how both religious and nonreligious affiliations are recognised by the state.

The conference features keynote speeches by Professors Lori Beaman (University of Ottawa) and Lois Lee (University of Kent).

The conference invites papers with approaches based in political science, sociology, and law. Sociological approaches can draw on both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Papers will address any of the following questions:

  • How can nonreligion be defined, and how can the “nones” be grasped and taken into account in studies on religion?
  • How does the sociocultural and religious backdrop of different countries affect the regulation and representation of nonreligion in law and policymaking?
  • Where and how do nonreligious individuals and collectives fit into institutions in contemporary societies?
  • In which ways do services developed to satisfy the existential needs of citizens provided by the state through law and politics (“from above”) – recognise worldviews and sentiments that are something other than religious? How can nonreligious beliefs be addressed by the law?
  • How does nonreligion “from above” affect notions of citizenship and national belonging?

Paper proposals of no more than 300 words can be submitted here by February 28th, 2018. Proposals must specify which conference theme the paper addresses, and indicate the author’s contact information and institutional affiliation.

The Eurel prize will be awarded at the 2018 conference. It is open to PhD students and young researchers (less than 3 years after defence of the doctorate). Specify in your proposal if you are in such a situation.

Authors will be notified by March 31st 2018 if their proposal has been accepted. The organizers will cover accommodation for one night and all meals for presenters. Transportation fees will not be taken in charge.

Papers must be presented in English or French, normally no more than 20 minutes. If possible, the presentation documents will be in the language not used for the presentation. Although not not mandatory for participation, this would be appreciated.

For more information, see the conference website.

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[Event Report] SocRel 2016 – Construction and Disruption

 


The 2016 Sociology of Religion Study Group (SocRel) conference was hosted by Lancaster alisonUniversity, 12th-14th of July. The conference theme of ‘Construction and Disruption: The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere’ offered a wide range of entry points for considering the visibility and role of religion in contemporary society. Papers explored religion in relation to such public realms as education, culture, state and gender and conflict. Of particular interest to me is how different constructions of the concept of religion impact on the concomitant question of what then constitutes non-religion, and how the concepts interact. The papers outlined below offered opportunities to reflect on this.

Religion, the Public Sphere and Law: Construction, Disruption and Reconstitution

Lori Beaman’s keynote set the tone by considering interactions between the law and the concept of religion. Her examination of legal cases explored how the concept of religion is constructed by different people in different contexts, and how distance between state and religion is legally constructed. Beaman’s interest is less in answering the vexed question of what is and what is not religious than in the complexities that are revealed when the question is debated within particular contexts.

She considered three cases in detail: The first, from the USA, involved a school district sued for allowing students to be taught yoga in what was argued to be a breach of the US Constitutional requirement forbidding the establishment of religion. The second, brought by a French citizen to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), involved a niqab-wearing woman challenging the 2010 ban on wearing, in public places, garments that cover the face. She argued that the ban breached several articles of the European Declaration on Human Rights including article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), and article 10 (protecting freedom of expression). The third case was Canadian, and centred on the question of whether opening municipal council meeting with public prayer is an inappropriate interference with the freedom of practice and conscience of attendees.

Each case demonstrates how a given phenomenon can be constructed as religious in nature by some, and as non-religious, cultural or secular by others without any material change in the circumstances under consideration. Although each occurred in different social, cultural and legal contexts, Beaman argued convincingly for a shared relevance located in an examination of the ways in which the different courts involved constructed and transformed the concepts of religion and culture. These processes resulted in yoga being legally determined as non-religious in nature, because its practice is mainstream in contemporary America. Quebec’s court of appeal accepted the same type of reasoning, judging that the use of public prayer reflected a shared cultural heritage rather than an explicitly religious practice (the Supreme Court later over-turned this ruling). While the ECHR concluded that the need to live together in a social/cultural context which understands facial visibility as an aid to social interaction outweighs the individual’s right to express themselves by covering their face. Each decision thus demonstrates the complexity and contested nature of concepts of religious and non-religious, and problematizes the idea of an absolute division between the two concepts.

Existential Cultures in Steiner Schools

Katie Aston and Dan Whisker reported on the initial stages of their research into interactions of non-religious parents and faith schools. The work to date had all taken place in Steiner schools, which base their ethos on Anthroposophy (a spiritual philosophy with roots in theosophy) . Steiner schools engage in ritual as a school community but actively avoid teaching doctrine. Education is individually focussed, with the intention of nurturing the spirit of the child. The schools are non-competitive and emphasise play as a means of learning.

The research involves surveys and interviews with parents, children and teachers. From this data Aston and Whisker identified that none of the parents with whom they spoke were either anthroposophists, or affiliated to any other religious tradition. All identified as either non-religious or spiritual. Most had also been dissatisfied with their own mainstream schooling, and this contributed to their approval of Steiner educational values and their choice of schools for their children.

Aston and Whisker have identified several preliminary avenues of analysis regarding the value of faith schools to non-religious parents. These include the development of existential cultures, processes of sacralising childhood, and distinctions between verbalised meaning and shared experience. For me this offer a chance to explore the practical distinctions between concepts of religion, non-religion and spirituality for self-described non-religious parents, actively seeking education with a spiritual component for their children and choosing a religious school to provide this. The conceptual constructions at play here suggest the complexity and ambiguity of these terms and the ways they interact in a real-world context.

Pluralist Publics and the Scientific Study of Non-Religion

This panel began with an outline of the multi-disciplinary ‘Understanding Unbelief’ project and the sociological shifts underlying academic interest in non-religion before considering some current approaches in the field.

One area being developed by Lois Lee is the emergence of ‘unbelief’ as an analytic term. She represented this as a deliberate shift away from a sole focus on the issue of deity. The term thus has several aspects – relative, indicating unbelief in specific theological claims; positive, relating to alternative existential/metaphysical beliefs; and negative, describing a general absence of metaphysical beliefs. Areas of interest include the distinct cognitive and social phenomena captured by the term, and ways in which ‘unbeliefs’ manifest in/from people’s lives. For me this shift challenges the idea of religion and non-religion as binary, suggesting perhaps either term can be applicable to a given example via the same constructive processes that Beaman’s legal cases employed.

These examples are drawn from rich and diverse range of papers, many of which touched upon non-religion and secularity in similar ways. There are many opportunities to develop the field further in relation to the academic, cultural and personal conceptual constructions of its critical terms , as well as the multivalent complexity of the religious/non-religious spectrum.


Alison Robertson is in the final stages of her PhD with the Open University. Her thesis is
on BDSM as a lived practice of religioning and her research interests include religion and spirituality in relation to self-inflicted pain, trauma and well-being, personalised religious practices, paganisms any other area where the boundaries between what is and is not deemed ‘religion’ become fuzzy. Alison has recently taken over as the Post-Graduate and Early-Careers Liaison Office for the Sociology of Religion (SocRel) research group.

 

CFP: Rethinking Religion in India conference: Secularism, Religion and Law

Deadline for abstracts 15 August 2012

Rethinking Religion in India conference to be held on 24-27 November 2012 held by the  the research programme Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap (Comparative Science of Cultures)

In 2003, the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap (“Comparative Science of Cultures”) was established at Ghent University, Belgium, under the directorship of Prof. S.N. Balagangadhara. The Research Centre promotes research on cultural differences between Asia and the West and has a special focus on European and Indian culture.

Parallel Paper Sessions

We invite submission of max. 300 word abstracts on the following themes:

  • The colonial construction of Hinduism
  • The caste system and Indian religion
  • Secularism in Europe and India
  • Religious conversion in India
  • Religious and communal violence
  • Religion and Law

In case there is a second author, please indicate this clearly in your abstract.

“How to…?” Workshops

We invite proposals for workshop sessions that address a concrete question such as ‘How to teach about the Indian religions and traditions?’ or ‘How to develop de-colonised descriptions of the Indian traditions?’ will be addressed. Even though the aim of these sessions is to involve the audience in a more active way, the structure of these sessions is left open: the sessions could consist of presentations, a discussion among a panel of experts on a particular theme, a discussion with the audience introduced and moderated by a chair. It is left to the organiser of a ‘how to…?’ workshop to decide upon this.

Workshop proposals should explain why this workshop is important vis-à-vis the general objectives of Rethinking Religion in India. They should also contain an outline of the planned structure of the session with the number and names of speakers, moderator and/or other participants.

Postgraduate Part-time Research Assistants: ‘Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe – Innovative Approaches to Law and Policy’

Advertisement for the post of Postgraduate Part-time Research Assistants

The Department of Law is seeking to employ two suitably qualified Postgraduate Research Assistants to work within the research project RELIGARE. These are EU grant funded positions. The project researches the area of: ‘Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe – Innovative Approaches to Law and Policy’.

Candidates will be required to undertake research in collaboration with and under the supervision of the Principal Investigator, Dr Prakash Shah, in order to realise the objectives and development of the research programme. Duties will involve writing case notes, assisting in the organisation of project meetings, attending project meetings, coordinating volunteers’ activities, and writing and editing research papers and reports. Good academic and legal writing skills are necessary.

These are part-time, fixed term posts available for 6 months. The posts are to commence mid March 2012 or as soon as possible thereafter. Remuneration will be made on an hourly basis and will be in the range of £15.43 – £16.27 per hour depending on the tasks allocated and experience of the employee. Benefits include 30 days annual leave (pro-rata) and defined benefit pension scheme.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate their eligibility to work in the UK in accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. Where required, this may include entry clearance or continued leave to remain under the Points Based Immigration Scheme.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to please contact Dr Prakash Shah (prakash.shah@qmul.ac.uk).

Details about the department and further particulars are available from: www.laws.qmul.ac.uk

Further details and an application form can be found at: http://webapps.qmul.ac.uk/hr/vacancies/jobs.php?id=2882

Completed application forms, quoting 12012/NL, should be returned to law-recruitment@qmul.ac.uk. Applications must be made on the official College application form and must include the applicant’s CV and the names of three referees.

The closing date for applications is 4th March 2012 at 17:00 hrs BST and interviews will be held shortly thereafter.