ISASR 2012 conference programme and abstracts

“Emerging perspectives: religions and Ireland”

Inaugural conference, UCC, May 25 – 6

Below you will find the conference programme, details of the various paper sessions, and abstracts for some of the papers.

Conference programme

The conference will be held in the O’Rahilly Building, UCC Main Campus

(On Thursday 26th May at 6 pm, Prof Tariq Ramadan of Oxford will launch the Zaki Badawi collection of books on Islam and the Middle East at UCC’s Boole Library. More details on the events page.)

Friday 25th May

10.00-11.00:        Registration and Coffee
Location: O’Rahilly Building ORB 1.23
(see this campus map
– location 62, grid ref G6)

11.00-11.10         opening addresses

11.10-12.40:        Session1.a  & Session 1.b

12.40-2.00:          Lunch

2.00-3.30:            Session 2.a & Session 2.b

3.30-4.00:            Tea/Coffee

4.00-5.00:            Session3.a & Session 3.b

5.00-5.15:            Break 

5.15-6.30:            Keynote Lecture: Prof. Tadhg Foley, “Max Arthur Macauliffe and the Sikh religion” (see below for abstract). Public lecture, all welcome.
Location: Boole Lecture Theatre (building 10, grid F6 on campus map)

6.30:                      Reception

Sponsored by the School of Asian Studies, Study of Religions Dept. and College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, UCC.

Saturday 26th May

9.00-10.30:          Session 4.a & Session 4.b

10.30-11.00:        Coffee

11.00-1.00:          Session 5.a & Session 5.b

1.00-2.00:            Lunch

2.00-3.30:            ISASR AGM (for ISASR members only)


Friday 25th May, 11.10 – 12.40

1a: Practice and belief in Ireland

Allen, Will
Catholic Imagery in the beliefs and practices of 20th century Ireland
Cato, Cesare

Fantasy and the Sacred: Philosophical and spiritual meanings in Irish Fairy Tales
Anderson, Brad

The Bible and the 1641 Depositions: Reflections on Scriptural Materiality and Iconicity

1b: Religion, census, demographics

Stringer, Adrian
The significance of demographic features in four congregational memberships in Northern Ireland
Macourt, Malcolm

What use can data from the question on religion in the Census of the Population be to students of religion?
Scharbrodt, Oliver

Islam in the Census

Friday 25th May, 2 – 3.30

2a: Irishmen go global

Bocking, Brian
The First Irish Buddhist Missionary?
McNamara, Brendan

George Townsend: From Anglican Clergyman to Bahá’í Dignitary – Concerning Religious Identity
Shan, Yuwu

The Pioneer of the Irish Mission to China: Vincentian Robert Hanna

2b: Religion, art and music

Park, Yongnam
The Spiritual resonance between Night cafe and Cafe Terrace as a symbolic church
Guzy, Lidia

Indian Music and Goddesses
O’Mahony, Eoin

Geographies of religious affect

Friday 25th May, 4 – 5

3a: Religion and politics

Choompolpaisal, Phibul
Western Buddhist Monks in Early Modern Thailand in 1902-1910s
Kapalo, James

The Power of Corrective Critique: The Inochentite movement in 20th century Moldova

3b: Ireland and religious change

Gray, Breda
Catholic Church Civil Society Activism and the Neoliberal Governmental Project of Migrant Integration in Ireland
Carr, James

Islamophobia in Ireland

Saturday 26th May, 9 – 10.30

4a: Patterns of secularization

Claffey, Patrick
Are we following France? Patterns of Secularisation in Ireland
Matte, Isabelle

A Catholic secularization: the cases of Quebec and Ireland
MacLellan, Duncan

The intersection of Politics and Religion and the Role of Social Movements in Canada

4b: Ireland and Asian religions

Cox, Laurence
Periodising Irish Buddhism
Satwinder, Singh

Understanding Sikhism in Ireland
Duggan, Colin

The Theosophical Society in Ireland

Saturday 26th May, 11 – 1

5a: Religious belief and experience

Viduarre Archanjo, Marcelo
Eshu – The Brazilian Non-Saint
Smyth, Leo

Dialogue, Fundamentalism and matters of Fundamental Value: Problems and Possibilities
Butler, Jenny

Researching Irish Neo-Paganism: Exploring Issues of Ethnographic Practice, Spiritual Experience Narrative and Religious Worldview
Kirakowski, Jurek

Key events as mediators of religious experience

5b: Relations and identities

Beauge de la Roque, Pauline
The Irish Catholic Church’s understanding of Europe in the late 1950s-early 1960s
Cosgrove, Olivia

Identity management strategies used by members of Minority religions in Ireland
O’Leary, Richard

From mixed marriage to same sex relationships in Ireland
Shanneik, Yafa

Material Religion of Sudanese Migrants


The abstracts below are not the total of those accepted for the conference so far (approx. 30 papers) but simply those of participants who have already registered. If you have been accepted but your abstract is not here, please register ASAP (no payment necessary at this point) and we will add your abstract.

Allen, Will

The Sacred Heart Enthronement: the Irish experience

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a prominent feature in Irish Catholicism since at least the nineteenth century. The pinnacle of this devotion was the widespread enthronement or more commonly known as the consecration. The Chillan priest, Fr Mateo Crawley-Boevey (b. 1875), was strongly involved in promoting home and family enthronement of the Sacred Heart and attaining Papal support. This paper will explore the origins of this practice, what it means to Irish lay Catholics as a religious and a historical  practice, why it continues to be a common feature of an increasingly secular Ireland and finally to examine how it has changed  over time. This paper will be based on a series of interviews and will draw also on the work of David Morgan and Frances E. King.

Anderson, Bradford A.

The Bible and the 1641 Depositions: reflections on spiritual materiality and identity

This paper will explore the use of the Bible as depicted in the 1641 Depositions. This collection recounts a formative and contested time in Ireland, containing testimony from English and Scottish settlers at the time of the 1641 rising by Irish Catholics. Not surprisingly, the Bible is frequently mentioned in these depositions. However, the Bible is rarely, if ever, quoted. Rather, there are numerous reports relating to the material Bible, whether it is used in the swearing of oaths, or, more frequently, in relation to reports of Bibles being desecrated by burning, defacement, and destruction. Bearing in mind serious historiographical and ideological questions concerning these documents, these testimonies nonetheless highlight important issues regarding the functional dimensions of the Bible beyond that of a semantic and performative text. Indeed, the references to the Bible in this collection point to another dimension of sacred texts: that of their materiality and iconicity, aspects which can be engaged in both positive and negative ways.  Accordingly, the references to the material Bible in this pivotal moment in seventeenth century Ireland will be explored in light of the emerging discourse concerning the diverse and complex functionality of scriptures between and within religious traditions.

Beaugé de la roque, Pauline

The Irish Catholic Church’s understanding of Europe in the late 50’s – early 60’s: a threat to their identity

As Ireland was neutral during the Second World War and had put into practice a rigid censorship policy since the 1920s, Irish society remained further isolated from the major intellectual and social changes occurring in Continental Europe. However, when the Treaty of Rome made official the European project in 1957 and when T.K Whitaker launched his Programme for Economic Expansion in 1958, Catholic Ireland could not escape these major political evolutions forever.

These changes which took place in the European society caused considerable anxiety in Catholic Ireland. The European reforms involved state intervention, welfare system, social security system. They were perceived as socialistic and a forerunner to atheistic communism. In the fifties, most of the members of the Irish Catholic elite had adopted an unenthusiastic attitude towards the spirit of renewal. As the changes became more tangible, the official Church was more concerned with protecting and defending traditional Catholic identity. The principles dangers to the Catholic bishops were communism and the associated evils of materialism and secularism. This led to a very singular and negative understanding of Europe by the Catholic Church of Ireland when we consider the very positive attitude of the Holy See towards the European project. Europe was understood as a threat to Irish Catholic identity.

Bocking, Brian

The First Irish Buddhist Missionary? Charles Pfoundes in Meiji Japan

Charles J W Pfoundes (1840-1907) was the son of Dr James Baker Pounds, of Glebe, Co. Wexford. The family emigrated to Australia where Charles joined the colonial navy. In 1863, aged 23, he arrived in Japan. For the next four decades Pfoundes divided his time mainly between Japan and UK; he died in Kobe in 1907. As a competent linguist, art collector, entrepreneur, Japanophile and minor author, Pfoundes’ life is quite fully if erratically documented in the West. He was known around London as a regular speaker on Japanese art and culture and was an early contributor to the journal of the Folklore Society, while his columns from the Japan Mail on Japanese curiosities were collected in book form as the popular Fu-so-mimi-bukuro or Budget of Japanese Notes in several editions from 1875 onwards. In Japan, however, Pfoundes was best known for his pro-Buddhist (and anti-Theosophical) activities. He was ordained in the Shugendo (mountain-ascetic) tradition and was the sometime London representative of the worldwide [Shinshu] Buddhist Missionary Society Bukkyo Senkyokai. Drawing on ongoing collaborative research with Laurence Cox, Shin’ichi Yoshinaga and Gaynor Sekimori, this paper explores Pfoundes’ relationship with Buddhism in Japan at a time when Japanese Buddhism was in long-term crisis, facing the onslaught of modernity.

Butler, Jenny

Researching Irish Neo-Paganism: exploring issues of ethnographic practice, spiritual experience narrative and religious worldview

This paper deals with both theoretical and methodological issues that arise during the ethnographic process of researching religion. It focuses on those issues unique to alternative religion and New Religious Movements, drawing on experience in the field as part of doctoral research on Irish neo-paganism. Field strategies are discussed and concerns, such as interpretative schema and researcher reflexivity, are addressed. It includes an evaluation of the technique of examining the personal spiritual experience narratives of informants as a means of gaining insight into “lived experience”. It also deals with issues that relate more generally to the emic and etic dimensions of ethnography. The discussion also explores the complexities involved in an ethnographic description of a community’s religious worldview and ritual practice. Also addressed is the problematic nature of balancing the perspectives of the research community with that of the academic analytical perspective.

Carr, James

Islamophobia in Ireland: Preliminary Findings from a survey of Irish Muslims

Islamophobia is a phenomenon that has attracted little State attention in Ireland. Despite being explicitly identified in the National Action Plan Against Racism, the Irish State does not systematically collect data on Islamophobia as a distinct form of cultural racism. This paucity of data as well as a broader dearth of research into Islamophobia in Ireland has left obvious lacunae vis-à-vis insights into this phenomenon, how it manifests, is reported and how it may be addressed.  Based on a non-representative but diverse survey of almost three hundred Irish Muslims, this paper will elucidate how Islamophobia is experienced in contemporary Ireland[1]. The experiences discussed engage with the intersectional character of Islamophobia including the gendered aspect of this form of racism and the significance of “visual identifiers”. New light will also be shed on Irish Muslims’ attitudes towards reporting their experiences of Islamophobia to arms of the Irish State including. What barriers have Muslims encountered in regards to reporting their experience? How do they perceive State responses to these reports? This paper raises timely questions in regards to the how Irish State, given financial restrictions, can address Islamophobia and allay the fears Muslims may have in reporting their experiences.

[1] Ethical clearance provided by the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences in the University of Limerick REF# FAHSS_REC329. The survey discussed does not allow for identification of participants.

Catà, Cesare

Fantasy and the Sacred: Philosophical and Spiritual Meanings in Irish Fairy Tales

The present paper intends to explore the sacral meanings of symbols in the fantastic representations of Irish Peasantry fairy tales. In XIX and XX centuries, an important literary tradition rediscovered, studied and interpreted the spiritual values of Irish fairy tales. In addition to William Butler Yeats – who composed several poems and essays on the topic –, this question was developed in the studies of authors and writers such as Lady Augusta Gregory, Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde, John Synge, Katherine Briggs, Thomas. C. Coker, Ella Young. This cultural rediscovering recognized in fairy tales of the Irish peasantry, not only a series of imaginary legends, but rather a symbolic representation of holy conceptions.

The paper intends to deepen the spiritual values of Irish traditional fairy tales, in order to describe a philosophical idea of fantasy as an instrument to deal with sacred realities (a theory firstly conceived by the Irish Neoplatonic thinker John Scotus Eriugena).

In his work  Symboles de la sciences sacrée, the Historian of religion René Guénon considers symbols and fantastic representations as the expression of sacred fundaments in a secular age. Similarly, Mircea Eliade defines symbols as  a “hierophany”, or the act of manifestation of the sacred. Moreover, the psychoanalyst and philosopher Carl G. Jung delineate imagination and symbols as archetypical elements of mind in which recognize the mystical expression of “collective unconscious”.

Following in the footsteps of these considerations, the paper intends to observe some specific imaginary representations of Irish traditional tales – such as the “Fairy brides” and the “Leprechauns” – in order to recognize the religious meaning of fantastic beings and the philosophical value of fantasy, seen as a link between human and divine.

Choompolpaisal, Phibul

Western Buddhist Monks in Early Modern Thailand in 1902-1910s

The once-famous Irish Buddhist Dhammaloka (fl. 1900-1914) and other pioneering Western Buddhist monks fully ordained into Theravada Buddhism in the first decade of the 20th century played a crucial role in pioneering significant Buddhist activities in European countries and Southeast Asia including Thailand. In my talk, I will present Dhammaloka’s role in early modern Thailand up to the 1910s, based on interviews and data available in Thailand. A case study of Dhammaloka’s role is used as an example to draw out the significance of pioneering Western monks’ roles and implications at local, national and international levels. During his short stays in Bangkok, Dhammalok set up international Buddhist organisations in Thailand, established and ran a bilingual school in Bangkok and helped support the Thawai, one of the local ethnic Tai-Burmese minorities, in Bangkok. Not only have these activities of Dhammaloka had an enduring impact on Thawai and other local ethnic Tai-Burmese Buddhist minorities in Thailand in religious, educational and social aspects, but they also had important political implications at local, national and international levels. Dhammaloka lent support to the Thawai in the period just before and during the First World War, in a local political context that saw tensions develop between Thawai and other ethnic Tai-Burmese minorities.

Claffey, Patrick

Are we following France? Patterns of secularisation in Ireland

For several reasons a comparative study of the trajectories of secularisation in France and Ireland has the making of a fascinating (and to my knowledge not yet attempted) project in the sociology of religion.  Allowing for historical continuities as well as discontinuities, both countries have a special place in Catholic Europe; France as la fille aînée or eldest daughter of the Church, while Ireland has until recently been considered one of the great bastions of the Catholic faith in Europe. Not unrelated to this is the fact that there is a strong historical relationships between them; both are part of the European project and have experienced enormous social and religious change over the past two centuries or more as they moved at varying speeds into socio-political and economic modernity.  Part of this process in both countries has been secularisation.

We have it seems moved very quickly into what Charles Taylor describes as a “secular age” and moved a society “from a society where belief in God [was] unchallenged and indeed unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one option amongst others, and frequently not the easiest to embrace”. Belief in God is no longer axiomatic, there are alternatives, notably unbelief, and we are becoming as where, as Taylor asserts, “the presumption of unbelief…has achieved hegemony” in certain crucial milieux, notably in intellectual and academic life.

What is clear, in more sense than the economic and political, in Ireland today is that have reached what Michel de Certeau describes as scène de crise, a moment of rupture, another moment where, to paraphrase W. B. Yeats, things are changing, changing utterly.  For historical the French parallel invites discussion and this paper will set out to examine this.  Are we coming to developing a laïcité à l’irlandaise? What are the continuities and discontinuities with the French model?  Is the French model the one we wish to follow? These are amongst the questions this paper will seek to examine.

Colfer, Colette

Warehouses as Sacred Space

One of the most significant elements in the religious transformation currently underway in Ireland is the growth of non-Christian religions. A cursory glance at the national census of 2006 indicates some of the major trajectories of change. These include the rapid growth of Muslim and Hindu populations. Irish urban skylines, however, are still dominated by church spires and there is very little external architectural evidence of the religious changes underway. Davie (2007) points out that globalisation means it is difficult ‘to corral’ flows of people into specified geographical places. She also points out that the host society plays a vital role in the accommodation, or otherwise, of newcomers (Davie, 2007). This paper suggests that warehouses act as a kind of ‘lowest common denominator’ for both the host society and the newcomer as acceptable permanent places of large-scale religious gatherings. They ensure a relative degree of invisibility whilst at the same time confirming ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ status (see Elias, 1994). The paper will take a look at some examples of the use of warehouses for public worship by Muslims and Hindus in Ireland.

Cox, Laurence

Periodising Irish Buddhism

This paper draws on my research into the history of Buddhism and Ireland to propose an approach to the periodisation of more recent religion in Ireland and the analysis of the Irish religious field. It distinguishes five periods (roughly 600-1850;  1850-1922; 1922-1968; 1968-1995 and 1995-present) in terms of

(a)    The relationship between religion and power;

(b)   The social meaning of religious affiliation or conversion;

(c)    The institutional networks mediating reception of religious possibilities.

For Buddhism and Ireland the periods are roughly 600-1850 (reception); 1850-1922 (Buddhism as dissent from ethno-religious identification); 1922-68 (silencing or latent networks); 1968-1995 (Buddhism as cultural dissent) and 1995-present (respectability and co-optation).

The paper proposes that not only for Buddhism but also for the Irish religious field more generally, a central fact is the relationships between religions and power (formal and informal), suggesting that rather than a focus on the inner experience of a minority or the institutional history of a particular religion in isolation we should be asking after its position in the overall framework of social and political relationships which give affiliation social meaning.

Foley, Tadhg

Max Arthur Macauliffe and the Sikh Religion

Max Arthur Macauliffe (1838-1913), author of the monumental six-volume work, The Sikh Religion, began the preface to his magnum opus with the words: ‘I bring from the East what is practically an unknown religion’. Though regarded by Sikhs as perhaps the most important western figure in the history of their religion, Macauliffe himself is all but unknown in the west. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography does not notice him and he is unknown in his native country, Ireland. He was born as common or garden Michael McAuliffe in Monagea, Co. Limerick and educated at Queen’s College Galway, graduating in modern languages in 1860.  In 1862 he was appointed to the Indian Civil Service and was posted to the Punjab, becoming Deputy Commissioner in 1882 and two years later a Divisional Judge. Based in Amritsar, he developed an intense interest in the Sikh religion, producing the classic English translation of its holy book, the Granth, and, it seems, eventually converting to it. In 1893 he resigned from the Indian Civil Service to devote himself fully to the work of translation. In 1909, Oxford University Press published The Sikh Religion which incorporated his translation of the Granth. He died in London in 1913.

This paper will first address some inaccuracies in existing scholarship concerning Macauliffe’s date and place of birth and indeed the religion into which he was born. It will consider his conception of Sikhism, particularly in relation to Hinduism but also in the context of Christianity, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. He was also a reformer of the Sikh religion, being a leading member of Tat Khalsa, the radical section of the Singh Sabha reform movement, founded in Amritsar in 1873. But he saw his primary role as that of an evangelist for the Sikh religion in the west. He opposed ‘caste exclusiveness’ and ‘sati’, which he called the ‘concremation of widows’. He defended the translation of sacred scripture into vernacular languages and he saw himself as a pioneering figure in his systematic consultation with indigenous Sikh scholars. Indeed he saw his work as, in part, giving the permanency of writing to what had formerly been the orally transmitted wisdom of the gyanis. The paper will conclude with a discussion of Macauliffe’s views on how religion, especially Sikhism, should relate not only to the state as such but also to the British Empire.

Guzy, Lidia

Music and Goddess worship in the Bora Sambar Region of western Orissa (India)

The paper aims to present and analyze particular local music traditions of the Bora Sambar region of western Orissa in relation to the local goddesses worship. It investigates the orchestral music of marginalized Harijan musicians and its ritual role. The research is based on ethnographic studies both in urban and rural settings carried out between 2002 and 2010.

Music in the Bora Sambar region has both: a polluting, marginalizing as well as a purifying, sacred character. This ambivalence of music is reflected in the precarious social status of the priest-musicians coming from different local communities administratively labelled Scheduled Castes (SC) or Scheduled Tribes (ST). On the one hand Harijan musicians (SC) are considered of a low social status due to the materials of their musical instruments. On the other hand they are exceptionally important for communication with local goddesses.

The paper aims to decode the specific cultural language of sound and its relation to the local goddess worship of western Orissa.

Kapalo, James A.

The Power of Corrective Critique: The Inochentite Movement in 20th Century Moldova

The Inochentite movement, inspired by the Moldovan Orthodox monk Ioan Levizor, emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century in what is today the Republic of Moldova.  This small-scale but widespread movement, through its practices and beliefs, critiques and resists both mainstream religious culture and the political system. Consequently, this apocalyptic and charismatic movement is portrayed as both religiously heretical and politically subversive. Members of the movement have challenged successively the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Tsarist imperial regime, the Soviet system, the Romanian militarist fascist dictatorship and more recently the democratic and economic structures of the newly independent Moldovan state.

As a marginalised and persecuted minority during the Soviet era, the movement went underground and on a number of occasions was reported by the Soviet press to have been eliminated altogether. However, Inochentism has proved a tenacious presence on the religious landscape, gradually re-emerging into the public domain in the post-Soviet era. From their position on the margins of rural and urban society in the Republic of Moldova, followers of Inochentie negotiate a position between engagement with and withdrawal from the official Church, critiquing both clerical power and the political and economic system. In this paper I explore the theme of religious power and resistance in contemporary Moldova. Based on interviews with followers of Inochentie conducted between 2006 and 2011 and an analysis of contemporary discourses on Inochentie and Inochentism online, this paper will take a fresh look at the practice of Innochentism and examine how the message and meaning of the movement is reinterpreted and how the community is sustained and reproduced in the radically changed context of the twenty first century.

Kirakowski, Jurek

Key events as mediators of religious experiences

A simple-minded analysis of religious experience might posit that there are two kinds of stimuli to such an experience: internal and external.

The internal stimulus is something set off privately within the mind of the believer. Neither the stimulus nor the response are available to public scrutiny: with the case of the internal stimulus and response, we simply have to take the word of the believer that he or she has had a religious experience. Sometimes, as a result of the experience, we may see changes in the person. For instance, the stigmata of Padre Pio or the apparitions at Garabandal.

The external stimulus is something that all may experience and is available as a matter of public record. A recent experience is provided by the apparitions at Ballinspittle in 1985 and subsequent years. A fairly inexplicable natural event triggered an emotional religious reaction in believers, who then use this objective, publically recordable event as a key to open the door to more private experiences cued by internal stimuli. In fact, part of the religious reaction may actually be to prefer a supernatural explanation for the original objective phenomenon.

When we turn to Garabandal we see the behaviour of the girls who had the internal visions is the external stimulus for religious experience in others. No doubt perception rather than fact makes such behaviours cross the line into super-normal feats of endurance, strength, stigmata, and so on. We know very little about the extremes of human performance. The behaviour of the girls was itself a key event for the onlookers so that once the door was opened all sorts of supernatural events could happen. For example, some onlookers saw the actual communion wafers given to the girls by the angel.

It would seem that the notion of a key event is critical to an explanation of how accidents may become cults in the minds of sincere people.

Kirby, Dianne

The Religious Cold War: Origins and Legacy

The tendency of the popular imagination to carve out reassuring patterns and continuities from the historical record has cast the cold war as one of history’s great religious wars, between the godless and the god-fearing, certainly, but, above all, between good and evil. The reality, however, was far more complex, more about lesser and greater evils, about predominant power more than universal ideals; and religion, rather than the champion of one side and the victim of the other, could be both a willing accomplice or a fervent opponent either side of the ideological divide. The religious, of course, had their own agendas, be it survival and some sort of role in the communist bloc, to influence and a voice in the corridors of power in the western world. In the global south, religion often proved a bulwark of the status quo, but there were also elements that joined local struggles, from basic land reform to national independence. Although the responses varied tremendously, organized religion was accorded a notable role in the cold war drama that was to have profound consequences for the nature and the conduct of the conflict and the legacy it bequeathed. The paper will explore how in the competition with the Soviet Union, Americans presented religion as the cornerstone of their democracy, whilst they accorded Soviet atheism, contrasted with US religiosity, a central role in defining the nature of the conflict. The US made religion the measure not simply for a nation’s morality and justice, but, above all, for democracy and freedom. These, of course, were the very qualities the Soviet Union supposedly lacked and the US held in surfeit. The paper will show how this approach severely undermined traditional modes of diplomacy, with serious consequences for dialogue and negotiation in the international arena, and the conduct of the cold war. It also had global implications for the on-going contest between secularization and religion that the paper will illustrate.

MacLellan, Duncan

The Intersection of Politics and Religion and the Role of Social Movements in Canada

As Commonwealth countries, Canada and Ireland share many similarities related to political, religious, and social institutions. In particular, Protestant and Roman Catholic religions are enshrined in Canada’s Constitution Act. Yet, Canada’s most populous province, Ontario has experienced waves of immigrants from countries where Protestant and Roman Catholic religions are not dominant. Furthermore, Ontario’s largest city, Toronto is one of the most ethno culturally diverse urban centres in the world. Pressure has been mounting from social movement groups for Ontario to reconsider the constitutionally guaranteed educational rights of Protestant and Roman Catholic groups because of the province’s expanding religious diversity.

First, this paper offers a brief overview of key historical and contemporary political and judicial decisions that have determined the place of Roman Catholic and Protestant religions within Ontario’s educational system. Second, Ontario’s social movement groups’ perspectives are presented to offer a critical analysis related to the educational funding of two religious groups within a province that purports to support multiculturalism in all facets of society. This paper resonates with Ireland because it offers a rigorous, cross-cultural perspective that has the potential to inform scholars with respect to Ireland’s engagement with the growing complexity of studying religion in increasingly diverse ethno-cultural settings.

Macourt, Malcolm P.A.

What use can data from the question on religion in the Census of Population be to students of religion in (the Republic of) Ireland?

While emphasising the uses and limitations of the data on religion to be produced later this year from the Census taken on 10th April 2011, censuses in three periods are discussed: those in the new millennium; those between 1926 and 1991; and those between 1861 and 1911.  [Religion has been included in the Census in Ireland since 1861.]

The nature of the current question ‘What is your religion?’ is reviewed, as is the identity of the person recording the response and the micro- and macro-contexts in which that response is given.

The sorts of data which emerge from a census of population are considered; how that data is presented; and how much flexibility exists for re-presenting that data in a format more appropriate for students of religion in Ireland.

Some analysis of the results of recent Census questions on religion is presented and is related to responses to questions on nationality, place of birth, ethnicity and length of stay in Ireland.

Matte, Isabelle

A catholic secularization : the cases of Québec and Ireland

The state of Québec and the Republic of Ireland are interesting cases for studying the secularization process in societies. Being two nations where Catholicism has played a central role at many levels (identity, politics, education, etc) they both experienced the downfall of their «national religion» at an unprecedented speed, unseen in the rest of the Western World.

In Québec, that quick loss of the Church’s power happened during the Révolution tranquille, the Quiet Revolution (1964-1980), while in Ireland it was mainly felt during the economic boom known as the Celtic Tiger years (1994-2008). Both were historical periods associated with prosperity and optimism, and both have seen Sunday mass assistance undergone a dramatic change. From around 85%, it fell under 50% at the end of these periods, causing the main communal religious ritual to become «a choice» among other things to do, in the way Charles Taylor speaks about religion and the modern condition (1989, 2007).

This paper summarizes the results of my doctoral research in anthropology. It is a comparative study about two concrete experiences of «sortie de la religion» (Gauchet: 1985) among two different generations: the Québec’s Babyboomers, that François Ricard named La génération lyrique, the «lyrical generation» (1992), and the youth of the celtic tiger years, named «The Pope’s children», by David MacWilliams (2005). Even with a distance of time and space, the accounts of both groups reveal important similarities, leading to the idea that there is a specific catholic way to invent secularization.

McNamara, Brendan

George Townshend: From Anglican Clergyman to Bahá’í Dignitary. Concerning Dual Religious Identity

George Townshend was a prominent clergyman in the Anglican communion of the Church of Ireland in the early decades of the twentieth century. From a background steeped in the Anglican tradition, he developed an interest in the Bahá’í Faith at a time when little was known of it in Ireland and when he was the rector of a rural parish in Co. Galway.  From 1921, when he first began to identify with the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith until 1947 when he resigned his ecclesiastical orders, George Townshend was ministering to his Church of Ireland parishioners and in a certain sense living out a dual religious identity.  This paper will consider the background to this unusual situation, the question of double religious belonging and how it pertains to this particular case, and the events that lead to a differentiated outcome where a distinguished Archdeacon of the Church of Ireland became a dignitary of the Bahá’í Faith.

O’Mahony, Eoin

Geographies of religious affect, or being on pilgrimage with Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Institutional religions are engaged in political secularisation processes with significant geopolitical consequences. However, much of this engagement is framed by a conflation of the institutional with the pre-personal. As a result, secularisation is often conceived of as a linear and ‘top-down’ process. This paper outlines analyses which examine the intersubjective and relational nature of religious belief. In particular, how “exteriorities invite us to take up our subjectivity in various meaningful forms” (Rose, 2010). Such an approach echoes bodily intentionality as outlined by Merleau-Ponty.

In this paper I look at pilgrimage practice as bodily intentionality to rescale religious practices as directly political. I use fieldnotes and photographs to highlight the features of Holloway’s (2006) sacred topologies where “embodied practices of the everyday that are sensed” are sources of signification, focusing on everyday occurrences of spiritual practice. The purpose of my paper is to address Holloway’s suggestion that researching the sacred in the everyday brings about greater richness than confining research to ‘officially sacred’ places.

Park, Yongnam

The Spiritual Resonance between Night café and Café Terrace as a symbolic church

From the self-taught period in his homeland, Van Gogh’s new journey to Paris is the same as the second journey from Paris to Arles. The first journey to Paris is to communicate with his contemporary artists; the second journey to Arles is to create his own chromatic experiment and to transform his three components which categorized the experience of evangelist, the study from the Northern Art, and the result of communication with Impressionists. In Arles, Van Gogh transformed his two distinctive aesthetic concerns into his own style; Millet’s Sower is the symbol of Christology; Delacroix’s chromatics is the religious or archetypal colour.

This paper is to explore the three works in Arles; Night Café, Café Terrace at Night, and Portrait of Eugène Boch. Art critics usually categorize Van Gogh’s trilogy in his last period; The Good Samaritans, Pietà, and Raising of Lazarus. Although they focus on the trilogy, The Good Samaritans, Pietà, and Raising of Lazarus, it should not be forgotten that earlier on Van Gogh painted another trilogy, Night Café, Café Terrace at Night, and Portrait of Eugène Boch, which are shown as a secularized church and have religious metaphors. The new transformative experiments in Arles, Van Gogh overcome the marginal features of rejection and alienation into the allness which created transformation of the self with love to the nature and the neighbour.

Singh, Satwinder

Understanding Sikhism in Ireland

Ireland today is a multi-cultural society – multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-faith. Many of the immigrants have come within two decades. Although there has been a Sikh presence in Ireland since the 1930s in the North and the 1950s in the Republic, most of the Sikh immigrants here have come since 1995 – i.e., during and since the period of the economic boom. Historically, Sikhs originate from the Punjab region, a part of what is today’s northern Indian State of Punjab, which they consider their homeland – real or imaginary. Currently, the global Sikh population is estimated at between 23 and 25 million people, of which approximately 1.5 million live outside India, scattered around the world. Within a European context, the number is estimated at around half a million people, with the largest and oldest settlements in Britain, and growing communities in many countries throughout Europe, including 1000-1200 Sikhs on the Island of Ireland. The Sikhs have migrated especially to areas of the world that were part of the former British Empire. Some migrated voluntarily; others have been displaced or exiled, forced to move from India or other countries due to difficult circumstances such as partition, poverty and the lure of prosperity. This paper delineates various waves of Sikh migration to the north and south of Ireland, community building initiatives and finally, maps out the geographical scope of Sikhs in Ireland.

Scharbrodt, Oliver

Islam in the Census

The purpose of this paper is to discuss what kind of information can be gained on the Muslim population in Ireland in the Irish censuses from 1861 until 2011. A controversial question on religious profession has been included in the Irish census since 1861 – initially in order to document the demographic ratio of Catholics and Protestants on the island of Ireland, which remained the chief purpose of the ‘religion’ question until the 1990s. Only in the 1990s, under the impression of mass immigration, the focus of the religion question shifted slightly to documenting the increasing religious and cultural diversity of Irish society in the last 20 years. In particular the published volumes on religion of the 2002 and 2006 censuses provide quite comprehensive statistical data on Muslims (and followers of other religions) in Ireland in terms of geographical spread, nationality, country of origin, socio-economic status and educational and occupational levels.

The paper will discuss the types of information that can be gained from the census material on the Muslim population and the rationales for collecting them. In addition, it will problematize how the label ‘Muslim’ is used as a statistical category in the Irish census in light of the complex empirical reality the Muslim presence in Ireland and its diversity constitute.

Shanneik, Yafa

‘A Space of their Own’: Material Religion among Sudanese Women Migrants in Ireland

People express their religious, cultural and ethnic identities and affiliations through material objects. This interaction between the individual and the various objects and artifacts are significant for migrants who transfer particular statues, pictures, books, beads etc. to the diaspora in order to create a space of their own. This paper examines the importance of religious material culture for the construction of Sudanese women identities in Irish society. It will investigate the use of private and domestic gendered spaces in the construction of religious and cultural identities through particular objects and artifacts. In addition, it will examine the role material culture plays in passing on religious, cultural and ethnic memory that is important for the understanding of the self and for the sense of belonging to a particular community in the diaspora.

This paper relies on two years of ethnographic fieldwork among Sudanese women in Ireland and is part of a larger project on the ‘History of Islam in Ireland’, funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Smyth, Leo

Dialogue, fundamentalism and matters of fundamental value: problems and possibilities

One of the ways we recognize fundamental things when they turn up in conversation is that people tend to lose their composure when they talk about them (Phillips, 2010). This paper examines the role of identity in that loss. Though often associated with religion, identifying with any matter deemed to be of fundamental value raises difficulties for dialogue: communication is impaired and positions become politicized especially if inerrancy of scripture is a core belief. Explaining the difficulty in terms of abnormal psychology (Pataki, 2007) is unsatisfactory; on the other hand applying the yardstick of internal consistency (Bruce, 2000) combined with cultural relativism offer no real hope of peaceful coexistence. This is partly because the conditions for coexistence e.g. acceptance of equality, diversity and interdependence, (Lederach, 2005; Fitzduff,2006) can themselves be the subject of passionate attack or defence.  The case for a universal set of ethical principles beyond cultural relativism has been made by Tibi (1998) but this appears to depend on a shared epistemology which in turn requires a willingness to reinterpret matters of fundamental value – whether religious or secular – in an atmosphere of profound dialogue (Bohm, 2003). A daunting challenge but some possible approaches are discussed.

Stringer, Adrian

The significance of demographic features in four congregational memberships in Northern Ireland

Religious memberships are frequently shown as having demographic associations (as with ethnicity, educational attainment, and socio-economic-classification).  Where explanations for these have been provided, they usually revolve around the efficacy of a particular organisation’s teaching and practise.  Although these explanations have been made in relation to larger units of religious organisations (e.g. denomination), recent interest in the smaller unit of the congregation provides an opportunity for reviewing this correlation.

This paper presents the findings of an investigation into four contrasting congregational memberships in Northern Ireland: Baha’i, Church of Ireland, Independent Evangelical and Roman Catholic.  Data was analysed using a number of tools including tables of dissimilarity, narrative analysis and multi-dimensional-scaling.

A presentation of the results will show how each of the demographic correlations are not isolated phenomena, but are instead bundled together; being the properties of discrete sets of interlocking, socially networked groups. These sets of networks were also found to be extra-congregational: that is, they were beyond what can be envisaged as being generated by the congregations themselves.

Finally, to demonstrate how the findings here may relate to other areas within the sociology of religion; an outline re-assessment will be made of the issue of secularization.

Vidaurre, Marcello Archanjo

Eshu – The Brazilian Non-Saint

Eshu is one of the most significant Gods of the Afro-Brazilian Pantheon. In all Afro-Brazilian religious rituals, Eshu is the first God to be saluted and the first to receive the believer’s offerings. As a communicator between the men and the Afro-Brazilian Gods, he is considered as the initiator of the social dynamic. Eshu is the “owner” of the roads and streets, the God of communication and commercial success, the patron of the boundaries. Eshu is classified as a Trickster, as a disobeyer of rules and conventions. As a Trickster, as a “hero without moral,” Eshu is also one of the most popular characters of the Brazilian culture. In this paper I have three objectives. First, I intend to describe Eshu’s main qualities, in accordance with two of the Afro-Brazilian religions, i.e. Candomble and Umbanda. Second, I will present the results of my research about Afro-Brazilian religiosity as represented in some of Brazilian popular newspapers. Third, I will analyze these articles in relation with the Brazilian belief in witchcraft and magic, and how Eshu is associated with violence and disorder. In a broader sense my reflections will conduct us to think the Brazilian culture of “malandragem,” that is, street smarts, as a mechanism of social control.