ISASR 2013 conference

Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR)
Second annual conference
Clinton Centre, University College Dublin
10th -12th May 2013

Conference theme:

Ireland, America and Transnationalism:
studying religions in a globalised world

Keynote speakers:

Prof. Crawford Gribben (Queen’s University Belfast)
“Ireland, America and the End of the World”

Abstract: This lecture will describe the origin and evolution of a particularly evangelical variety of eschatological hope – “dispensational premillennialism.” In a narrative which moves from county Wicklow in the early nineteenth century, through the troubled decades of American modernity, to arrive finally, and perhaps unexpectedly, in the company of the soldiers of radical jihad, this lecture will describe a discourse which has extraordinary capacity to cross nations, cultures and even religions, encouraging passive withdrawal from the political world as well as inspiring vicious and sometimes violent attempts at its subjugation, underwriting the “war on terror” as well as inspiring some of those intent on the destruction of the United States. The globalisation of “dispensational premillennialism” identifies apocalypticism as one of this island’s most successful intellectual exports.

Prof. Alicia Turner (York University, Toronto)
“Religion, the Study of Religions and other Products of Trans-locative and Trans-colonial Imaginations”

Abstract: The category of ‘religion’ as contemporary scholarship has demonstrated is a fairly recent innovation, dating back only a few hundred years in Western thought, and ‘world religions’ as we think of it and as we teach it is an even more recent category, emerging out of the height of European colonialism.  Thus the academic study of religion is both the product and, at times, the agent of colonial modes of knowledge.  And yet, it is perhaps because ‘religion’ continues to be invented and reinvented through connections across cultures that investigating the work of religious ideas and practices offers such fruitful possibilities for understanding the work of culture and power. This paper investigates religion and the study of religion as a mode of anti-colonial practice, seeking to understand how each have worked to cross boundaries, build bridges and produce critical insights into assumptions and worldviews too often taken for granted.

Public lecture:

Prof. Brian Victoria (Antioch University)
“Reflections in a Catholic Mirror: The Struggle to Create a Buddhist Chaplaincy in the US Military”

Abstract: The struggle to create a Buddhist chaplaincy in the US military began with the participation of Japanese-American  military units in WWII. As a non-Western religion, especially one associated with the ‘Jap’ enemy, the US military initially rejected the request from those Japanese-American soldiers who were Buddhists. However, in the war’s aftermath, with their bravery and patriotism established, there was a gradual acceptance of Buddhism, first with the allowance of Buddhist grave markers in military cemeteries followed by the inclusion of Buddhist religious symbols in chapels built on their grounds. Finally, in 1989 a formal Buddhist chaplaincy was created, at least on paper, but it was not until 2004 that the first Buddhist chaplain, Lt. (and Rev.) Jeanette Yui Shin, made her appearance. While providing details of this struggle, this paper will draw on parallels to the earlier struggle of Catholic, predominantly Irish, Americans to have their faith recognized in the US military. Their struggle can be traced to the US Civil War and, significantly, even earlier. The purpose in making this comparison is to illuminate both the ‘threat’ and the ‘promise’  that institutional religion, of whatever faith, represents to a military organization. It challenges us to ask whether military chaplains are genuinely free to promote the highest ideals of their respective faiths when they are fed, clothed, housed and paid by a hierarchically structured military organization?

We are pleased to invite scholars to take part in the second annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (ISASR). For information on the society, see: The Conference will take place Fri-Sun May 10th-12th, 2013 at the Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin (UCD), and is open to scholars of all disciplines that approach religions, both past and present, from a non-theological, critical, analytical and cross-cultural perspective.

Papers may relate to the conference theme ‘Ireland, America and Transnationalism’ or any other aspect of the Society’s work in the history, anthropology, folklore and sociology of religion in Ireland or the Irish diaspora, but also the work of Irish-based researchers on topics in the academic study of religions elsewhere in the world.

Although 19th and 20th century discourses often highlighted national, including Irish, religious uniqueness, this has always been at best a half truth. Megalithic architecture and pre-Christian myths are routinely studied in relation to other west European contexts. Christian conversion and medieval texts, early modern wars of religion and nineteenth-century ultramontanism also locate Ireland in a wider religious world.

The conference theme encourages the study of religions in a global and comparative context, with particular reference to North America, the home of the largest Irish diaspora outside these islands. From Ireland’s ‘spiritual empire’ of Catholic institutions to American enthusiasm for all things Celtic to imported Pentecostalisms, the religious exchange between the two has been intense. Adopting a transnational perspective highlights the networks of wider global relationships within which religions both in Ireland and among the Irish diaspora are enacted.

Panel titles include:

  • Folk Religion in Ireland: Meaning and Context (Convenors Dr. Marion Bowman, Open University & Dr. James Kapalo, University College Cork)
  • Children’s Subjectivities and the Experience of Religious Educations (Convenors Dr. Karl Kitching and Dr. Yafa Shanneik, University College Cork)
  • Sacred landscape and indigenous imaginary (Convenors Dr. Lidia Guzy, University College Cork & Dr. Cécile Guillaume-Pey, Queen’s University Belfast).
  • The Theosophical Society in Ireland and India: Activism, Identity and the work of James and Margaret Cousins (Convenor Colin Duggan, University College Cork)
  • Gender and Religion
  • Ireland and Transnational Religion
  • Formations of British Religion
  • Religions in Translation
  • Religious Diversity in Ireland
  • Re-presenting Irish Religion
  • Religious Educations
  • Transnational Religion

The conference programme is available here.

Practical information

The conference will last from lunchtime on Friday  10th May to lunchtime on Sunday 12th.

Conference fee: €75 waged, €35 unwaged. Please register here and pay on arrival. NB participation is free for those coming for Sunday only.

UCD is a short journey from central Dublin; travel details are available here. A map highlighting the Clinton Centre is available here.

The official conference accommodation is the Irish Management Institute residence ( This is about 5 km / 15 minutes drive away (NB that local hotels are already very expensive on those dates due to a Beyonce concert at the O2) so we encourage participants to organise shared taxis.

Conference delegates may avail of a special UCC rate (University College Cork, one of the organising institutions). Cost per night including continental breakfast is €55 for Thur 9, €55 for Fri 10 and €69 for Sat 11th.  To book, you must telephone Rachel Wallace, reservations manager on +353-1-207-5900 during working hours and explain that you are attending the ISASR conference organised by UCC. Please note that these rates are not available via web booking.

Otherwise there are a very large range of accommodation possibilities in central Dublin.

Further information on the ISASR Conference 2013 will be posted at:

The conference is hosted by ISASR in collaboration with The Clinton Institute, UCD.