Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recent Articles on Religion and Internet Worth Reading

While conducting my  my bi-monthly lit review search on religion and the internet  I came across a remarkably diverse and interesting range of articles appearing in the first part of 2011 on topics from African Muslims media usage to Orthodox Women in Israel's negotiation with the Internet. I have added these to my current reading list and thought others might want to check out them out as well:

Jon Abbink (2011) Religion in public spaces: Emerging Muslim–Christian polemics in Ethiopia. Affrican Affairs. 110(439): 253-274.

In Ethiopia, as in other parts of Africa, relations between Christians and Muslims show a new dynamic under the impact of both state policies and global connections. Religious identities are becoming more dominant as people's primary public identity, and more ideological. This development has ramifications for the ‘public sphere’, where identities of a religious nature are currently presented and contested in a self-consciously polemical fashion. This shared space of national political and civic identity may become more ‘fragmented’ and thus lend itself to conflict and ideological battle. This article examines recent developments in the polemics of religion in Ethiopia, and the possible role of the state as custodian (or not) of an overarching civic order beyond religion, as well as the emerging rivalries between communities of faith. A crucial question is what social effects these polemics will have on communal relations and patterns of religious coexistence. Polemics between believers have a long history in Ethiopia, but a new and potentially problematic dynamic has emerged which may challenge mainstream believers, their inter-group social relations, and Ethiopian state policy. Polemics in Ethiopia express hegemonic strategies and claims to power, and are rapidly evolving as an ideological phenomenon expanding in public space. The secular state may need to reassert itself more emphatically so as to contain its own erosion in the face of assertive religious challenges.

Patrick Eisenlohr (2011)  Media authenticity and authority in Mauritius: On the mediality of language in religion. Language & Communication. 31(3): 266-273.

In this article I suggest that the rapidly growing interest in the intersection of linguistic anthropology and media needs to be accompanied by a deeper investigation of the mediality of language. Discussing Mauritian Muslims’ uses of sound reproduction in religious events revolving around the recitation of devotional poetry, this paper explores how language as a medium converges and interacts with media technologies of other kinds. I suggest that the oscillation between a foregrounding of the medium and its phenomenological withdrawal characterizes the functioning of both linguistic mediation and other media technologies and provides a comparative dimension to examine their interplay.

Justin Ferrell (2011) The Divine Online: Civic Organizing, Identity Building, and Internet Fluency Among Different Religious Groups. Journal of Media and Religion. 10(2): 73-90.

The number of religious congregations with Web sites nearly tripled from 1998-2006, and each year another 10,000 congregations launch a Web site (Chaves & Anderson, 2008). Couple this with the fact that 79% of attendees are now in a congregation with a Web site. Scholars of media and religion know very little, however, about the content of these Web sites or what they tell us about the culture of different religious groups. The aim of this article, therefore, is to examine how congregations are constructing Web sites to advertise their identity, organize their followers to get involved in civic and political issues, and provide an interactive space for online participation in actual ministries. Extensive qualitative data were gathered from 600 individual congregation Web sites from nine denominations in 53 different cities across the United States. The results of the descriptive analysis of these data suggest that there is a strong correlation between the “off-line” characteristics of a particular congregation and the “on-line” characteristics of the same congregation. Evangelical congregations tend to have more complex, attractive, and interactive Web sites and fall into the “online religion” camp. Liberal-Protestant and Catholic congregations tend to create static “brochure” style Web sites that emphasize their denominational identity and thus fall into Hadden and Cowan's (2000) “religion online” camp. This study expands our theoretical knowledge about the proliferation of media into, and out of, religious congregations, and offers a broader understanding about how institutions negotiate their online identity in the digital age.

Connie Hill-Smith (2011). Cyberpilgrimage: The (Virtual) Reality of Online Pilgrimage Experience. Religion Compass. 5(6):236-246.

Cyberpilgrimage is the practice of undertaking pilgrimage on the internet. Such pilgrimages may be performed for a host of reasons, ranging from idle curiosity to the need to ready oneself, psychologically or informationally, for a ‘real’ (terrestrial) pilgrimage. For some web-users, these experiences may amount to little more than interesting diversions, mildly intriguing ripples in a sea of information and possibility, to be paused upon and pondered briefly before surfing onward to other things. Depending on individual motivations and circumstances, however, they can be deeply charged, transformative, enlightening and profoundly fulfilling on both emotional and spiritual levels. As new as the internet is, cyberpilgrimage is newer; and it seems clear we are witnessing the birth of one of a number of largely uncharted ways by which people are beginning to experience themselves spiritually on the internet. Such experiences tend to be perceived as more self-mediated and, thus, more individualised, liberated and radical than terrestrial experiences of a similar sort (though this is not necessarily the case). This article is intended to explain what cyberpilgrimage can entail, to survey the input to-date of contemporary scholars to the study of cyberpilgrimage; and to offer insight into some of the major debates and questions it raises, in particular with regard to the authenticity of computer-based ‘experience’.

Azi Lev-On & Rivka Neriya-Ben Shahar (2011). A forum of their own: Views about the Internet among ultra-Orthodox Jewish women who browse designated closed fora. First Monday. 4(4)

The paper studies Internet uses and gratifications by ultra-Orthodox women who are members of closed online fora. The fora constitute a unique environment for ultra-Orthodox women, where they can talk amongst themselves anonymously using modern technology, for purposes that may be illegitimate in their community. It was found that the women perceive the Internet as harmful and dangerous to the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, but as constructive and empowering personally. The paper also studies what relationships women form online and who they discuss their activities with.

Mia Lovheim (2011) Mediatisation of religion: A critical appraisal. Culture and Religion. 12(2): 153-166.

Media as a context for shaping religion in modern society has generally been overlooked in the mainstream sociology of religion. This article discusses the relevance of the thesis of a mediatisation of religion presented by Stig Hjarvard for studying religious transformation in a modern, Western society. Though the theory contributes to sociology of religion through its focus on how the characteristics of modern mass media relate to the processes of secularisation, the narrow approach to religion and to the interplay between modernisation and religion in the thesis so far limits its validity. This article suggests two starting points for the development of a theory to better grasp the implications of mediatisation of religion in the contemporary world; first, an understanding of religion that better acknowledges the complexities of modern religion and second, an understanding of mediatisation that also acknowledges the agency of religious actors to take part in the shaping of media as well as modern society.
Dana M. Janbek (2011) Terrorism in the Age of the Internet: The Case of Muslim Arab Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Journal of Religious & Theological Information. 10(1):5-15.

This study focuses on Muslim Arab extremism online. It specifically looks at the case of Muslim Arab organizations identified by the U.S. Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The use of the Internet to communicate extremist rhetoric is not a new phenomenon nor is it one that is particular to Muslims or Arabs. This study simply focuses on this specific subgroup, partially due to the increased scholarly attention to the topic of terrorism and to the public's heightened interest in the Muslim and the Arab world since 9/11.


Mary Hess said...

What an incredibly useful post! Thanks so much for writing it. I would never have found these otherwise, I suspect.

Anonymous said...

Yeah! This is awesome, TY!