Special Issue "Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 February 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Anna Halafoff
Website
Guest Editor
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, 3125, Australia
Interests: intercultural and interreligious relations; countering violent extremism; education about religions and beliefs; sacred places; gender and Buddhism; and Buddhism in Australia
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Sam Han
Website
Guest Editor
School of the Social Sciences/Anthropology & Sociology, The University of Western Australia, M257, Perth WA 6009, Australia
Interests: social/cultural/critical theory, new media studies, religion, and East Asia (as well as their various overlaps and nodal points)
Dr. Caroline Starkey
Website
Guest Editor
School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
Interests: religion in contemporary Britain, particularly Buddhism
Prof. Dr. James Spickard
Website
Guest Editor
Sociology & Anthropology, University of Redlands, 1200 East Colton Ave P.O. Box 3080, Redlands, CA 92373, USA
Interests: Religion’s changing role in the contemporary world; Causes of and solutions for homelessness; Increasing social inequality and the decline of the middle class; Research design

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Focus of Special Issue

Current environmental, economic, social, and political challenges indicate that people are losing faith in existing power structures and mechanisms for coping with crises. This creates increasingly divided societies, riven by ideological battles for the future of the human and the more than human world. Religion has a place in this picture. Not only is it often a source of divisions; it can also be a source for alternative means of addressing them.

These divisions take new and as yet unclear shapes, which sociologists are only now beginning to comprehend. It is not enough to refer to the struggle between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’, terms that dominated sociology through the 1970s. Nor do the tropes ‘colonialism vs. anti-colonialism’ and the ‘clash of civilizations’ adequately explain what is going on. Nor, arguably, does ‘populism vs neo-liberalism’ fully capture such things as the recent clashes between cosmopolitan and anticosmopolitan actors in the major Western democracies. Each of these has a piece of the picture; none of them captures it all.

This Special Issue explores the following questions:

  • What is religion’s role in this situation: as a creator of divisions, as a locus of power, and as a ground of resistance? 
  • How does religion influence our divided societies?
  • How is religion influenced in turn?

Scope of Special Issue

The papers in this Special Issue have been drawn from the XIX International Sociological Association’s World Congress, Research Committee 22 on Sociology of Religion sessions, which took place in Toronto in July, 2018. They focused on religion and power, intersectional violence, social divisions, and also resistance to power, violence, and division. They included the following themes: religion and nationalism; religion and social theory; religion and diversity; religion and violent extremism; religion and gender inequality; religion and sexuality inequality; religion and environmental crises; and religion and violent and nonviolent social movements.

Dr. Anna Halafoff
Dr. Sam Han
Dr. Caroline Starkey
Prof. Dr. James Spickard
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religion
  • power
  • resistance
  • social theory
  • diversity

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Introduction to the Special Issue: Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World
Religions 2020, 11(6), 306; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11060306 - 23 Jun 2020
Abstract
The world is currently gripped by pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessArticle
Complex, Critical and Caring: Young People’s Diverse Religious, Spiritual and Non-Religious Worldviews in Australia and Canada
Religions 2020, 11(4), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040166 - 03 Apr 2020
Abstract
Recent scholarly and media perspectives on religion and youth have often depicted young people as being apathetic when it comes to religion. The methods used in research on religion are also typically informed by outdated, fixed idea of religious identity that are no [...] Read more.
Recent scholarly and media perspectives on religion and youth have often depicted young people as being apathetic when it comes to religion. The methods used in research on religion are also typically informed by outdated, fixed idea of religious identity that are no longer applicable, especially to young people. This paper confronts these issues by applying contemporary theories of religious diversity, including lived religion and religious complexity, to the findings of the Canadian Religion, Gender and Sexuality among Youth in Canada (RGSY) study, the Australian Interaction multifaith youth movement project, and the Worldviews of Australian Generation Z (AGZ) study. These three studies revealed that young people negotiate their worldview identities in complex, critical and caring ways that are far from ambivalent, and that are characterised by hybridity and questioning. We thereby recommend that policies and curricula pertaining to young people’s and societies’ wellbeing better reflect young people’s actual lived experiences of diversity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
‘Non-Religion’ as Part of the ‘Religion’ Category in International Human Rights
Religions 2020, 11(2), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020079 - 10 Feb 2020
Abstract
‘Religion’ still occupies and maintains a position of formal and informal privilege in many current societies. It retains these privileges despite the increasing numbers of people who label themselves ‘non-religious’. There is also evidence that overtly non-religious people are being persecuted due to [...] Read more.
‘Religion’ still occupies and maintains a position of formal and informal privilege in many current societies. It retains these privileges despite the increasing numbers of people who label themselves ‘non-religious’. There is also evidence that overtly non-religious people are being persecuted due to the continuation of these privileges. This paper will examine such treatment of the non-religious in the context of human rights instruments and laws. It lays out the international law case for the rights of the non-religious. It also discusses the extent to which state actors have or have not ignored human rights standards in their persecution or deprivileging of non-religious people. This paper will proceed through a three-step analysis. Step 1 is to examine the aspirational Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in relation to the non-religious. The relevant sections of the UDHR and interpretations that they have received will be discussed. Step 2 is to do the same with the binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Finally, Step 3 is to give examples of lower-level and local laws, where I shall examine the extent to which individual countries’ laws and practices toward non-religious people support or contradict the treaty commitments that those countries have made. The continuation in coercion/persecution cases suggests that something is amiss with human rights protections being provided to the non-religious. If we are to create social structures that are more inclusive of the non-religious and to advocate for non-religious rights, it is necessary to examine the societal power and privilege still held by ‘religion’. It is hoped that this article can inform and encourage further similar engagements among sociologists, religious studies scholars, activists and lay-people interested in the treatment of non-religious peoples. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
From ‘Islamism’ to ‘Spiritualism’? The Individualization of ‘Religion’ in Contemporary Iran
Religions 2020, 11(1), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010032 - 07 Jan 2020
Abstract
In the first four centuries of Islam in Iran, mosques were arguably the only sacred places for Iranian Muslims to pray. It was only after the invasion of the Mongolians and the resulting expansion of Shi’ism and Sufism throughout the country that the [...] Read more.
In the first four centuries of Islam in Iran, mosques were arguably the only sacred places for Iranian Muslims to pray. It was only after the invasion of the Mongolians and the resulting expansion of Shi’ism and Sufism throughout the country that the tombs of some sacred figures, including Imams’ grandchildren (‘Imamzadehs’) or (‘Maqbarahs’), became shrines and important sites for pilgrims. It is interesting that pilgrimage to both Imams’ shrines and Imamzadehs and their associated expressions and perceptions lie at the center of the Shi’ite experience of ‘religion’, although they are rarely mentioned in the relevant core sources of Shi’ism. Nevertheless, to borrow a Weberian image, during the Islamic revolution of 1979, mosques became the ‘vehicles’ for the religio-political ideology of the revolution. Unlike Imamzadehs, they embraced dissidents from a variety of social classes, ranging from emigrants from rural areas to educated liberals and intellectuals. In the fortieth anniversary of the revolution, the findings of my three-year research project illustrates that whilst the religious status of mosques is decreasing, Imamzadehs as well as other venues detached from Islamic authority and political Islam are increasingly becoming ‘vehicles’ for ideas and sentiments for the expression of more individualistic and ‘spiritual’ sensations, rather than the manifestation of an established and institutionalized religio-political ideology. Taking inspiration from a social constructionist approach, discourse and content analysis of media, participant observation in ‘Shi’ite’ venues situated in three provinces, particularly three Imamzadehs or Maqbarahs, and thirty semi-structured interviews in north-west Iran, this article aims to report the findings of this project by focusing on the meanings of ‘religion’ (and ‘non-religion’) and ‘spiritual’ (and ‘non-spiritual’) attached to these venues, including Imamzadehs, and their material culture as well as the changes our informants have experienced in this regard through time and space, particularly during the last forty years. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
Scrambling for the Centre: Ghana’s New Churches as an Alternative Ideology and Power
Religions 2019, 10(12), 668; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120668 - 12 Dec 2019
Abstract
The effort expended by religious groups in Ghana to access and influence political power is not a historic novelty. Most clearly manifested in organizational strategies and the pronouncements of religious leaders, sectional ambitions in respect of political access and influence have recently gained [...] Read more.
The effort expended by religious groups in Ghana to access and influence political power is not a historic novelty. Most clearly manifested in organizational strategies and the pronouncements of religious leaders, sectional ambitions in respect of political access and influence have recently gained ascendancy in response to the relatively rapid and large-scale growth of religious diversity across the nation and within its growing conurbations. This scramble for access and influence has also been fueled by the overt participation of some political leaders in religious activities, which are perceived to grant certain groups an enviable presence in the public sphere and favoured access to the corridors of state power. Focusing on two of Ghana’s New Churches, both Pentecostal–charismatic organizations, as case studies, this paper explores the strategies and motivations of religious groups striving to access and influence political society in an increasingly diverse socio-cultural context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
Beyond Narcissism: Towards an Analysis of the Public, Political and Collective Forms of Contemporary Spirituality
Religions 2019, 10(10), 579; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100579 - 16 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Holistic spirituality has often been characterized by academic literature as belonging to the private sphere, articulated through the market and anchored in the growth of narcissistic individualism. However, recent empirical evidence and theoretical developments suggest a more complex picture. Drawing on the analysis [...] Read more.
Holistic spirituality has often been characterized by academic literature as belonging to the private sphere, articulated through the market and anchored in the growth of narcissistic individualism. However, recent empirical evidence and theoretical developments suggest a more complex picture. Drawing on the analysis and comparison of two empirical cases—the organization of collective meditations in public spaces and the teaching of yoga in prisons by holistic volunteers —we explore the rise of social engagement initiatives, aiming to transform society through the promotion and use of holistic techniques. Our main conclusions revolve around four main issues (a) the move of holistic spirituality from the private to the public sphere and the increasing public resonance with (and acceptance of) the contemporary holistic milieu, (b) the emergence of an holistic imaginary of social change anchored in ethics of reciprocity and responsibility, (c) the role of the body as a central locus of resistance and social transformation and (d) the articulation of new forms of individualism that enable to make self-realization compatible with social and political commitment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
Popular Religions and Multiple Modernities: A Framework for Understanding Current Religious Transformations
Religions 2019, 10(10), 565; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100565 - 01 Oct 2019
Abstract
Popular, ethnic, and folk religions endure in all regions of the planet, but specially in underdeveloped or developing non-Western countries. The main objective of this paper was to propose a framework for understanding this popular religious trend. Although religion in general has previously [...] Read more.
Popular, ethnic, and folk religions endure in all regions of the planet, but specially in underdeveloped or developing non-Western countries. The main objective of this paper was to propose a framework for understanding this popular religious trend. Although religion in general has previously been linked to multiple modernities, the revitalization of popular religions has not. While Eisenstadt’s original theory of multiple modernities has been criticized on several aspects, his interpretative approach is valid provided that the contradictory dynamics of modernizing processes are recognized. The epistemological shift suggested by this article involves recognizing the biases that Western sociology has brought to its analysis of religions. Once we treat modernities as multiple, the specificity of each modernity opens up the spectrum of religious alternatives that flourish in every geo-cultural area. The growing diversity of popular religious expressions in the Global South stems from the fact that they are supported by thousands of believers. Their lived religions spills beyond religious institutions. These popular religiosities are the main sources of religious diversities and religious resistance in the context of multiple modernities. Lived religion and symbolic action allow us a better understanding of the magical-religious expressions of peoples of the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
Dimensions of Diversity: Toward a More Complex Conceptualization
Religions 2019, 10(10), 559; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100559 - 27 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The article assesses the complexity of religious diversity through a presentation of results from the Religion and Diversity Project, a seven-year project conducted between 2010 and 2017 and centred at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Analyzing five dimensions of diversity—the religions, lived, strength, [...] Read more.
The article assesses the complexity of religious diversity through a presentation of results from the Religion and Diversity Project, a seven-year project conducted between 2010 and 2017 and centred at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Analyzing five dimensions of diversity—the religions, lived, strength, institutional and forms dimensions—it demonstrates how results from the project support the thesis that religious diversity itself is changing in all these regards, becoming more complex, and relating in complex intersectionality with other categories of diversity such as sex and gender. The article concludes by pointing to the need to expand research into religious diversity to also include the growing nonreligious diversity in Canadian and other societies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
The Social Architecture of Belonging in the African Pentecostal Diaspora
Religions 2019, 10(7), 440; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070440 - 18 Jul 2019
Abstract
From megachurches in movie theatres to prayer groups held in living rooms, Pentecostals worldwide are constantly carrying out religious activities that ultimately aim to integrate diverse worshippers into the kingdom of God. Born-again Christians refashion their ‘ways of being’ by breaking down and [...] Read more.
From megachurches in movie theatres to prayer groups held in living rooms, Pentecostals worldwide are constantly carrying out religious activities that ultimately aim to integrate diverse worshippers into the kingdom of God. Born-again Christians refashion their ‘ways of being’ by breaking down and re-establishing the interpersonal relationships shaped and changed by emerging diasporic modernities. I examined some of these changing ways of being by comparing the discursive practices of African Pentecostal pastors in Johannesburg (South Africa) and Bilbao (Spain). These case-studies demonstrate how these migrant-initiated churches create a ‘social architecture’, a platform on which African worshippers find social and spiritual integration in increasingly globalized contexts. I argue that the subdivision of large congregations into specialized fellowship groups provides African migrants with alternative strategies to achieve a sense of belonging in an expanding diasporic network. Their transformative mission of spiritual education, by spreading African(ized) and Pentecostal values according to age, gender, or social roles, helps to uplift them from being a marginalized minority to being a powerful group occupying a high moral ground. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
A Flexible Indeterminate Theory of Religion: Thinking through Chinese Religious Phenomena
Religions 2019, 10(7), 428; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070428 - 13 Jul 2019
Abstract
This essay explores a few of the reasons for the failure of Western theories to capture Chinese religious experiences. It will include Durkheim’s insight that “The sacred … is society in disguised form” and variants of secularization theories in contrast to Confucian ones, [...] Read more.
This essay explores a few of the reasons for the failure of Western theories to capture Chinese religious experiences. It will include Durkheim’s insight that “The sacred … is society in disguised form” and variants of secularization theories in contrast to Confucian ones, especially Xunzi’s theory about ritual, read as representative of religion. This article will examine the impossibility of asserting a straightforward claim, without exception, that could capture the three thousand years of historical and contemporary diversity manifested by the three institutional religions (Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism), the continuous formation of popular religious movements, ever developing sectarian groups, and pan-Chinese quasi-religious practices like ancestor veneration, divination, healing practices and the like. The study will start by looking at variable categories used in the study of different religions, the similarities in assumptions among the three institutional religions such as the “good” and self-cultivation, and the central place of secularization theory in the contemporary study of Chinese religions. A theoretical orientation of both flexibility and indeterminacy is suggested based on indigenous ideas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
Open AccessArticle
Curating Violence: Reflecting on Race and Religion in Campaigns for Decolonizing the University in South Africa
Religions 2019, 10(5), 310; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050310 - 08 May 2019
Abstract
During 2015 and 2016, staff and students at university campuses across South Africa embarked on two campaigns for decolonizing higher education, but the efforts were met with various forms of violent repression and rationalization of violence by state and private security services. In [...] Read more.
During 2015 and 2016, staff and students at university campuses across South Africa embarked on two campaigns for decolonizing higher education, but the efforts were met with various forms of violent repression and rationalization of violence by state and private security services. In the face of the securatization of university campuses countrywide, ordinary mediums of teaching and learning proved inadequate for helping students reflect on their social reality, and similarly, public gatherings for socio-political deliberation and commentary became irregular because of the policing and surveillance of student protest action. By reflecting on the curation of three memorials and performances about seemingly racialized violence in this context, this article interrogates the meaning and the relation to the aesthetic, as well as the commentary on the context within which it is produced. Drawing on the work of Mbembe, Fanon, and Spivak as theoretical interlocutors with respect to how I understand violence, this article reflects on how three interdisciplinary curatorial events raise pedagogical challenges and opportunities for critical reflection in a context of repression. It was precisely through this interdisciplinary effort that the black body, violence, and context aligned to produce a public pedagogy on physical and representational violence. The three curatorial moments allowed for meaningful reflection on violence, resistance, religion, and the racialized self that not only drew attention to the artifacts and the performances but deliberately opened possibilities for a kind of public classroom where the discussion, articulation, and critique of violence is possible and productive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
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Open AccessArticle
The Sociology of Religion in a Post-Colonial Era: Towards Theoretical Reflexivity
Religions 2019, 10(1), 18; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010018 - 28 Dec 2018
Abstract
This article makes two points. First, it argues that sociology, like all knowledge, is shaped, though not determined, by its historical-cultural origins. Early sociology arose in 19th-century Europe and its core concepts were shaped by that era—both in what they reveal about society [...] Read more.
This article makes two points. First, it argues that sociology, like all knowledge, is shaped, though not determined, by its historical-cultural origins. Early sociology arose in 19th-century Europe and its core concepts were shaped by that era—both in what they reveal about society and what they hide. We now realize this, so we sociologists of religion need to examine our inherited concepts to understand those concepts’ limitations. We also need to include an analysis of the way the current historical-cultural situation shapes sociology today. This is the theoretical reflexivity called for in the title. Second, the article argues that expanding sociology’s conceptual canon to include insights from other historical-cultural locations is more than just an ethical matter. It is also epistemological. Sociology does not make progress unless it includes insights from as many standpoints as possible. This does not mean that all insights are equal. It does mean that all have the potential to improve sociological understanding. Whether or not they actually do so is a matter for the scientific process to decide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World)
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