Call for papers: ‘Profane Imprints on the Sacred: What Religion Owes to Politics’
Thursday June 16 and Friday June 17, 2011
Université Paris-Est Créteil and Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée (France)
Papers proposals (between 250 and 350 words) should be sent by October 30, 2010 to: Farah Boureghda (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The permeability of the religion–politics divide is often discussed in France, where both academic discourse and public debate show that the influence of religion in Anglo-American societies generates a sense of puzzlement verging on anxiety. Yet the extent and the nature of the role of politics in shaping religious belief, behavior, and belonging are rarely considered. This conference organized by CIMMA—a research group on identity constructions and mobilizations in the English-speaking world—aims therefore to deepen our understanding of the relationship between religion and politics in the U.S., the U.K. and other English-speaking countries, by examining both the historical origins and the contemporary manifestations of the influence, traces and effects of the political on the religious. More specifically, the conference will focus on the political dynamics in religious mobilizations and identity constructions.
Various public figures in history have been sanctified—such as William Wilberforce, who is commemorated yearly in the Anglican liturgical calendar for his crusade against slavery in the British Empire, or Abraham Lincoln, whose portrait is an icon in some churches in the United States. What other examples are there of a profane imprint on the sacred, other arrangements where the Durkheimian dichotomy is overstepped and allows for the political to permeate the religious? Famously, Weber argued that the process of modernization brings with it ‘the disenchantment of the world.’ But now some authors are claiming that current religious reconfigurations are bringing about its ‘re-enchantment.’ In such a context, where the relationship between modernity, rationality and secularization is being reinterpreted, how does religion take in politics, or the political, in English-speaking societies, in which the laicisizing process was not imposed by the secular power?
• What part do political issues play in religious life? Papers may discuss the debates on Erastianism and theocracy in seventeenth-century England and New England, or the ways in which, in the United States today, government-funded ‘faith-based initiatives’ impact the dynamics of religious groups—be they Christian or other. How does the intrusion of politics affect religious communities, especially when they include several otherwise-constituted social groups, such as Roman Catholics of Irish, Italian, or Latino-American origins at various times in American history? How do domestic politics and international relations issues weigh in on the internal transformations within the three Abrahamic monotheistic religions, or within such Asian religions as Buddhism or Hinduism?
• Do political issues foster certain religious practices? Do they actually influence liturgy or worship? What is the interplay between political involvement and what Peter Berger calls ‘counter-secularization’ movements? Contributions may focus on how religious communities mobilize the political and make part of their apologetical, missionary, and evangelizing activities dependent on political issues—whether in circumstances of religiously based political confrontation, as in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Britain or in Ireland up to today, or in contexts of peaceful religious pluralism. Another area of interest may be how the liturgy and worship of the religious left in the United States or of the mainstream churches in Britain integrate political considerations of environmental protection, social justice, or world peace.
• In what ways does the political affect religious mobilizations and identity constructions? Themes of interest include the way individual political involvement may boost religious leaders’ ‘careers,’ or contribute to a person’s choice of a religious denomination to join. Papers may also look into the process of identifying as an evangelical when the historical context is amenable to a political reading of the Gospels—as in the United States in the nineteenth-century reform movements, or in contemporary neo-evangelicalism. Also relevant are social or political movements which evolve into religious ones: the African Methodist Episcopal Church—the first African American church to be instituted in the United States—may thus be regarded as a byproduct of political and social activism, since its leader Richard Allen contributed to the emergence of an autonomous African American identity when the Republic was still in its infancy. May Malcolm X’s conversion to Islam or the history of the Nation of Islam be read in similar terms?
These are some of the issues which may be examined during this conference, be it from an historical or contemporary perspective.
Three main angles are suggested: (1) sanctification of the political; (2) politicization of the religious; (3) religious instrumentalization of politics.
Papers may be presented in French or English.
The conference is organized by Nathalie Caron and Guillaume Marche for IMAGER (research institute on English-, German-, and Romance language-speaking cultures)
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