ISASR Student Essay Competitions 2016

The ISASR student essay competition is now entering its fourth year. Previous years have offered undergraduate prizes only; this year we are announcing the Sídh postgraduate essay prize and the Iress undergraduate essay prize. The deadline for both is August 22: for further details see this page.

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ISASR 2016 conference programme now available

The draft programme and registration form for ISASR’s 2016 conference are now available here.

ISASR’s fifth annual conference, on the theme “Religion and Revolution”, will be held at UCC on Thursday and Friday, 16th and 17th June. The conference includes 35 papers on a very wide range of themes and religions, as well as a keynote talk on the role of religion in the Arab Uprisings by Dr Andrea Teti, co-director of the Centre for Global Security and Governance and the Centre for Modern Thought at the University of Aberdeen.

Full details

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ISASR 2016 conference – extended deadline

“Religion and Revolution

Fifth Annual Conference of the

Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR)

In association with the Department of Study of Religions, University College Cork

Thursday 16th – Friday 17th June 2016

Keynote: “The role of religion in the Arab Uprisings”
Andrea Teti is Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, as well as Co-Director of the Centre for Global Security and Governance and the Centre for Modern Thought. His current work focuses on the politics of democracy in Euro-Mediterranean relations, and he is Scientific Lead on the FP7-funded ArabTransitions consortium. He has also written on Egyptian politics, knowledge production in Social Science, and the work of Michel Foucault.

Call for Papers
We are pleased to invite scholars to take part in the fifth annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR), themed ‘Religion and Revolution’. 2016 is the centenary of the iconic Irish revolution, also known as the Easter Rising, which is arguably the most celebrated occurrence of revolution in Ireland. The Rising represents a historic disjunction with British colonial rule and occurred within a context of social and political upheaval. Across the world, political upheaval is often accompanied by religious change which in turn can bring about dramatic social and political tranformation. Conceptualising revolution in its broadest sense, the conference will discuss, reflect upon and explore these themes. The Society invites papers and contributions on the varied theme of religion and revolution including areas such as:

  • political change and religion
  • religions and social movements
  • radical religious change
  • media representations of religion and revolution
  • the impact of revolution on religious practices
  • theorising concepts: revolutions, reformations and cycles within religious traditions
  • transformations in cosmologies and crises of faith
  • changing paradigms in the academic study of religions

Scholars working in Ireland are free to submit a paper proposal on any aspect of religion both at home and globally.

Please submit your proposal in the form of a title and an abstract (max. 250 words).

Call for slam contributions: We invite ‘slam’ contributions for a maximum duration of 6 minutes on in-progress research, new projects and publications, research networks and new programmes. Please submit a title and brief description of your slam (max. 150 words).

Both paper and slam proposals are to be submitted via email to by the deadline of 19th February 2016. Notification of abstract/slam acceptance will be given by 04th March 2016.

Please bear in mind that papers should contribute to the aims of ISASR as set out in the Society’s constitution, specifically that ‘The main object [is] to advance education through the academic study of religions by providing a forum for scholarly activity (…). The Society is a forum for the critical, analytical and cross-cultural study of religions, past and present. It is not a forum for confessional, apologetical, interfaith or other similar concerns’.

The final programme will be posted on the ISASR website:

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2015 essay prize

The winner of ISASR’s 2015 essay prize is Rory O’Connor, UCC (€75 book token). The runners up are Kellie Lewis, UCC (€25 book token) and Angela Virciu, TCD (€25 book token). Congratulations to all!

ISASR 1st Prize Winner Rory O Connor UCC

Photo: Undergraduate student Rory O’Connor, UCC, receiving his first prize in the ISASR essay competition from Dr James Kapalo.

ISASR Runner Up Prize Winner Kellie Lewis UCC

Photo: Undergraduate student Kellie Lewis, UCC, receiving her runner-up prize in the ISASR essay competition from Dr James Kapalo.

essay prize awardPhoto: Undergraduate student Angela Virciu, Trinity College Dublin, receiving her runner-up prize in the ISASR essay competition – celebrated at the occasion of a wet and windy “lighting the Christmas tree” with professors Cathriona Russell and Alexandra Grieser

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ISASR conference 2016: Religion and Revolution

The theme for ISASR’s 2016 conference (June, University College Cork) is “Religion and Revolution”. The full details are available here, including a call for traditional papers as well as one for short, “research slam” contributions.

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ISASR 2015 essay prize

The ISASR 2015 essay competition has now been announced, for essays which have been submitted and assessed in an undergraduate module. Submission deadline August 21st; full details here.

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ISASR 2015 conference report

Report from the annual conference “The Study of Religions in Ireland: People, Places, Projects”

May 11th 2015

Report by Dr Eoin O’Mahony, Department of Geography, St Patrick’s College DCU.

The fourth annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions took place at Trinity College Dublin on May 11th. It was organised in association with the Trinity Long Room Hub Art & Humanities Institute and sponsored by the Department of Religions & Theology, TCD. The conference was opened by TCD Vice Provost Prof. Linda Hogan. This year, the ISASR took a novel turn. In place of an event over two or three days, it was in the form of a research slam, a format set to test the garrulous nature of the academic. This was to take account of the EAHR Congress in Erfurt later this summer. Following an opening address from the outgoing president of the Association, Dr Patrick Claffey, the slam began in earnest. The Society has a relatively small number of members but we got twelve presentations, seven minutes and one carefully-monitored countdown clock. Through the long windowSome of the research slammers: Alexandra Grieser, Tadhg Foley, chair Brian Bocking, James Kapalo, Laurence Cox, Jenny Butler, Chris Cotter, Olivia Wilkinson, Yuwu Shan, and Vlado Kmec

Chris Heinhold (University of Chester) told us about his theory-building approach to investigating modern British Shia identity. Chris is about to embark on intensive fieldwork but has already noted how being part of a diaspora is performative. As a researcher and migrant himself, he has made attempts to build a flexible theory based on data collection. How culture is remembered and mythologised formed the centre of the contribution by Deirdre Nuttall (independent researcher). The stories we tell ourselves influence the way we act and the story of Ireland has been told largely through Roman Catholic action. She has found that the lives of a working class Protestant minority are largely absent from the folklore archives. Early attempts at nation building in Ireland reinforced a Catholic retelling of the myths at the expense of a shrinking Protestant minority. Chris bisChris Heinhold (University of Chester)

In further tales of cultural erasure, Jenny Butler (University College Cork) told us about Irish fairy beliefs. She is trying to address the academic deficit in this subject. In most academic studies of Irish culture, the focus is on fairy beliefs as “explaining away” rather than as an animistic worldview; for example, there is a focus on folk stories in which fairies are blamed mostly for the ill-effects of human interaction with nature and fairies were often said to be the cause of infant loss or disability and even bad harvests. Her dialogical and anthropological approach is making an attempt to plait strands of research that currently run in parallel. Jenny and MaryJenny Butler (UCC) and Mary Condren (TCD)

Laurence Cox (Maynooth University) brought us on a lyrical journey of the lives of Buddhist monks from Ireland to Asia. He narrated these accounts through the letters sent by these monks in a poetic stroll through space and time. Tadhg Foley (NUI Galway) told us about the wanderings of Max Arthur McAuliffe. McAuliffe’s efforts to avoid responsibility for his progeny was bested only by his commitment to translating Sikh holy texts. Christopher Cotter (Lancaster University) brought us on a technical journey across continents. Christopher walked us through the process by which the Religious Studies Project manages content and podcasts across time zones and continents using online collaborative software. Ireland’s missionary past was recalled in a presentation by (UCC’s) Yuwu Shan. His new research on the Columban missions to China over the course of 150 years shows us that globalisation is not necessarily a recent phenomenon. Through the archive available to him in Dalgan Park, the Columban order’s world headquarters based in Kildare, Ireland, Shan brought their long history in China to life. He is working with photographs and other material to reconstruct the efforts of the holy order navigating turbulent political revolution. Colette Colfer (WIT) and Eoin O’Mahony outlined their initial data from a new project mapping the warehouse worship spaces of Dublin and Waterford, two very different cities. Their work is focused on the ways that warehouses form community around Pentecostal churches and mosques, often defying a visible centrality usually reserved for religious space in Ireland, a majority Catholic country. They are planning a lot more fieldwork. James and Alexandra terJames Kapalo (UCC) and Alexandra Grieser (TCD)

Alexandra Greiser (Trinity College Dublin) told us about transhumanism and how it may be developing into a new universalism through a scientific discourse. This forms part of a larger project she is working on that will take a comparative perspective and a possible account of multiple modernities. Bringing the universal to the local, Vlad Kmec (UCD) told us about his research on the formation of religious identity among migrants to Ireland. He is conducting focus groups with young people and adults among the Czech and Polish communities to examine the functional and substantive roles of religion in migrant lives. Olivia Wilkinson (TCD) is interested in the role of faith based organisations in disaster relief efforts. She has conducted extensive participatory methods in her fieldwork in the Philippines as a way to examine what is counted as faith based in the post-Haiyan aid process. What gets prioritised and, perhaps more importantly, what does not is of central concern to her research. James Kapaló (UCC) told us about a relatively new network called the Marginalised and Endangered Worldviews Study Centre. Its main work is to build comparative perspectives on these endangered of marginalised worldviews and their cultural expressions. The projects here are engaged forms of research and encouraging of a counter-hegemonical perspective for these forms of knowledge. Some were running to the seven minute bell, others seemed to have timed it perfectly to 6 minutes and 57 seconds. BrianOutgoing ISASR secretary Brian Bocking (UCC) keynote lecture “The study of religions in Ireland – topics for the future”

Our slamming over, Brian Bocking (outgoing secretary) recalled for us how far the academic study of religions in Ireland had come in a few short years. Brian has been instrumental in founding and developing the ISASR, as well as the Department of Study of Religions at UCC (the only department of its kind in Ireland) and in his short lecture, summarised for us why the academic study of religions remains vital. He drew a crucial distinction using an analogy between astrology and astronomy. For astrologers, a cosmological system of belief in the power of star alignment forms the basis for earthly action. Among astronomers, the gathering of evidence about the composition of star systems helps us to understand our place in the universe. Both are concerned with the stars but equally both observe from a position of relative powerlessness over their object of study. The academic study of religions, in this way, is just as bound by tradition and human agency as their confessional co-researchers in theology. Oliver and TuulaOliver Scharbrodt (University of Chester) and Tuula Sakaranaho (University of Helsinki) launching Muslims in Ireland

The day’s proceedings were rounded off with a book launch. The book, Muslims in Ireland: Past and Present (Edinburgh UP), is the first complete study of a little known Muslim presence in Europe. Two of its five editors, Oliver Scharbrodt (Univ. of Chester, formerly UCC) and Tuula Sakaranaho (Univ. of Helsinki) spoke about the purpose of the book, its meaning to the academic study of religions in Ireland. Its remaining editors, Adil Hussain Khan (Loyola University, New Orleans), Vivian Ibrahim (Univ. of Mississippi) and Yafa Shanneik (Univ. of Chester, formerly UCC) were acknowledged. Dr Roja Fazaeli (TCD Near and Middle Eastern Studies Department) was respondent while Dr Alexandra Grieser (TCD Religions and Theology) commented from the perspective of the Study of Religions. Roja and JudeRoja Fazaeli (TCD) and Jude Lal Fernando (Irish School of Ecumenics)

Edinburgh University Press sponsored the reception that followed and the Silk Road Café provided wonderful food. The conference as a whole points to a secure future for the small and yet vital academic study of religions in a country with a long tradition of theological investigation. It is not that one pushes the other out of the light of investigation. Rather, it is the academy investing itself with a way to specify the meaning, location and features of religious culture. receptionAt the book reception

Imen and AngelaBackroom staff: Imen Chraiet and Angela Virciu from the TCD Religions and Theology undergraduate programme. Thanks so much!

Photos Volker Scheub, used with thanks

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