From ESA – Strategies & Activities

Dirk Hofäcker
Edward Tolhurst
Christiane Schnell
Helena Hirvonen

RN Reports – RN34 Sociology of Religion

Issue 42: 1968 - 50 Years On Wed 28 Nov 2018 0

Roberta Ricucci, RN34 Coordinator 2017-2019

The Sociology of Religion Research Network (SRRN) and its Activities

The SRRN was established at the biennial ESA Conference in 2011. Ever since, the SRRN has become a major hub for interdisciplinary exchange among scholars and researchers.

The Sociology of Religion Research Network fosters the sociological study of religion in Europe, bestowing special emphasis on the empirical study of contemporary forms of religion with the purpose of building the interpretive fundament for a theory of European Religions. Over the past decade, religion has regained increased importance on a global level. Despite predictions about increasing secularisation, religion has not vanished in the modern world. Though Europe has been widely considered as particular in terms of religion, the revitalisation of religion permeating large sectors of the whole society is highly notable in many spheres even in this supposedly secular continent. Although membership rates of established churches continue to drop, religion seems to be vigorously returning to the agenda – both on the level of public appreciation and debate, the level of several institutional areas and the level of everyday life. Far from disappearing in “late modern” European societies, religion has gained importance in public, institutional and private realms. However, religion is changing its face, undergoing significant transformations and engendering what might be called a new social form of religion. Currently, we can witness a rapid intensification of debates on the changed status of religion in European societies. Religion is recognised as playing a decisive role in such issues, like the integration of migrants in modern societies, the de-traditionalisation of Europe and the foundation of values in “post-secular” societies. However, the increasing importance of religion in Europe, as well as the renewed social scientific and sociological research endeavours within Europe, are not reflected in scientific debates on religion. In fact, until now there has been no distinct research association that would allow the discussion of issues about religion specifically and exclusively in Europe. This deficiency is particularly surprising, since Europe constitutes an atypical case with respect to religion, following the argument of many scholars and scientific observers of religion. Given the simultaneity of strong secularist movements on the one hand and powerful religious organisations on the other, some scholars even refer to this situation as “European exceptionalism”. More exactly, however, the religious situation within Europe is undeniably highly varied. Its diversity, among different member countries and within national societies, extends to the point that even well-informed observers become easily overwhelmed when tarrying to understand the whole picture.

The SRRN welcomes various disciplinary perspectives and theoretical orientations. Indeed, the research network aims at establishing an intensified discussion within sociology in general, other specialist sociologies and the sociology of religion. This goal is to be pursued by cooperating with various Research Networks in the European Sociological Association. In particular, over the years, the RN has improved relations between the sociology of religion and the following sub areas of the discipline: sociological theory (RN29), sociology of culture (RN07), sociology of gender (RN33), sociology of health and illness (RN16), political sociology (RN32) and sociology of migration (RN35).

The research network seeks to be a forum for the development and discussion of multiple aspects – the implications and visions of religions in current times – stressing the need for inter-disciplinary and comparative research, bringing together both qualitative and quantitative methods for enriching the study of social phenomena thanks to the mixed-method approach. Moreover, at workshops and conferences, the SRRN seeks to improve the participation of PhD students and young researchers: indeed, sessions devoted to them, to discuss both the methodology and theoretical framework in order to carry out research in the sociology of religion, are always organised. Moreover, in several mid-term conferences, the SRRN has provided a special prize for the best paper and/or poster presented: the aim is to encourage the new ‘sociologists of religion’ in going ahead with their research and promoting their participation within international events. Finally, at workshops and conferences, the SRRN seeks to ensure that panels consider a gender and academic seniority balance.

The SRRN consists of a lively community of scholars from both Europe and elsewhere, who currently number nearly 653 Facebook members and 174 subscribers to the mailing list. A specific position within the SRRN has been defined to take account of and diffuse communication, which deals with announcing new articles and books, as well as calls for papers, job openings, PhD positions or research funding opportunities. Moreover, members use both the SRRN social media channels and their personal ones for scholarly exchanges, post events and other initiatives related with the SRRN.

The main SRRN activities consist of facilitating scholarly and activist exchanges at conferences. Over the past 7 years, the SRRN has organised numerous sessions and semi-plenaries at the biennial ESA conferences, where both the number of sessions and participants have been steadily increasing. In addition, the SRRN has run well-established biennial workshops, which hitherto have been held in Berlin (2012), Belfast (2014), Zadar (2016) and Turin (2018). Preferably, workshops include collaboration with scholars and institutes from all over Europe, trying to stress the participation of scholars from Central and Eastern Europe. The workshops usually last two full days, plus one day that might give the opportunity to meet representatives of local religious organisations, be part of a field-trip dealing with SRRN issues (e.g. visiting specific religious/spiritual sites) and attract around 80 to 100 scholars and activists. A joint dinner is generally organised for improving SRRN community ties and, whenever possible, also a public event where sociology of religion scholars meet with representatives from local movements and groups to discuss pressing issues and enable the unification of theory and practice that takes centre-stage in critical research.

The current ESA Sociology of Religion Board was elected at the ESA Business Meeting in Athens in August 2017:

Coordinator: Roberta Ricucci (Torino, Italy)

Co-coordinator: Siniša Zrinščak (Zagreb, Croatia)

Communication Officer: Marta Kołodziejska (Warsaw, Poland)

Members: Ana Burgués (Barcelona, Spain), Gladys Ganiel (Belfast, Ireland), Vladimir Kmec (Cambridge, UK), Christophe Monnot (Strasbourg, France), Alexandre Piettre (Paris, France/Lausanne, Switzerland), Siniša Zrinšcak (Zagreb), Heidemarie Winkel (Bielefeld, Germany).

RN34 on the ESA website.

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