Scholar-activism and relations between traditions 
 
Paul Hedges, Associate Professor of Interreligious Studies, Nanyang Technological University

 

Klipi teostus: UTTV 11.05.2024 452 vaatamist


The 2024 ESITIS Conference plans to explore the radical pluralities at the heart of contemporary interreligious engagement. Its geographical and methodological pluralities provide new generative possibilities for understanding, as voices from the majority world contribute perspectives that reflect local historical trajectories, and as disciplines within the political sciences furnish conceptual tools that complement a focus on texts and rituals in theology and religious studies and the sociology and anthropology of religion. Understanding the role of religion vis à vis governmental and international relations provides new resources for understanding the forces that shape religious life within and between traditions and provides new opportunities to build peaceful relations.
 
The possibilities furnished by new pluralities are accompanied by challenges. The relatively recent norms for academic research, arguably established in the new German universities of the early nineteenth century, impose limits on interreligious inquiry that often force traditions to articulate their practices and beliefs in forms that are alien to them. The range of permissible participants in dialogue is sometimes constrained by expectations about the acceptable range of intellectual positions and the language and protocols for inquiry that are permitted. Access to publication is often constrained by practices of review that simultaneously affirm innovation yet favour the reproduction of existing dominant approaches. Access to funding, especially that provided by bodies answerable to governmental departments and inter-governmental bodies, is often restricted to projects which explicitly align with interests such as social cohesion, political harmony, and solutions to the problem of extremist religious expression. Religions are often cast in political terms as conflictual, as a source of social problems that require solutions. Projects that seek to understand forms of religious life that do not obviously align with such interests, or challenge them, often struggle to access financial resources, and fruitful projects censor themselves in order to be eligible for funding.
 
The 2024 ESITIS Conference has the ambitious aim of exploring the interrelations not only between religious traditions, but between multiple pluralities: approaches, methods, and university disciplines in which the study of religion is now located, alongside forms of scholarly activism whose purpose is not only to understand but to transform such relations.