Special Issue "Religion and Mediatisation in Global Perspective"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 May 2019).
Interests: sociology, media studies and religious studies; religion and conflict; digital/urban interfaces; migration and integration.
I am writing to ask if you would be interested in contributing to a special issue of the journal Religions on ‘Religion and Mediatisation in Global Perspective’.
The special issue seeks to address the question of how changes in media communications in the 21st century have impacted on religion, with what social and political consequences, asking whether any general trends can be identified at a global scale, and if so, whether any underlying mechanisms can also be discerned which can help to make sense of these developments. In particular, it will revisit mediatisation theory (Hjarvard, 2009) and republicisation theory (Herbert, 2011) through a series of case studies and theoretical and comparative articles. It is intended that case studies will be drawn from diverse settings, including, as currently envisaged, Singapore, Israel, India, the United States, Ghana, Italy and Scandinavia (where thought on mediatisation of religion has been largely developed).
Contribution to Existing Debate/Literature
In his account of the mediatisation of religion, Hjarvard argues that the dominant role of media institutions in late modern societies means that media increasingly usurp the role of religious institutions in communicating knowledge about religion, and that the latter must accommodate to the norms and forms of media genres if they wish to engage with the public. Hjarvard sees mediatisation as going hand in hand with secularisation, for example:
“the mediatization of religion … is changing the representation of religion in late modernity at the same
time that secularization … is evoking both a decline and a transformation of religious organizations, practices and beliefs” (2011, 22).
The effect of both processes is a tendency is towards a decline in public, shared religious meanings, and towards a privatisation of religious belief. Critics, such are Meyer, have argued that while media do have a powerful structuring effect on how religious institutions communicate, this does not necessarily serve to undermine religion’s social significance. Others have focused on how digital media increasingly allow audiences to become ‘users’, and re-shape religious ‘content’ to imagine themselves and their relation to the world in new ways, defining mediatisation as:
“…the process by which collective uses of communication media extend the development of independent media industries and their circulation of narratives, contribute to new forms of action and interaction in the
social world and give shape to how we think of humanity and our place in the world”.1
The process here, as with Hepp’s ‘cultures of mediatisation’ approach, is a dialectical one in which the relationship between media and audience/user in a given social context is a dynamic one in which outcomes are uncertain, rather than tending to towards a marginalisation of religion or its retreat into a private realm. However, in the cases discussed by Clark and Hepp the outcome would appear to be multiplication of religious narratives and meanings and weakening of religious institutions’ capacity to regulate these meanings, even if, as in the event discussed by Hepp, they remain strongly involved in their mediation. Thus, while the secularising tendency proposed by Hjarvard is rejected, the outcomes observed seem broadly in line with a process of individualisation or personalisation and a weakening of collective, institutionally sanctioned religious meanings; as Lövheim comments:
"media augments certain processes of religious change – in particular a re-construction of tradition and a personalisation of religiosity".
In contrast, in his account of religious publicization and drawing principally on evidence from India and Egypt, Herbert contends that in some cases the same processes of media penetration of the lifeworld serve not only to re-invigorate networks of personalised belief, but also make religious symbols and discourses powerfully available for political purposes, for use by both religious and secular authorities and opposition movements, as well as by commercial actors.
Clearly, the intended scope of validity claims about theories of media shaping matters, and Hjarvard is clear that he intends his theory was developed for Western contexts, and especially Northern Europe, and claims no wider validity, while Meyer and Herbert situate their claims about religion and media in a broader, indeed global comparative context. However, given the increasingly global penetration of media technologies and systems, even at a time of resurgent nationalisms, it does seem opportune to raise the question of how changes in media communications in the 21st century are impacting on religion at a global scale, of what shapes outcomes at different scales (global, regional, national, communal etc), with what social and political consequences, and any underlying mechanisms can be discerned which can help to make sense of these developments. It is in these ways that the special issue is intended to take debate forward.
Prof. David Herbert
Manuscript Submission Information
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- politicisation, publicization.