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Religion, Gender & Activism | Fourth Expert meeting | 15-16 december 2014 | Ghent University, Belgium

Aim: This international expert meeting aims to discuss the study of religion and gender in relation to social movements and activism. For this purpose, a one and a half day intensive meeting will bring together scholars from different fields, such as religious studies, theology, sociology, anthropology and gender and women’s studies. The topics of the keynote lectures, the roundtable discussion and the workshops will address the study of religion and gender from multiple critical postcolonial, postsecular and queer perspectives. The thematic focus is social movements and activism in contemporary multicultural societies, related to contemporary debates on multiculturalism, human rights, and social inequalities and exclusions. The meeting will discuss the complex dynamics of religion and gender in our contemporary world with regard to the perspectives of activists and at the level of autonomous movements, civil society and critique within the institutions. Activism is broadly conceived as the critique of forms of inequality experienced or articulated by autonomous groups as well as by civil society actors and social movements and actors within the institutions in order to work towards progressive change.

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It further aims at:

  • Bringing together scholars from different academic disciplines who are contributing to this area of research;
  • Bringing together senior and junior scholars studying religion, gender and activism for discussion and exchange;
  • Bringing together different critical approaches to studying religion, gender and activism in contemporary multicultural societies in order to show their significance for the study of religion and gender;
  • To encourage new connections and insights on theory and methodology that will inform and stimulate the participants’ own research;
  • To generate new joint research applications, especially transnational and interdisciplinary research

Organizers: The network Interdisciplinary Innovations in the Study of Religion and Gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives (Utrecht University, the Netherlands). Hosted by the Centre for Intercultural Communication and Interaction (Ghent University, Belgium). Co-organizers: RHEA Centre for Gender and Diversity (University of Brussels, Belgium), Centre for Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium).

The preliminary program of the expert meeting can be downloaded here.

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Expert meetings Uncategorized
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Constructive Discussions in a Convivial Setting

Impression of the Start Meeting of the Religion and Gender Project

By An van Raemdonck, PhD Fellow at Ghent University, Belgium

As one of the PhD researchers attending the first introductory meeting, I am happy to give you a small impression. Central aim of the two days-meeting was for all participating institutions to get to know each other better. Anne-Marie Korte, one of the initiators of this project, highlighted the general framework and theoretical context that urged the organizing team of scholars in ‘gender’ and ‘religion’, and especially in the intersection of both fields, to start this new initiative.

Several reasons were stated why to start building on an international network and an academic journal that is centered around the two key terms of religion and gender. There is not only an increased scholarly interest in coupling those two terms, coming from a variety of classic disciplines, but in the last decades we also witnessed an augmented societal interest in tensions and interactions involving ‘religion’ and ‘gender’. A combination of theoretical perspectives such as post-secularism, postcolonialism and queer studies encourages research across disciplines that enables opening up those debates.

All participating institutions presented  themselves. The Barnard Center for Research on Women, based at Columbia University and represented by Elisabeth Castelli, drew most of my attention.  The Barnard Center has as remarkable and admirable objective to bridge scholarly activity and theory with activist practices and feminist struggles. In particular the multimedia, online-only Journal The Scholar & Feminist Online offers a creative forum that connects between Barnard College’s programming and activism.

Another telling observation from these presentations was the precarious situation, institutionally, of the academic study of religion and gender. Both the study of religion and the study of gender tend to be marginalized in academia and suffer from many of the challenges to the Humanities at large. It is an understatement to say that this does not create an institutional context where the study of religion and gender can  flourish, however vibrant this field is. This is another reason why this communal project really matters!

The second day continued with setting concrete goals and aims concerning future research projects. How to involve questions and debates from the crossroads between ‘gender’ and ‘religious studies’ in relevant research topics today? Using critical theory, postcolonial, post-secular, queer perspectives, how do we formulate research questions and include the historical dynamics between European and post-colonial societies? Discussions continued constructively in a convivial and pleasant spirit.  This friendly atmosphere was striking to me but well-known in women’s studies (as one of my colleagues told me with a bit of nostalgia).

Most compelling to me is the highly transdisciplinary approach that is put central in both the journal Religion and Gender and in formulating common research interest areas in this new project. Theoretically the project is not bound by any disciplinary boundaries but aims explicitly to cross and question boundaries between religious studies, theology, gender and cultural studies and anthropology/sociology of religion. In my own work I can easily identify with this vantage point as I’m combining genealogical perspectives with ethnographic methods to answer questions about religious identity formation, in its relation to issues of sexuality and gender. Therefore, being able to think along in this group was an exciting exercise that I’d love to continue in future.

Research Students Start Meeting 2012

An Exciting Opportunity

Impression of the project’s Start Meeting in Utrecht, August 29-30, 2012

By Jenny Loh

PhD Student at SOAS, University of London (UK)

It was a pleasure to be invited to participate in the first Research and Networking Project for ‘Interdisciplinary Innovations in the Study of Religion and Gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives’.  Held in the beautiful and historical city of Utrecht, this event gave an opportunity for those belonging to the participating research institutions—both senior scholars and junior researchers alike—to meet one another, learn about one another’s work and interests, and take part in informative and important discussions about the future plans for this three-year project.

It was wonderful to meet academics from numerous disciplines and with such diverse interests.  It was even better that everyone was part of this same project, trying to find innovative ways of informing the intersecting fields of religion and gender while bringing different strengths to the project.  On the first day, we had an informal lunch, followed by networking sessions in order to get an idea of individual participants and an overview of the participating institutions.  It was fascinating to learn about individuals’ research interests, and also important to find out what each institutions’ aspirations and expectations were for the project.  The day was wrapped up with a historical walk regarding ‘Traces of Slavery’ in Utrecht: this presented an enjoyable way to see the city, as well as discuss with participants more about themselves and the day’s events.

The second day was themed towards funding and future collaboration.  We had a specific talk on European funding opportunities, followed by a group discussion on ways in which to apply and work towards grant applications for this project.  I enjoyed this discussion particularly; it was great to see scholars from a variety of disciplines and interests finding ways in which to collaborate and conceive of exciting innovations for the field of religion and gender.  What was welcoming about the meeting was the presence of junior researchers, as well as an insistence of their participation.  As a junior researcher, it is often daunting to be in such situations, but I found that the senior scholars were interested in this aspect of collaboration, and as such it was a unique opportunity to participate in this meeting.  After a delicious lunch in an old Gentlemen’s club ballroom converted into a beautiful restaurant, we wrapped up the event by discussing some of the more practical aspects of the project, including future workshops, conferences, and publications, and how to proceed with grant applications.  It is exciting that we are holding the first workshop on ‘Postcolonial Intersections’ in December at SOAS, the institution I am based at, and I am greatly looking forward to the future workshops located in other institutions.

It was a wonderful experience to be included in this initial event, and I am most grateful to the event organisers for giving us ‘junior researchers’ this exciting opportunity and a chance to be part of this network of scholars. I am excited for the December workshop and look forward to seeing many familiar faces from our event in Utrecht!

Research Students Start Meeting 2012

Inspired and Grateful

Impression of the project’s Start Meeting in Utrecht, August 29-30, 2012

By Rahil Roodsaz

PhD Student at the Institute for Gender Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands)

These two days were very interesting and inspiring to me. It was amazing to see how despite differences in disciplinary background and not knowing each other (very well), participants connected so quickly. I think that intellectually this had to do with a shared concern to bring in a more gender-sensitive and a historically and contextually better informed perspective on the role of religion in the modern world. The urgency to do something about this seemed to result in the willingness to find a mutual ground upon which interesting and relevant projects can be build. Also the practical difficulties of finding the financial sources in these not-so-favorable economic circumstances were perceived as yet another reason to be creative. More than anything I felt grateful to be part of such great initiative represented by a wonderful group of people. I very much look forward to future developments of this promising network and hope to be able to somehow contribute to that.

Research Students Start Meeting 2012

(Re-)Imaginations

Impression of the project’s Start Meeting in Utrecht, August 29-30, 2012

By Alexandra Rijke

RMA Student Gender and Ethnicity & International Development Studies, Utrecht University

On the 29th and 30th of August the first conference concerning the NWO project ‘Interdisciplinary Innovations in the study of religion and gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives’ took place in Utrecht. Being invited while being (only) a master student was surprising, exciting and raised certain questions, ‘what will my place in this project be?’, ’what do they expect from me?’. On the first day of the conference the main goal was getting to know each other and we heard a lot about each other’s research. My question concerning my place in the project changed from ‘what will my place be’ to ‘will there be a place for me?’. While studying International Development Studies and Gender Studies religion always played a factor in my research, but was never the leading subject. Secondly, my knowledge of religion was restricted to knowledge of Islam, while Christianity seemed to become dominant in this European project. I went to bed thinking I met wonderful people, but that this project would not relate to my upcoming research or experience in the past.

During the second day the goal was to come up with themes and ideas for further collaboration. Because the research interests discussed on the first day were all very different, I wondered whether or not a shared theme would be discovered during just one brainstorm meeting. However, when the brainstorm started, something very special happened and I felt truly lucky to be present. It could be seen how great minds came together, listened to each other, respected each other and all wanted to discover a shared passion. The participants started discussing topics they would find interesting, which at first sounded (again) very different, but this time they not only listened to each other but incorporated the ideas of the others in the topics they brought forward themselves. In an incredibly fast pace they came up with truly interesting and innovative problem statements. At the end of the brainstorm meeting the general theme was agreed upon: ‘(Re)-Imaginations’ and everyone seemed excited to be part of this project. I went home happy because I do see a possible place for my own research in the theme discussed and I truly hope to stay connected to this fascinating and inspiring group of women and men.

Research Students Start Meeting 2012