Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mediating Faiths: Religion, Media and Popular Culture

Call for papers: Mediating Faiths: Religion, Media and Popular Culture

Edited by Michael Bailey (Leeds Metropolitan University), Anthony McNicholas (University of Westminster) and Guy Redden (Lincoln University).

The place of religion in contemporary society is an issue of major importance. Yet it has too frequently been considered a ‘survival’, a residue of previous socio-cultural formations, rather than a significant dimension of the present. Even in modern liberal societies, such as Britain and the United States, religion continues to play a role in shaping political ideologies, alliances, institutional practices, public policy, communities of interest, ways of life and social identities. The socio-political context of religion has become even more salient in light of the recent dynamics of religious fundamentalism and religiously-legitimated conflict, e.g. the ‘clash of civilisations’ between a Christian or secular west and Islam. Such developments raise important questions about how best to mediate between the needs and/or demands of different religions, communities and competing belief systems, some of which are secular. The question of religious representation and recognition is particularly urgent in multicultural societies where there are a diversity of faiths and beliefs, each with their own distinct cultural values and traditions.Meanwhile, it is increasingly common for expressions of religiosity to take place outside conventional sacred spaces and, in contexts of mediated popular culture, where they can become imbricated with mundane interests and concerns of everyday life.

Most religious faiths have come to recognise the role the media and popular culture can play in extending, promoting, renewing, and re-embedding religious traditions in temporal and spatial contexts, in ways that were previously unimaginable. This is particularly true of some new religious movements for which spirituality is as much about personal development, experience, and lifestyle as it is belief. On the other hand, some religious groups are reluctant to engage with secular-based media, in case this challenges the authority of religious institutions in relation to their everyday embodiment of spiritual discipline, moral authority and pastoral guidance. At the same time, the media itself may be seen in quasi-religious terms. ‘Media rituals’ are just one example of the way in which popular media and their audiences can themselves be understood as imagined holy communions, far removed from official religious practices and forms of worship.

Given the recent growth in interest in contemporary religious issues, beyond specifically theological matters, and the intersections between religion, media and culture, it is timely to bring together scholars working across a range of disciplinary fields, including anthropology, cultural studies, media and film, history, sociology, cultural theory, among others, in an effort to facilitate greater understanding of religious beliefs, identities, and the changing nature of rituals and concepts of the sacred.

Proposals are welcomed on, but not limited to, the following topics and areas:

• Representations of religion across a variety of media forms, including film, television, the newspaper press, literature, popular music and new media
• Religion, popular culture and everyday life
• Religion, diversity and intercultural relations
• Religion, politics and social movements
• Religion, censorship and media policy
• Religious media, audiences and consumption
• Religion and media rituals
• Mediations between the sacred and the secular
• Virtual and imagined sacred spaces• New spiritualities and religious movements
• Religion, media and young people
• The privatisation and commodification of religion
• Religion and media/cultural/social theory

Proposals with an international focus are particularly welcome, as are those that are concerned with historical and cross-cultural analyses of religion.

Proposals of 200-250 words, accompanied by a brief biographical note, should be sent by 31st July 2007 to all three editors: Michael Bailey (m.bailey@leedsmet.ac.uk); Anthony McNicholas, (anthony.mcnicholas@bbc.co.uk); Guy Redden (gredden@lincoln.ac.uk).

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