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Construction and disruption: The power of religion in the public sphere

03 July, 2016 19:08
Construction and disruption: The power of religion in the public sphere

Annual Conference of the Sociology of Religion Study Group (SocRel)

Date: 12 – 14 July 2016

Venue: Lancaster University, UK

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Lori Beaman (University of Ottowa)
  • Professor Gordon Lynch (Kent University)
  • Professor Robert Beckford (Canterbury Christ Church University)
  • Dr Abby Day (Goldsmiths and Kent University)
  • Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster University)

The last twenty years has seen a crisis of trust in major public institutions, from politics and media, to banking, to health, social care and education. Alongside this crisis has been a renewed visibility of religion in society, with religions often offering critical but contentious voices, as well as being key but contested contributors to political activism and welfare service delivery.

In this context, prominent theorists such as Jürgen Habermas, Slavov Zizek, Charles Taylor and Manuel Vásquez have suggested that religion may hold the key to reenergizing the public sphere. Yet religions are just as often seen as disruptive, as engulfed in similar crises of trust, as undermining shared values, or as presenting challenging practices. With societies now becoming more secular, more religious and more plural all at once, claims abound that one group or another is being favored or presents a threat. This tension is further complicated by contested developments in the understanding of religion: some scholars have broadened the category of religion to include ostensibly secular ideas and practices; others have suggested that religions are acting less like states, with large bureaucracies and loyal citizens, and more like markets that cater to consumers, with belief less likely to be based on dogma than modes of belonging or self-expression; others still suggest that future success for religions will require greater recognition of ethnic minorities, women and LGBT communities.

The purpose of the conference is to examine these and other characteristics of contemporary religion in order to achieve a greater understanding of its constructive and disruptive impact in the public sphere. What are the key categories, discourses, contexts and institutions through which this question can be explored? How do practitioners navigate these characteristics?



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