Conference Announcement: Contemporary religion in historical perspective: engaging outside academia

5 11 2012

The Open University, Milton Keynes – 15-16 May 2013

What is the relevance of research on historical and contemporary religion for today? How might such research inform current debates on religion, and the practice and self-understanding of religious groups and practitioners? What might historical perspective bring to research on contemporary religion? This conference will address such issues under the broad theme of ‘contemporary religion and historical perspective’. There will be two parallel streams. The first is ‘engaging with the past to inform the present’ and the relevance of religious history for the contemporary context. The second is ‘the public value of research on contemporary religion’; here papers on cross-cultural identities and new religions and popular spiritualities are particularly welcomed.
The backdrop for this conference is the growing acknowledgement that Religious Studies and other disciplines must engage with the wider society. Public ‘engagement’ takes many forms – from extensive projects to ad hoc engagement and involving diverse activities such as media work, lectures, workshops and online engagement. This conference will include practitioner perspectives on different themes, and reflect also on the ways in which academic research on religion might engage with communities of interest and place and private; interact with public and third sector institutions and organisations; and influence public discourse and the social, cultural and environmental well-being of society.
We invite paper and panel proposals for either stream. Papers could include case studies of previous or ongoing outreach, knowledge exchange or public engagement. Topics discussed might include (but are not limited to):

  • integrating ‘religious history’ and contemporary religious practitioners;
  • the relevance of historical research on religion for contemporary debates on religion; and for present-day religious groups, organisations and institutions;
  • intersections between research on contemporary religion and present-day contemporary understanding and practice of religion;
  • the idea of ‘applied’ or ‘public’ Religious Studies;
  • methodological, theoretical and ethical issues relating to Religious Studies and knowledge exchange;
  • relationships between academic and practitioner, or academic institution(s) and non-academic ‘partner’ and their implications and challenges.

Confirmed speakers include Ronald Hutton (Bristol), Steven Sutcliffe (Edinburgh), David Voas (Essex) and John Wolffe (Open University).
The conference is organised by the Open University’s Religious Studies Department.
Cost: £20 per day + £20 for conference dinner on the evening of 15 May. Lunch and refreshments (except conference dinner) are included in the day cost; but we ask attendees to book/fund their own accommodation (advice on local hotels and B&Bs available on request).
Please send proposals to Dr John Maiden ( by 25 January 2013. To book, please contact Taj Bilkhu ( by 23 March 2013.


Final report on Looking Outwards workshop

15 09 2012

Katja has put together a neat downloadable version of the workshop report, which can be downloaded from here. We welcome any feedback that you may have on it, so please feel free to comment away!

HEA Open Educational Resources & Public Engagement

16 07 2012

The HEA have just published the first series of case studies on Open Educational Resources to download. Check out Marianne Talbot, ‘OER and public engagement: a case study’:

“When the University of Oxford’s iTunes/podcast series, OpenSpires, podcast Marianne Talbot’s lectures she was delighted to discover a huge worldwide appetite for philosophy. Her ‘A Romp through the History of Philosophy’ (RTHP) has now been downloaded nearly a million times.  In this case study Marianne analyses her fan emails to try to determine who listens to the podcasts, how and where they listen, and how their lives/actions change as a result.”

Religious Education at the Intersection of Social Justice, Liberation, and Civil/Human Rights

6 06 2012

I (Katja) won’t be travelling to Atlanta to the forthcoming Religious Education Association conference but I will be looking out for the conference proceedings:

REA Annual Meeting: “Let Freedom Ring”

Religious Education at the Intersection of Social Justice, Liberation, and Civil/Human Rights

REA:APPRRE is proud of its long history of diversity as well as its strong commitment to social justice. Our 2012 Annual Meeting will engage these issues directly in a wide range of sessions and events. The meeting will be held November 2–4, 2012, at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. The theme is “Let Freedom Ring! Religious Education at the Intersection of Social Justice, Liberation, and Civil/Human Rights.” We will celebrate and commemorate the fact that religious education in its various forms has often been a key but unacknowledged component of diverse freedom and protest movements, such as the Indian Independence struggle against British rule (Mahatma Gandhi); the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s (Martin Luther King, Jr.); the National Farm Workers Movement (Cesar Chavez); and most recently, the struggle against apartheid and the quest for democracy in the Middle East. During the meeting, we will delve into a number of questions, including

(1) How has religious education functioned amid these and related movements to empower countless people in their quest for basic human rights?

(2) How has spirituality/religion fueled and sustained such movements?

(3) What insights can we as religious educators glean from freedom/protest movements, particularly those that have applied spirituality to social action for shaping prophetic and transformative educational ministries?

The 2012 theme therefore seeks to explore not only the historic role played by religious education in empowering oppressed communities for social activism and personal/communal transformation, but also its role in the creation of innovative contemporary pedagogical strategies that can equip individuals and communities for transformative social engagement.

This year, the annual meeting will bring together religious educators, scholars, practitioners, clergy, graduate students, community leaders, and others who are deeply concerned about issues of justice and social change to engage in an in-depth scholarly and practical exploration of these and other critical questions. In addition, we are keenly aware of the fact that our annual meeting will be held one week before theUnited States elections. Hence, we are excited about the deep reflection and dialogue this event might generate.

We hope you will begin making plans to attend the 2012 annual meeting early, as we anticipate a rich and dynamic gathering.

November 2–4, 2012                  See you in Atlanta!

Religious Education for social cohesion

31 05 2012

The word “instrumentalism” caught my (Katja’s) eye in the following journal article about RE for social cohesion. How does this apply to higher education and our outward looking activities?

Religious Education in England After 9/11; Daniel Moulin;  Religious Education Vol. 107, Iss. 2, 2012

“In the ten years following 9/11 there was unprecedented interest in, and commitment to, religious education in the school curriculum in England. Politicians, academics, and professionals all argued that learning about religion could foster “social cohesion” and even prevent terrorism. Accordingly there were a number of national and international initiatives to develop religious education as a part of intercultural education. With a focus on England, but taking full consideration of landmark transnational collaborations, this article examines developments in policy and professional discourse concerning religious education that occurred after, and sometimes as a direct result of, the events of 9/11. It is argued that this emphasis, often instigated at the behest of politicians, led temporarily to an increased status of the curriculum subject in England, but that this influence may have also led to increased instrumentalism, and with it, associated risk to the subject’s intellectual autonomy and integrity.” (article abstract)

Outward Looking postdoctoral training

16 05 2012

Here is a plug for a training event at the University of Kent which seems to be related to our themes:


Researching the contemporary moral landscape: concepts, methods and approaches to public engagement

An intensive residential training programme for doctoral students and early career researchers run by the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society, University of Kent in conjunction with the RSA

Monday 10th – Friday 14th September, 2012

The AHRC’s Care for the Future research theme emphasises the importance of studying the ‘ethical, moral, cultural and social landscapes’ of contemporary life. How do we engage with this challenge conceptually, though, or practice research in ways that engage effectively with these complex phenomena? What public audiences do these questions matter to and how can we communicate our work in creative and useful ways?

This week-long intensive training workshop, delivered in conjunction with the RSA, will provide doctoral students and early career researchers with a unique opportunity to address these questions through workshop sessions with a range of experienced researchers. The programme content will include a range of disciplinary perspectives and will aim not so much to provide a comprehensive framework, but diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives which can act as a stimulus for participants’ future research.

Includes training sessions which will explore different approaches to public engagement through print, digital and broadcast media.

Further information can be accessed here.

More case studies posted to website

25 04 2012

I’ve just posted two more case studies to our website:

They are by Stefan Skrimshire at Leeds and Julia Ipgrave at Warwick and provide further food for thought. They can be accessed by clicking on the links at the foot of the page on the website.