Has the scholarly turn away from belief and doctrine towards religious rituals, practices, identities, and institutions kept scholars from examining ways in which belief and believing remain central to how people conceptualize what religion is and how it operates in the world? By reexamining what it means to "believe," this April 2009 conference explores if and how belief matters.
Email 400-500 word paper proposals and a brief bios to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 December 2008.
Paper submissions might relate to any of the following themes: Belief vs. Practice; Belief in People and Places; Ways of Believing; Conflict, Cosmopolitanism, and Social Reform; Counting Believers; Belief and Science; Belief and Ethics. Descriptions follow.
Belief vs. Practice
Papers on this theme might sharpen the critique of belief-centered paradigms, or defend their importance. Are ritual and practice better ways of conceiving religion and identity? Should belief play a role in studies of religious practice? Papers might address the ambiguous (and sometimes seemingly inconsistent) relationship between belief and behavior.
Belief in People and Places
Papers on this theme might focus on the notion of believing in something--as opposed to believing that something is true. Objects of belief may include charismatic leaders, saints (hagiography), and sacred places (e.g., pilgrimage sites).
Ways of Believing
Papers on this theme might focus on cultural, historical, and sectarian differences or developments in what it means to believe. Papers may examine, for example, post-enlightenment developments in western notions of belief and believing, the role of law in structuring acceptable ways of believing and belonging, or issues relating to how groups and individuals conceive and present their "beliefs"--including varying uses of such terms as "spiritual" and "religious." Papers might address atheism, science, or nationalism as alternative modes of belief.
Conflict, Cosmopolitanism, and Social Reform
Papers might address the rhetoric about belief and believing that governments and political and humanitarian groups use to justify or engender support for their policies or actions. How have groups in various cultural contexts situated their own beliefs or those of others in relation to "universal" human rights? How have social reformers in various historical contexts used language about beliefs in tactical ways?
Papers on this theme might discuss questions about the role of belief in determining community membership--both from the perspective of practitioners and scholars. Papers might focus not just on modern communities (who, for example, count as "evangelical Christians"?) but also on communities from the distant past (who, for example, count as "early Christians"?).
Belief and Science
Scientific critiques of "religion" often frame their critiques in general terms but in fact focus their criticism on certain beliefs or modes of belief. How do alternate ways of thinking about belief unsettle conventional oppositions between religious belief and science?
Belief and Ethics
How does belief and believing inform decisions regarding right and wrong conduct in the world?
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Featured speakers include Michael Taussig (Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University) and Penny Edgell (Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota)
Hosted by the Columbia University Religion Graduate Students Association
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Deadline: Monday, December 1st
Email 400-500 word paper proposal and a brief bio to:
Final papers should be 9-12 double-spaced pages in length
(presenters will have approximately 20-25 minutes to speak).
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