ISASR ESSAY COMPETITIONS 2017

The Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR) invites entries for the 2017 Academic Study of Religions Essay Prizes. There is the Sídh Prize (Postgraduate) and the Iress Prize (Undergraduate). The respective competitions are open to any student registered (part-time or full-time) in an Irish third level institution for the 2016-17 academic year who would like to present for consideration an essay that has as its focus a topic in the field of the academic study of religions. The competition is open to the island of Ireland, i.e. the Republic and Northern Ireland. It is important to note that essays should be non-confessional in approach. Entries are welcome from students from all fields or disciplines engaged in the academic study of religions such as study of religions/religious studies, history, geography, sociology, anthropology, folklore, and historical or critical approaches to theology or scriptural studies. Previous winners of an ISASR Essay Prize cannot enter again.

~ The Sídh Prize (Postgraduate Essay Prize) ~

Explanatory note on the meaning of the term Sídh: Sídh (Old Irish pronunciation akin to the English word ‘sheath’, Modern Irish pronunciation akin to the English pronoun ‘she’) overall can be taken to refer to a ‘location’, the ‘inhabitants’ of that location and the quality of existence pertaining among them there. As a location it means such features of the physical landscape (both natural and constructed) as hillocks and tumuli that were, and are, regarded as entrances to the otherworld – along with the ‘lios’ and the ‘ráth’ and the ‘dún’ of later usage. The inhabitants of the Sídh were regarded in early Christian tradition as the gods of the earth over whom the new incomer religion had triumphed and who are frequently featured in the early literature as the Túatha Dé Danann. Later tradition features them in story and legend as the fairy folk. Irish tradition, early and late, perceives the realm of the Sídh as associated with delight and harmony – Tír na n-Óg (eternal youth); Tír Tairngiri (Land of Promise); Mag Mell (Plains of Joy) etc. In sum, Sídh connotes an alternative reality, a realm beyond the senses, a numinous place. The term in modern Irish can be used to mean ‘peace’.

How to Enter: Please submit for consideration an essay of 4,000-8,000 words in length. The essay can be a published article or chapter or an unpublished thesis chapter or article. Each entry should be accompanied by a supervisor’s email confirming that the applicant is a current student. The submitted work should be emailed in Microsoft Word format to isasr.essay.prizes@gmail.com by the deadline of 10th August 2017, stating ‘Sídh Prize’ in the subject line. Only one submission is allowed per entrant. The essays will be judged by a panel of experts appointed by the ISASR. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize will be a €100 book token.

 

~ The Iress Prize (Undergraduate Essay Prize) ~

The term Ires(s) in the Old Irish language means ‘religion’, ‘belief, ‘faith’.

How to Enter: Please submit for consideration an essay which has been previously submitted and assessed in an undergraduate module during 2016-17. The essay should have been awarded a grade of 2.1 (Second Class Honours Grade 1) or above, be word processed and be 1,500-4,000 words in length (please note that projects, dissertations or minor theses will not be considered). Each entry should be accompanied by a tutor’s/supervisor’s/lecturer’s email confirming that the applicant is a current student and also confirming the essay’s grade. The essay should be sent in Microsoft Word format to isasr.essay.prizes@gmail.com by the deadline of 10th August 2017, stating ‘Iress Prize’ in the subject line. Only one essay is allowed per entrant. The essays will be judged by a panel of experts appointed by the ISASR. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize will be a €50 book token.

 

For more information on the ISASR, please see our website: https://isasr.wordpress.com/

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ISASR conference 2017 abstracts

The conference programme can be viewed here.

 

Between Exodus and Exile: The Prophetic Tradition of Critique

Tom Boland and Paul Clogher (Waterford Institute of Technology)

Drawing on Foucauldian genealogy and Gadamerian hermeneutics, this paper explores prophecy as a source of critique within contemporary culture. The Hebrew biblical tradition portrays prophecy as both the articulation of values and a critique of social structures. The targets of these discourses vary, ranging from opposition to excessive ritual formality, especially sacrifice, through to accusations of hubris and hypocrisy unto denunciations of injustice and inequality. Further, we argue that the symbolization of migration – whether as exodus or exile – is taken up by prophetic figures as they express their separation from society. Contrary to the Weberian reading of prophecy in terms of charisma, we argue that these cultural codes have migrated through, for example, monasticism and Protestantism into contemporary conceptualisations of dissent. As intellectual nomads, contemporary critics ironically appeal to a pattern set by Hebrew prophecy – among other influences such as Greek parrhesia and early Gnosticism. Critics, then, address immanent social problems from a rhetorically transcendent position. Further, these discourses interpret social life against the backdrop of power and ideology. This is no transparent or neutral, view of reality but carries within it strong normative positions or, in some cases, burgeoning cynicism. Finally, we argue that the pose of secular, rationalising, or enlightening critique is mythic and needs to be tempered by more extensive historical awareness, that is, even iconoclasts speak within a tradition, albeit a tradition in exile.

 

Contemporary Pagan Migrants and the Utilisation of Myth in Creating a Sense of Place

Jenny Butler (University College Cork)

Contemporary Paganism, often described as ‘earth-based spirituality’ or ‘nature religion’, encompasses a whole range of modern-day spiritual traditions including Wicca (a form of witchcraft) and Druidry. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted during the first longitudinal study of Paganism in Ireland, this paper explores Pagan worldview in relation to geo-physical space. The concept of land, within Pagan discourse, goes beyond scenery to an animistic understanding of nature as ‘alive’ with both spiritual and biological life. For Pagans, non-ordinary (supernatural) beings are present in the natural landscape, which is conceptualised as the nexus between the human and divine realms – deities, spirits and fairies are associated with specific topographical features. The native land, which in this study is Ireland, is viewed as home to a range of gods and other beings, while the lands of other countries and regions are similarly viewed as home to geographically-specific spirit-beings. Many Pagans view the planet itself as ‘Mother Earth’, and the physical land as a spiritually-infused fabric that connects all life, and there is a prevailing view that people can find spiritual connection through the land regardless of physical location. Rather than being divided by narrow nationalistic constructs of ‘homeland’, the global Pagan community can engage with the conception of the world as a unified whole and connect to the land and associated myths of a new location. This engagement with a new place involves ritual practices and particular understandings of mythology and this paper explores how migrant Pagans in Ireland ‘connect’ to the land by way of myth and ritual.

 

Migration and the Monomyth

Colette Colfer (Waterford Institute of Technology)

Summary results from the National Census of Ireland show that the number of people in Ireland who identify themselves as having no religion rose 73.6% between 2011 and 2016. This represents the largest percentage change of any religious category outlined in the summary results for 2016. Census figures for Ireland from the last fifty years also show increasing religious diversity and a rise in the number of adherents of minority religions. This paper argues that despite the statistical evidence for secularisation and increasing religious diversity, these figures mask as much as reveal what is going on in relation to religion in Ireland. It draws on the work of Joseph Campbell and his theory of the monomyth or ‘the hero’s journey’ which suggests that underlying all religions and myths across cultures and time is the same unchanging story. This paper will outline the basic trajectory of ‘the hero’s journey’ which itself involves a migration of the hero from the common world into a supernatural region and then a return home. It will argue that although this story changes shape and wears the masks of different religions and cultures, it has migrated into new forms and new mediums including modern literature, slam poetry and film and that ultimately its presence and influence is not measurable. It will illustrate examples to show how this monomyth is also carried within the individual in the form of the unconscious and sometimes emerges within the landscape of the dream.

 

Anthroposophy and its Daughter Movements in the UK and Ireland

Laurence Cox (National University of Ireland Maynooth)

Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical Society has been a small but significant presence in British and Irish cultural life for the past century. This presence is mainly expressed through its many daughter movements. These include Steiner / Waldorf education and parenting, Camphill communities, biodynamic agriculture and more recently in the UK Ruskin Mill – alongside smaller initiatives such as anthroposophical medicine, Eurhythmy, Goethean Science, Christian Community churches and so on. Anthroposophists are highly mobile and international, and while some national structures exist there is nevertheless a particularly strong personal and organisational exchange between the UK and Ireland. This paper seeks to establish a historical and organisational timeframe for these various developments, and to explore some of the wider questions raised. Firstly, the history of the organisational “skeleton” naturally pays particular attention to genealogies, migrations, and family histories. Secondly, the daughter movements’ impact on the world operates through people who are sympathetic without being AS members themselves: local and counter-cultural contexts are thus important in the geography. Thirdly, there are also sectorally-specific histories to do with the relationship of the daughter movements to e.g. mainstream and other alternative educational structures; the wider organic farming and food movement; regulation in the field of special needs education; and so on. The paper concludes with some brief notes on organisational changes which seem to be in train in several of the daughter movements across Ireland and the UK.

 

Nuo and the will to meaning amongst the ethnographers of the Tujia

James Cuffe (Waterford Institute of Technology)

Vassos Argyrous’ recent work Anthropology and the Will to Meaning questions the value of ethnography and general anthropological work concluding that the enterprise is doomed to failure yet should be carried out anyway. This paper explores the thoughts of Argyrou against the backdrop of ethnographic work on religious cultural markers amongst the Tujia, an ethnic group in Guizhou, China. The goal of ethnographic work is to offer access to alternate or inaccessible epistemologies and/or ontologies. But ethnography is not a conversion experience and the use of the researcher’s theories and precepts to explain target subjects’ thoughts and practices can often do conceptual damage rather than allow for ‘true’ insider understanding. The ethnographic study of Nuo is a case in point. So, if as ethnographers we cannot truly present the Other without misrepresentation nor become as one with the Other then what is the point, what is the object of study? The question ‘What is Nuo?’ is, Argyrou might argue, a logical fallacy without a conversion experience. This paper outlines the practice of Nuo as an ontogenetic development and as religious cultural marker of the Tujia ethnic group in the face of migration though ultimately as a consequence of it. The intriguing use of Nuo and its recognition by the Chinese state as an item of Intangible Cultural Heritage begs the question of what use the ethnography actually is in practical terms other than a novel epistemological Gordian knot. This in turn questions and problematises European ideological motives for the preservation of traditional practices and the academic collection of Otherness.

 

‘Thin Places’ and Mystical Tours – Sacred Tourism in Ireland

Nadine Eckmann (University College Cork)

“If you want to […] touch ancient stones […] climb a holy mountain or tie a rag onto a fairy tree, or feel the earth energy that vibrates from a holy site […] my tours might be a good fit for you.” A new recent phenomenon is developing within the tourism industry and the religious environment in Ireland. Tourism companies take their guests on so called ‘Mystic’, ‘Hidden’, or ‘Celtic’ Tours to show popular places representing Ireland as a country. ‘Religious and

Sacred Tourism’ becomes a new buzzword. In this paper, I will focus on the portrayal of some of these specific places like the Cliffs of Moher, Blarney or the Hill of Uisneach as ‘mystic’ and examine how terms like ‘Celtic’ are utilised on tourism websites and are brought into religious discourses in relation to these places. I will investigate how Celtic Spirituality and Irish Folk Religion are put into a new discussion within the Irish tourism industry in modern day Ireland. Which changes in public narrative have these places undergone? What does this mean for the contemporary religious environment of Ireland? This paper presents some preliminary findings related to current fieldwork research conducted in Ireland.

 

Negotiated Terms: churches, charms, and melting pots in the Seychelles archipelago

Rhona Flynn (University College Cork)

As populations migrate, whether by choice or under duress, the traditions and beliefs they carry with them can blur or exaggerate the distinctions between religion and culture. This truism is examined here, through the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean. An exceptional case, and to date barely studied, the evolution of Seychellois religious and cultural identity sets it apart from any other nation. In attempting to understand this process not by looking inward from its colonial founders, but by looking outward from the islands themselves, this study explores the balance between negotiation and capitulation when disparate populations intertwine. The foundation of the Seychelles only 250 years ago was entirely the result of migration. The isolated, unpopulated paradise rapidly received ships carrying an elite minority of French Catholic colonists, and a captured majority; slaves from disparate points on the continent of Africa. Since then, the Seychelles has statistically been, and remains, a thoroughly Catholic nation. Yet to call it a Catholic society would not even begin to tally with lived reality on the islands. Understanding this story requires more oblique evidence than that provided by institutions and historical texts; this paper presents research from Seychellois folklore, music and dance, and medicinal traditions, alongside the official records of colonial authorities. It proposes that, in the context of the Seychelles, the importation and development of bilateral cultural packages presents a necessary jolt to some popular assumptions about majorities, minorities, and what it means to come together.

 

What is the Semitic and Why Does it Matter for Contemporary Israel/Palestine? Reading Joseph Massad and Gil Anidjar

Ari Fogelson (Trinity College Dublin)

Both Joseph Massad and Gil Anidjar have written about the 19th century advent of departments of Semitics and interest in “the Semitic,” asking what labor the idea or myth of the Semitic performs in constructing discourses of religion and race, in configuring the political-theological distinctions underlying a secular, liberal, European Christendom. In turn, they ask how these investigations can shed light on the ways that religion, race, ethnicity, or nationality are deployed to frame the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. While both Massad and Anidjar begin with Edward Said’s proposition that the concept of the Semitic links Europe’s respective self-imaginations in contrast to both Judaism and Islam, nonetheless their accounts of the influence of and evolution from philology differ in emphasis, and each of them raise important questions about the function of myths and the persistence of political-theological distinctions in discourses of difference and related ethics, such as religion or race. In this paper I will explore Massad and Anidjar’s respective proposals as to what requires uncovering or revisiting about the history of the Semitic (and the Aryan) when it comes to Israel/Palestine. How can we understand these different approaches to the invention of the Semitic as a “historical ruse” per Massad and Anidjar’s claim that the Semitic Hypothesis represents a “historically unique, discursive moment whereby whatever was said about Jews could equally be said about Arabs?”

 

Migrant Music—Itinerary Non-Brahmin Priest-Musicians from Western Odisha, India

Lidia Guzy (University College Cork)

This paper addresses the phenomenon of a variety of wandering non-Brahmin priest musicians and singers existing in the Bora Sambar region of Western Odisha, India. These itinerary non-Brahmin priest musicians, representing mostly marginal social strata, venerate local goddesses “on the move” by playing specific instruments and often act as local healers on their spiritual migrant journeys. Specific healing capacities are ascribed to the migrant music performed by wandering non-Brahmin priests. The paper discusses some ethnographic examples of the relatedness between social marginality, migrant music, subaltern itinerary musicians and the local concept of spiritual – transformative – power.

 

Karbala in London: a Shared Narrative of ‘Home’

Chris Heinhold (University College Cork)

The annual re-remembering of the battle of Karbala, at which the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and third Imam, Husayn ibn Ali, was slain, forms a core moment of religious significance in the annual calendar of religious life for Shia globally. I have attended commemorations marking this event across the North West of London, an area often referred to as Karbala in London, during the ten nights of Ashura, in 2014, 2015, and 2016. This key ritual moment offered me an opening into the wider community, as well as an insight into the importance of this remembering in the formation of distinct Shia identity. The Shia population is diverse in terms of national, ethnic, and political viewpoints. There are Shia associations spanning between generations which remain segregated along these traditional identity lines. During the commemoration of Ashura however, and at other moments of religious significance, such borders are broken down. As Dr Yafa Shanneik has observed, “ritual practices, transnationally transmitted but locally preformed” may be altered in their local contexts. In London, I have observed the creation of a unique Shia identity out of this transformation, which is reinforced in the remembering of the Karbala narrative. This paper will discuss the formulation of a shared narrative ‘home’ by diverse groups of Shia in London, and beyond.

 

Migration of myths from Bani Adam poem to discovery of SuShi

Amin Sharifi Isaloo (University College Cork)

Historical and religious wounds do not disappear easily. Considering this and the sectarian elements of tensions, this paper focuses on Shia and Sunni myths in the West to understand how their religious myths form and transform the public sphere outside of their homeland. The conflict between Shia and Sunni contained for hundreds of years and the catastrophe is traveling along sectarian lines from one place to the other, and the cosmetic and decorative peace plans of the world leaders created a permanent liminality. Arguing that this type of schism can be healed by a series of thoughtful and honest political and religious decisions, this paper will take into account the ‘Bani Adam’ poem of Saadi, who travelled different parts of the world and lived in isolated refugee camps in the thirteen century, as well as the discovery of SuShi by current female refugees in a documentary film to demonstrate that myths, which are traveling and migrating with immigrants, can be used to increase the tendency to peace between different religious groups and sects, to bring the schism to an end, to identify a ‘trickster’ and to encourage interculturalism.

 

The Appearance of Saints: Photography as Incrimination and Religious Justification in the Secret Police Archives in 20th Century Eastern Europe

James A. Kapaló (University College Cork)

In this paper I explore the photographic traces in the secret police archives in Romania and the Republic of Moldova relating to an Orthodox Christian movement, Inochentism, that was condemned by the authorities as a dangerous sect. The photographic materials, comprising confiscated images of the community and its leaders, photographs taken of convicted members of the community in custody as well as photographic evidence in the form of re-enactments of rituals, demonstrate the power of the photograph to produce knowledge and truths. As Susan Sontag asserts the camera record both “incriminates” and “justifies” (Sontag 1977) and as such the photographic materials within police and secret police files have a dual identity. The images were presented and preserved as evidence of criminality and yet they also stand testimony to the agency and power of religious communities to resist. When viewed in this way they represent both a tool of control as well as a means of empowerment for communities seeking to understand their difficult past. The archival holdings of the secret police are controversial and present certain challenges in terms of methodology and ethical practice. In this paper I will outline a new approach to the holdings of secret police archives that takes into account not only the value of these materials to the historian and anthropologist of religions but also addresses issues of cultural patrimony and the right of communities to access their cultural and sacred materials.

 

Pagan Heaven: A Migrating Meme Traced from Macrobius to Cicero to Plato

George Beke Latura

From the first sentence of his Commentary on Cicero’s dream of Scipio, Macrobius compares Cicero’s Republic to Plato’s Republic. Though these works by Cicero and Plato are often considered political tracts, Macrobius points to their capstones – the dream of Scipio and the vision of Er – that promised a celestial afterlife to souls that lived justly, virtuously and dutifully while on earth. In other words, Macrobius saw these as religious texts. Neither Plato’s nor Cicero’s Republic survived in medieval Western Europe, but Macrobius’ Commentary managed to migrate from pagan Rome to the ‘school’ of Chartres eight centuries later, where Guillaume de Conches recommends Macrobius to his reader (Dragmaticon). Macrobius located the heavenly afterlife in the Milky Way, as did Cicero, and as do illustrations for Macrobius’ Commentary from the 1400’s (e.g. Harvard, Houghton Library, MS Typ 7). Plato describes heavenly gates in the vision of Er, as does Cicero in an unplaced fragment of his Republic. According to Macrobius, the celestial portals are located at the intersections of the Milky Way and the zodiac, the path of the Wanderers. The odyssey of Platonist cosmology into the twelfth-century Chartrian ‘renaissance’ would be challenged by Aquinas’ adoption of Aristotle as the Philosopher. Aristotle had removed the Milky Way from the heavens and placed it in the sublunary atmospheric regions (Meteorologica). This became the Church’s official view until Galileo’s telescopic observations confirmed that the Milky Way was composed of stars (Sidereus Nuncius).

 

Establishing Islam in Britain: The Founding of Woking Mission

Brendan McNamara (University College Cork)

The commissioning of a mosque in Woking in early 1913 marks a seminal moment in the establishment of Islam in Britain. It was the first purpose-built Muslim place of worship raised at the heart of Empire, though it did not come fully into use until some years after it was built in 1889. My paper problematizes the accepted narrative of how the mosque became operational and highlights factors bearing on the establishment of the Woking Islamic mission which are now obscure and have not previously been analysed. Addressing the ‘afterlife’ of the events and figures at the heart of this narrative, the mnemohistorical dimension will be juxtaposed against the historiographical towards recovering lost aspects central to the first Islamic institutional stirrings in Britain. As well as accenting the Ahmadi contribution, two further contextual foundational strands will be elaborated. One is the involvement of two female rulers of the Indian princely state of Bhopal, both devout Muslims, introducing an important transnational, gender dimension into the origin story. Focus on their role challenges stereotypes in the characterisation of Muslim women of their time as cloistered in their homes, silenced and ineffectual. Finally, the first organisational stirrings of Islam in Britain are framed against the backdrop of a vibrant discourse around religion then in vogue. Reference to this religious milieu is important in articulating a fuller picture and explicates why a non-Muslim visiting religious dignitary became central to the ‘dedication’ ceremonies for mosque. All these factors may be considered ‘difficult history’ in the context of what prevails in contemporary organisational structures and arrangements.

 

Worlds Apart? The Irish Catholic Church and the Needs of the People in a Time of Economic Crisis

Joe Moran (Waterford Institute of Technology)

In circumstances of economic and social devastation in Ireland as a result of the recent recession one would have expected the Irish Catholic Church, as a normal pastoral response to the needs of its members, to give leadership and challenge the policies of austerity and the harm caused by this policy path. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the leadership of the Irish Catholic Church responded in any meaningful way to the austerity policies imposed by government in the wake of economic collapse in 2008. This evaluation is based on an analysis of publicly available statements by Irish Bishops and key documents published by the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs during the four-year period 2008-2012 on the Irish Bishops Conference website. It is contended in this paper that due to the historically conservative nature of the institutional Irish Catholic Church and its rear-guard action to scandals of child abuse it was incapable of reaching out and responding to the needs of the population at this time of crisis.

 

Myths in the Maintenance of Diaspora: Mormons in Ireland and a Global Faith

Hazel O’Brien (Waterford Institute of Technology/University of Exeter)

Mormons in Ireland constitute a small religious minority of 1201 people (Central Statistics Office, 2011) who are connected to a global community (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) whose rapid growth has caused sociologist Rodney Stark to predict that we maybe witnessing the emergence of a new world religion, (1984; 1994; 1996; Stark and Reid 2005). Informed by scholarship in the area of religious diaspora (Cohen, 2008; Vertovec, 1999, 2004; Werbner, 2002), this paper argues that our understanding of Mormonism as a global faith can be better understood through a frame of diaspora. The strong symbolic, historic, and administrative centre of the Mormon religion is Utah, USA, a beacon which Mormons across the globe turn to for guidance and inspiration. Although simultaneously idealised and disparaged by Mormons in Ireland, the community’s collective myths of Utah and Church history are an ever-present component in the experience of being Mormon in Ireland. These myths of religious history and homeland shape perceptions of Ireland and the Irish, and serve as a marker of comparison which allows Mormons to identify who they are, and who they are not. The diasporic experience of being both ‘here’ and ‘there’ is epitomised in the Irish Mormon experience, where national and religious identity are still intertwined in ways which exclude even Irish-born Mormons.  In this way, Mormons in Ireland utilise collective memories and myths of Church history and tradition, belief and practice, to shape their own understanding of who they are in modern Ireland.

 

The Migration of Myth into the Melting Pot of Popular Culture

Wendy O’Leary (Waterford Institute of Technology)

Frequent appearances of myths, folktales and biblical stories in popular culture today speaks to the notion that myths are no longer relegated to the side lines but are now significant in the contemporary world. Reinterpretations and different slants on these myths reflect current values within modern culture, a sort of ‘melting-pot’ effect, where different myths are hybridised. With the increase in a secularized culture and religious scepticism these myths and the values and teachings located within them did not disappear, however, the knowledge found in them was transformed as it migrated into a different medium. By shifting the way we rendered these stories historically and incorporating them into a genre composed of absurdity, parody and satire authors are able to reach new audiences and give them different meanings. These processes are concretised in an analysis of the satirical and parodic reworking of religious myths in the work of Terry Pratchett, particularly of the central city of Ankh-Morpork, the ‘melting-pot’ of Discworld. This city, like the modern capital or the contemporary public sphere, is a centre towards which all myths and peoples migrate and are reworked into cosmopolitan and mutually contradictory myths.

 

The ‘Other’ Muslim Women: the Experience of White Female Converts to Islam in France and Ireland

Anastasia-Athénaïs Porret (University of Paris Diderot)

Recent public discourse on Muslims in Europe has been dominated by talks of terrorism and radicalisation. Recurring debates such as the headscarf crises, or more recently the burkini, contribute to a rise in Islamophobia with women being the first victims. Nonetheless, despite the current political climate, Western countries continue to see a slow yet steady increase in conversions to Islam, more than half of which are female. This study aims to look at and understand these conversions in two different social, political and religious contexts: France and Ireland. Using in-depth interviewing, this sociological comparison explores the ways in which French and Irish female converts, conceive, reformulate and express their sometimes dissonant identities throughout the conversion process, in order to manage the discrimination, islamophobia and racialization that they face as white Muslim women. Islam has been racialised as foreign and non-white in both France and Ireland, yet the two countries have a highly contrasted understanding of the place and meaning of religion in the social sphere. French and Irish converts report different experiences with family reactions and discrimination, however they seem to follow a similar pattern of conversion. To what extent does the political context of a country affect the ways in which women choose to embrace a minority religion? What is the role of immigration and mixed marriage in conversions to Islam? I aim to provide an alternative narrative in order to deconstruct stereotyping discourses that circulate about Muslim women, as well as to analyse these new forms of religiosity from the inside.

 

 

 

 

 

‘A Social Network Analysis of Two Contrasting Congregational Memberships in Northern Ireland’

Adrian Stringer

Material presented in this paper is from an earlier follow-up study. Findings from this research pointed to a series of material/structural associations for each of the four Northern Irish congregations that were examined (Stringer, 2011, 2013, 2016, Harloff, Stringer and Perry 2013.). Twelve years later, two of these congregations have been selected to probe deeper into the nature of one of these associations – that of members’ face to face social networks. This exercise allows a number of questions and concepts to be addressed. This includes three hypotheses. First, that networks of the rural and historic church have a relatively higher density than the other, newly formed urban congregation. Second, that the networks of the rural church are multiplex in contrast with those of the urban church. Third, that both communities display homophily (of their egos and their alters) according to such attributes as gender, residency, socio-economic-class or educational background. Although this is not an attempt at a social network mapping of the entire congregation, it does establish, through the production of the sociograms of individuals’ ego-nets, whether the type of personal networks differ between the two congregations. An outline of the outcome of these findings will be given in terms of a modelling of ecclesial ontology. The intention is that this will spur discussion on the nature and operation of religious memberships within the micro, meso and macro levels of a social system.

 

 

Flanking Reform in Saudi Arabia: Muslim identity and the real reason behind the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme

Helena Walsh Kiely (Waterford Institute of technology)

A Saudi Arabian population which is becoming more educated is becoming more ‘restless’. This paper examines what is lost and gained by the Saudi male student in the participation of the King Abdullah Scholarship programme and whether or not he continues with an ascribed identity having lived outside of the kingdom. It looks at the Saudi students’ level of willingness to continue to adhere to the same rules and rigours of their everyday lives that they are obliged to in a quiescent Saudi Arabia where national, religious and cultural identity are one and the same thing. There is a desire for change in Saudi Arabia but there is simultaneously a growing revival of ultra-conservatism in an attempt to hold on to traditional Wahhabi Islamic views in the face of modernisation. Discussed in this paper are displays of conservatism in the recorded interviews, a stark conflict when mixed with liberal and progressive viewpoints within the same individuals. This paper will discuss which elements of Saudi society the Saudi students interviewed in this study are less inclined to identify themselves with; it will vocalise their opinions on the future of rules and regulations in their country which are not only non-existent in written law, but in their view, have no part in Islam.

 

 

Islam as Support and Stigma for Muslim Migrants and their Children

Rachel Woodlock

Muslims have been refugees and migrants since the dawn of Islam. Tradition holds that at the Prophet Muhammad’s encouragement, a group of persecuted Muslims fled to the Kingdom of Aksum, successfully seeking asylum with the Christian Negus. Today, Muslims make up the largest percentage of the world’s refugees, according to the UNHCR, with 53% of all refugees emanating from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Previous research has shown that religion can be useful in helping Muslims with resettlement, but whether that translates into long-term success depends on a variety of factors, including: the reasons for emigrating; the existence of an already established Muslim community; the current political discourse about Islam and Muslims; support from the wider receiving community; as well as individual, personal circumstances and psychology. This paper will discuss the tensions that occur where Muslims would normally turn to religion for support in both resettling and developing an indigenous Muslim identity in the next generation, but where belonging to that religion also stigmatises them. It is based, in part, on data from a major survey of religious Muslims living in Australia that was undertaken in 2007 and 2008.

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ISASR 2017 conference programme

Sixth Annual Conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions

Religion, Myth and Migration

Waterford Institute of Technology June 16th 2017

 

09.00-09.30 – ISASR Committee meeting (Committee members only) Room F03

09.00-09.45 – Registration and Coffee, Main Entrance, WIT Cork Road Campus.
Conference fee: €30 waged, €15 unwaged

09.45-10.10 – Welcome from Professor Michael Howlett, Head of the Department of Applied Arts and from Dr James Kapaló, ISASR President; Room: F03 (Business Building)


10.10-11.40 – Session 1
1.a Religion, Authority and Community in Contemporary Ireland

Chair: Laurence Cox; Room: F03 (Business Building)

Adrian Stringer – A Social Network Analysis of Two Contrasting Congregational Memberships in Northern Ireland

Joe Moran – Worlds Apart? The Irish Catholic Church and the Needs of the People in a time of Economic Crisis

1.b Myth, Conflict and Stigma

Chair: Brendan McNamara; Room: F04 (Business Building)

Amin Sharifi Isaloo – Migration of Myths from the Bani Adam Poem to the Discovery of SuShi

Ari Fogelson – What is the Semitic and why does it Matter for Contemporary Israel/Palestine? Reading Joseph Massad and Gil Anidjar

James Kapaló – The Appearance of Saints: Photography as Incrimination and Justification in the Secret Police Archives in 20th Century Eastern Europe

 

11.40-12.00 – Coffee


12.00-13.30 – Session 2

2.a Myth, Tourism and Popular Culture

Chair: Jenny Butler; Room: F03 (Business Building)

Wendy O’Leary – The Migration of Myth into the Melting Pot of Popular Culture

Nadine Eckmann – Thin Places and Mystical Tours – Sacred Tourism in Ireland

Colette Colfer – Migration and the Monomyth

2.b Islam, Myth and Migration

Chair: James Cuffe; Room: F04 (Business Building)

Chris Heinhold – Karbala in London: A Shared Narrative of Home

Anastasia-Athénaïs Porret – The ‘Other’ Muslim Women: The Experience of White Female Converts to Islam in Ireland and France

Brendan McNamara – Establishing Islam in Britain – The Founding of Woking Mission

 

13.30-14.30 – Lunch


14.30-16.00 – Session 3

3.a Anthropology, Myth and Migration

Chair: James Kapaló; Room: F03 (Business Building)

Rhona Flynn – Negotiated Terms: Churches, Charms and Melting Pots in the Seychelles Archipelago

Lidia Guzy – Itinerary non-Brahmin Priest-Musicians from Western Odisha, India

James Cuffe – Nuo and the Will to Meaning amongst the Ethnographers of the Tujia

3.b Ireland and Migrating Myths

Chair: Colette Colfer; Room: F04 (Business Building)

Hazel O’Brien – Myths in the Maintenance of Diaspora: Mormons in Ireland and a Global Faith

Laurence Cox – Anthroposophy and its Daughter Movements in the UK and Ireland

Jenny Butler – Contemporary Pagan Migrants and the Utilisation of Myth in Creating a Sense of Place

 

16.00-16.30 – Refreshments Break

16.30-17.30 – Session 4
4.a The Prophetic and the Mythic

Chair: Brad Anderson; Room: F03 (Business Building)

George Beke Latura – Pagan Heaven: A Migrating Meme Traced from Macrobius to Cicero to Plato

Tom Boland and Paul Clogher – Between Exodus and Exile: The Prophetic Tradition of Critique

4.b Education, Resettlement and Religious Identities

Chair: Chris Heinhold; Room: F04 (Business Building)

Rachel Woodlock – Islam as Support and Stigma for Muslim Migrants and their Children

Helena Walsh-Kiely – Flanking Reform in Saudi Arabia: Muslim identity and the real reason behind the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme

 

17.45 – 18.45 – AGM (All members of the Society) Room F03 (Business Building)

 

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ISASR conference 2017 call for papers, extended deadline

Sixth Annual Conference of the
Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR)

Hosted by Waterford Institute of Technology

Religion, Myth and Migration

Friday 16th June 2017

 

We are pleased to invite scholars to take part in the sixth annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR), themed ‘Religion, Myth and Migration’. Religious traditions often draw on powerful myths which make sense of their cosmological, as well as their historical, social and geo-political position. These myths frequently involve migration, from the biblical Exodus to the Islamic Hegira, to various migratory foundation narratives in new religious movements. As religions travel, so do myths, with new forms being created over time. The physical migration of peoples means that their religions travel with them to new geographical and cultural milieus and now, in a globalised world, knowledge is transmitted and ‘migrates’ in ways that are tied in with rapid advancements in technology and information exchanges. With President Donald Trump’s recent ban on Muslim migration, the challenges of Brexit, and movement of refugees and economic migrants around the world, the religious landscapes are swiftly changing. Conceptualising ‘myth’ and ‘migration’ in the broadest sense, conference participants will discuss, reflect upon and explore these themes in relation to changing religious landscapes and the Society invites papers and contributions on areas such as:

  • Migration of religions and associated myths
  • Myths of religious migration and foundation myths
  • Folk religion, folklore and migrant legends
  • Migration of peoples, cultures and religious change
  • Imaginaries/imaginaires of religious migration (cultural fears, racist agendas and religions)
  • Myths within religions
  • Migration of religious ideas

Please Note:

  • Scholars based in any region of the world and working on any aspect of religion, from any disciplinary perspective, are welcome to submit a paper that relates to the conference theme.
  • Scholars working in Ireland are free to submit a paper proposal on any aspect of religion in any context (i.e. the paper does not have to relate to the conference theme).
  • As always, we welcome presentations on research on any aspect of religions in Ireland from scholars worldwide (i.e. the paper does not have to relate to the conference theme).

Call for papers: 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 isasrconference2017@gmail.com by the deadline of 10th April 2017. Notification of abstract/slam acceptance will be given by 17th April 2017.

Please bear in mind that papers should contribute to the aims of the 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 this website.

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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 isasr2016@gmail.com 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: https://isasr.wordpress.com/

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