Posts Tagged ‘public sphere’

June 20th, 2017

Apologia pro Reza: Why I like Believer

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I am a comparative historian of early Christianity who reads widely in and engages in academic forums around new religious movements and popular and local religious forms, both contemporary and ancient. I also came into the study of religion out of great distaste for comprehensive generalizations (à la Huston Smith) about religions of the world—that is, generalizations that elevate the so-called “mainstream” of any religion. Religion, I believe, should be interesting, even exciting—for the likes of me but even more for the outsider or undergraduate whom I want to attract to my classes and hope finds value in my field. If the alternative to “sensational” is “mainstream,” then I will take—and encourage—the sensational.

So what has Believer been doing since it began? On the one hand, Aslan wants optimistically to find some inclinations toward tolerance and human rights in diverse religious movements around the world. In a world that is coming apart from nationalist intolerance and the demonization of indigenous religions (usually at the hands of Pentecostal missions in Africa and Latin America), that is a worthy, hopeful endeavor.

March 16th, 2017

For Love of the Prophet—An Introduction

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For Love of the ProphetFor Love of the Prophet argues that in moving beyond the institutional life of the Sudanese state, we are able to see its Islamic hue as something more than a response to secularism and Westernization, as it is often characterized by Muslim political elites and Western scholars alike. Instead, through examining how the Islamic state comes to life as an object of aspiration and consternation among diverse publics, we see that it is engaged in a much deeper and more diverse set of conversations within Islamic thought that are rarely captured by the categories and lenses of political science or religious studies. Understanding these features of the Islamic state helps us to comprehend how and why it perseveres as a political aspiration, against all odds and despite its many disappointments, in Sudan and beyond.

In this essay, Noah Salomon introduces a new book forum around his recently published ethnography of politics, religion, and statehood in Sudan.

June 16th, 2016

The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault: An introduction

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Traditionally, Western thought framed human life as evolving in a three-dimensional space: the economic, the political, and the philosophical. Nowadays, as in times past, this tradition sets its origins in classical Athens, a time when the happy and self-sufficient public life of politics and the solitary one of philosophy were nourishing on the surplus generated by the economy. The economy was confined to the private sphere of the household and excluded from the public sphere that was occupied by politics. The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault retells the history of the West following the less traversed economic side of the story by conducting a philological history that traces the meanings that were attached to the notion of oikonomia in Greek speaking antiquity. Doing so, the book offers a twist on the historical narrative of the present: it argues that the rise of the “economy of the mystery which from eternity has been hid in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9) in Greek-speaking Christianity of late antiquity plays a decisive role in this history. By reinserting this too-often ignored chapter, the book goes beyond closing a great gap in the histories of economic thought, philosophical inquiries, and political theory. As the research conducted in the book is of a genealogical nature, The Origins of Neoliberalism holds (and demonstrates) that recovering the mysteries of the economy in early Christianity is of great relevance for any critical engagement with neoliberalism, let alone overcoming it.

February 4th, 2016

New blog on religion in the public sphere

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In late January, a new blog on the role of religion in the public sphere was launched: Religion: Going Public.

March 10th, 2015

CFP: Freedom of (and from) Religion

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The Department of Religious Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara, with support from the Cordano Endowment in Catholic Studies, will host a conference on “Freedom of (and from) Religion: Debates Over the Accommodation of Religion in the Public Sphere” from April 30 to May 2, 2015.

February 23rd, 2015

Religion in Britain: Demography, identity, and the public sphere

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Over at Public Spirit, to coincide with the publication of the second edition of Grace Davie’s Religion in Britain, Tariq Modood comments on on three significant changes with demography, identity, and the public sphere are going to characterize the next few decades and perhaps beyond.

November 20th, 2013

Secularism and secularity at the AAR

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At the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, to be held November 23-26 in Baltimore, a new program unit on “Secularism and Secularity” will sponsor four sessions.

September 6th, 2013

Opening at the Ford Foundation

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The Ford Foundation seeks a Program Officer for its work on religion in the public sphere.

September 5th, 2013

Catholic bishops on immigration reform

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has undertaken a coordinated effort to preach the message of immigration reform in diocese across America as reported by The New York Times.

August 26th, 2013

CFP: Post-Secularism Between Public Reason and Political Theology

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Guest Editors Camil Ungureanu and Lasse Thomassen are requesting submissions for a special issue of the journal The European Legacy scheduled for late 2014.

August 7th, 2013

Emergent feminism among Orthodox Jewish women in Israel

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Allison Kaplan Sommer and Dahlia Lithwick write at The New Republic write about the struggles of an emergent form of feminist protest among Modern Orthodox Jewish women in an Israeli city. The article profiles a struggle against the unofficial gender segregation that these women are sometimes pressured to comply with.

July 22nd, 2013

Religious progressives in the US

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The new Economic Values Survey carried out by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institute has surveyed the American religious landscape according to a new set of criteria and found a significant number of religious progressives, particularly within younger generations, suggesting an increase over time.

July 16th, 2013

Crisis in Egypt roundup

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The public protests and ouster of elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian military followed by the appointment of interim President Adli Monsour left Egypt with continued protests, violence, and an uncertain future for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Islamist politics across the Middle East. The following roundup culls the various religious and political motivations and interests of multiple parties, both within and surrounding Egypt.

July 10th, 2013

Is the increase in the non-religious a “bad thing”?

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A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found that an increasing number of American adults identify as religiously unaffiliated, and nearly one half of respondents said that the increase in non-religious individuals is a “bad thing” for American society.

June 26th, 2013

SCOTUS roundup: Rulings on DOMA and Prop 8

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 on Wednesday that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, is unconstitutional. The Court also declined to rule on Proposition 8, a California case that banned same-sex marriage, on technical grounds, deciding that the case was improperly before the Court. The following roundup presents a range of reactions from both sides, with a focus on the religious aspects that have long influenced this debate.

June 12th, 2013

The anatomy of a public square movement

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Sociologist (and longtime TIF contributor) Nilüfer Göle assesses the emerging opposition movement in Turkey at Today’s Zaman.

October 25th, 2012

Three cheers for God

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A Texas judge has ruled on the case of the Texas cheerleaders who were using banners with Christian Bible verses on them at football games at their public high school.

August 16th, 2012

Buddhism and the practices of contemporary education

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Recently, Matt Bieber interviewed Peter Hershock, author of Buddhism in the Public Sphere, for his blog The Wheat and Chaff.

June 5th, 2012

Blurring the boundaries

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Four guided missiles packed with explosive material hurtled into the morning sky. Though the day was brilliant blue and cloudless, no one saw them coming. They were aimed at a nation that did not see itself at war. Moreover, it was a nation convinced that missiles fired in anger no longer posed a serious threat to its security. The weapons were conventional in the strict sense: they did not carry nuclear warheads.

May 11th, 2012

Everson’s Children

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Everson v. Board of Education is considered a landmark of First Amendment jurisprudence. That 1947 case marks the first time the Supreme Court held that the disestablishment provision of the First Amendment is binding on the states, and not just on the federal government. The “incorporation” of the principle of disestablishment thus completed the task begun seven years earlier in Cantwell v. Connecticut, when a unanimous Court held that free exercise applied to the states. In Cantwell, the Court overturned the convictions of three Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had been arrested for unlicensed soliciting and a breach of peace.

April 11th, 2012

The power of pluralist thinking

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It is hard to remember, but religious pluralism meant something quite different fifty years ago. We have, I would argue, so shifted our collective understanding of religious pluralism, and this transformation has been so naturalized, that we have little common conception that this shift even happened and much less sense of its consequences.

March 27th, 2012

Religious freedom between truth and tactic

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In the last issue of First Things, a self-described coalition of “Catholics and Evangelicals together” defends religious freedom. The coalition includes a number of notable Americans, like Charles Colson and George Weigel, with endorsements from the archbishops of Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, along with many others. According to the statement, the situation is unexpectedly urgent. After the fall of the Soviet Union, “throughout the world, a new era of religious freedom seemed at hand.” But, now it is blatantly clear that the scourge of intolerance—especially secularist intolerance—persists.

March 2nd, 2012

The naked public sphere?

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In light of Rick Santorum’s recent comments on religion and the public sphere, we asked a small handful of scholars about the status of such claims regarding religion in American political life. Just how “naked” is the American public square? What is the appropriate place of religion in the public sphere?

Read responses by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Michele Dillon, John L. Esposito, John H. Evans, Philip S. Gorski, R. Marie Griffith, Cristina Lafont, Nancy Levene, Nadia Marzouki, Ebrahim Moosa, Justin Neuman, and John Schmalzbauer.

January 5th, 2012

What are the uses of religion?

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Raising issues central to post-secularism, Ryan Gillespie reviews three distinct recent works—Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith and Revolution, and Jürgen Habermas’ Between Naturalism and Religion— in the International Journal of Communication.

November 22nd, 2011

Religion and political liberalism

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Jason Brennan (Assistant Professor of Business and Philosophy at Georgetown), and Kevin Vallier (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green) debate the proper place of religion within liberal democracies and liberal political theory.

September 29th, 2011

The big bang

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Peter Manseau reviews Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution.

August 18th, 2011

Normative demands of Islamic studies scholarship

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As a lawyer, I appreciate the critical importance of historical inquiry to contemporary legal challenges; as a historian, I resist attempts to demand normative outcomes from historical research. Balancing these disparate commitments is no easy feat and the endeavor warrants restraint.

August 4th, 2011

Why I don’t read non-fiction from Barnes and Noble, and why that’s a problem for public scholarship; or, what I learned in third grade about epistemology and essentialization

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I have not been interested in the Barnes and Noble non-fiction section for a long time. There might be a few history books that catch my eye, or a few recent works of book-length journalism that show me how to do what I claim to do—which is ethnography—with an eye for detail, insight, and refreshingly clear prose. Yet most of the stuff that’s there—particularly in the social sciences section—is pretty basic, often uninteresting, and available for free (to me) in more rigorous form on JSTOR.

May 25th, 2011

Matters of Ultimate Concern

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As the 2012 election season draws ever closer, Scott McLemee considers the essays collected in The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (ed. Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen).

March 30th, 2011

Adrift on common dreams

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What a strange, provocative experience it has been to dwell with Kathryn Lofton’s Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon during these unsettling months. The seams of public life seem especially frayed of late—a precariousness underscored by disasters natural and political that keep coming. And yet ours is the radiant moment of endless possibility so central to Lofton’s subject, whose chief promise is that of a self that matters, that experiences abundance and becoming. It was with this coexistence in mind that I plunged into Oprah’s world.

March 24th, 2011

Stefan Collini on offense

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In The New Republic, Isaac Chotiner reviews Stefan Collini’s latest book, which asks what it means to give offense and to feel offended. It also explores how “offensive” speech ought to be dealt with in the public sphere—a recurring issue whenever liberals criticize, or try to figure out how to respond to criticism of, religious beliefs and practices.

March 16th, 2011

Religion’s many powers

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To say that religion has power in the public sphere is not to say that it can be easily absorbed or that it should be. It is a basis for radical challenges and radical questions; it brings enthusiasm, passion, indignation, outrage, and love. If enthusiasm is sometimes harnessed to unreflective conviction, passion is also vital to critical engagement with existing institutions and dangerous trends. The public sphere and the practice of public reason have power too. And they not only take from religion but also offer it opportunities to advance by reflection and critical argument.

March 2nd, 2011

El poder de la religión

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El poder de la religión en la esfera pública, the Spanish language edition of The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, will be released late this month by Trotta Editorial.

February 25th, 2011

Religion and the emerging transnational Arab public

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In the SSRC’s Transformations of the Public Sphere essay forum, Seyla Benhabib considers the recent and ongoing uprisings in the Arab world as a novel hybridization of Muslim and modern politics, suggesting that it “is altogether possible that these young revolutionaries who stunned the world with their ingenuity, discipline, tenaciousness and courage will also teach us some new lessons about religion and the public square, democracy and faith . . . .”

February 25th, 2011

States of Devotion, a brand new blog

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The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU has recently launched States of Devotion, a trilingual blog serving as “an interactive forum for news, analysis and opinion-making about religion and politics in the Americas.”

February 8th, 2011

Space and resistance

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It is illuminating to ponder the recent events in Cairo’s Midan al-Tahrir as we try to understand the relationship between space, power, belonging, and resistance, as well as the productive interplay between physical and virtual space. Communication technologies such as the Internet (especially the websites Facebook and Twitter) and mobile phones aided the organization and publicizing of the protests in Egypt. At the same time, the marches, rallies, and the demonstrations of millions of Egyptians have brought a sense of visibility and immediacy that other means of communication alone would not have been able to secure. As I write this piece, the strong link between virtual and physical space continues to be central to the making of publics that are seen, heard, and legitimized.

January 25th, 2011

Call for papers: Spirituality, political engagement, and public life

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The SSRC Working Group on Spritituality, Political Engagement & Public Life is inviting submissions of abstracts for a conference to be held at Columbia University in New York City, June 3-4, 2011. Submissions are due by March 1, when they will be reviewed by members of the working group co-chaired by Courtney Bender and Omar McRoberts.

The conference, like the working group, will engage with a set of overarching themes: “the institutions and traditions that construct, condition, and demarcate spiritual activities and identities” and “the relations of these institutions and traditions to systems and patterns of political participation in the contemporary United States.”

September 20th, 2010

Skyping secularism: Religion and democracy

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At the end of our last post (an extension of our discussions at the IWM Summer School in Cortona), we asked whether secularism and liberalism in fact always go together, as is often supposed. In our second round of Skype conversations, we began to address this question by discussing a related one: to what degree are liberalism and privatized religion necessary for democracy? This discussion was inspired by our IWM course on “Religion and Democracy,” taught by José Casanova and Marcin Krol, which drew on examples of democratic societies to examine the variety of roles that public religion and liberalism, respectively, play in enhancing or inhibiting democratic life.

August 19th, 2010

Google, God, and the public

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Google’s attempt to bring its Street View service to Germany has met with strong opposition. Given the country’s history, the opposition feeds off many Germans’ wariness of encroachments upon their privacy—a wariness that Jeff Jarvis has called “something nearing a cultural obsession.” In this vein, a leading newspaper commented that “Google knows more about you and me than the KGB, Stasi or Gestapo ever dreamed of.” Not least among those opposing the Californian internet giant’s service are the German churches. Several Protestant churches have registered concerns, including the largest of the Landeskirchen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover.

July 22nd, 2010

Separating public space

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Concluding a class trip to the Supreme Court, Maureen Rigo and her class from Wickenburg Christian Academy, Wickenburg, AZ, stopped to pray on the Oval Plaza in front of the Court steps. The Supreme Court police ushered the teacher and her class from the steps, having deemed their behavior unlawful—actions that bring to the fore questions of the religious neutrality of public space and the application of the First Amendment.

July 16th, 2010

The importance of place

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In Joseph Blankholm’s recent post, he wonders how to begin to understand (or even locate) the atheism of people who choose, politely, not to talk about religion.  His example of Midwestern propriety is an apt one—for many people, religion is not acceptable public conversation.  Blankholm’s question of how we get behind this polite façade is important, but his post also raised another significant aspect of writing and thinking about religion: the importance of place.

July 13th, 2010

France wrestles with upcoming vote to ban burqa

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The popular push to ban the burqa in France lacks clear legality, reports The Associated Press.

July 12th, 2010

“The Origins of the Modern Public”

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CBC Radio’s daily program Ideas, hosted by Paul Kennedy, has run an extensive (14-part) series on “The Origins of the Modern Public,” with installments featuring, among others, Michael Warner and Craig Calhoun. The series traces the emergence of the modern public from the early modern period to the present.

July 9th, 2010

The quiet (ir)religion of the polite and apathetic

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For many Minnesotans, religion is a private matter that shouldn’t be talked about—not even among friends. For others, it hardly makes sense to think of religion as public or private because it seems so obviously embedded in both spheres. As someone who has to talk about religion a lot, two rough groups emerge for me: on the one hand, there are the public non-theists; and on the other, there are those who talk about religion, whether or not they are actually religious themselves.

July 8th, 2010

Discussing mosques, minarets, and crosses

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Ruthie, Grace and David here, reporting live from the IWM International Summer School in Philosophy and Politics in Cortona, Italy. We are here with forty graduate students and post-docs and an inspiring group of faculty from over 20 countries to explore a range of issues related to religion in public life. And over the next two weeks, we look forward to sharing some of our discussions with the readers of The Immanent Frame. Today we would like to talk about an issue we discussed in the first session of our course on “The Role of Faith in Public Discourse,” taught by Nilüfer Göle and Michael Sandel.

May 14th, 2010

Crossing the sacred secular

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In her essay on Salazar v. Buono, Winni Sullivan ponders why crosses present such a difficulty for the modern, secular nation-state, and she questions the degree to which religious myths and symbols have been supplanted by those of nationalism.  “Has secularization failed?” she asks.  Sullivan posits that religious symbols’ ability to connect the universal and the particular is at the root of their success.  Yet the ambiguity of both the Mojave cross and the commentaries made by various judges in evaluating the case point to the layered religious and secular meanings of the symbol at that particular site and in U.S. society more generally.  Perhaps a more expansive definition of civil religion can trace how the same symbol moves across “religious” and “secular” contexts, depending on the site, event, or time in which it is deployed.  In Poland, for example, the cross is and is not religious, although it is always sacred.  Indeed, this ambiguity, the ability to pivot in different directions, may help account for the cross’s social force.

April 30th, 2010

The crucifix controversy and the contradictions of German secularism

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Last week, the prime minister of Lower Saxony, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), replaced several ministers in his cabinet. The new holder of the portfolio that includes social, health, and family policy, women’s affairs, and integration, is a 38-year-old woman called Aygül Özkan, also a Christian Democrat. She is not only the first minister of Turkish descent to serve in a German state government, but also the first Muslim to hold an executive office at this level in Germany. What does the reaction to her first public statements reveal about the nature of German secularism?

March 18th, 2010

Radical Orthodoxy’s new home?

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This past November, a new think tank called ResPublica was launched in London, in the opulent surrounds of the Royal Horseguards Hotel. It’s not every day that a think tank appears, of course, but even so this one attracted an unusual amount of attention. The meeting room in which the launch took place was overflowing. David Cameron, the Conservative Party Leader, modernizer, and hopeful Prime Minister, provided the opening remarks, and introduced its director, Phillip Blond. In the lead-up to the launch, Blond got prime coverage on television, in the broadsheets, and throughout the blogosphere, building on what had actually been almost a year’s worth of buzz over his rise to the top. ResPublica’s signature approach is what Blond calls “Red Toryism,” which he outlined in the February 2009 issue of Prospect as “the tradition of communitarian civic conservatism,” and about which we’ll soon hear more.

March 10th, 2010

The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere

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In The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, due out spring 2011 from Columbia University Press and the SSRC, Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West interrogate the specificity of religious and  secular reasons, dispositions, and ethical orientations in relation to democratic politics, each taking up a different strand of the complex intertwinement of religion and the public sphere in the contemporary world.

March 2nd, 2010

The new landscape of the religion blogosphere

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It’s no longer news that digital media are changing how knowledge is produced and disseminated, and how people relate to one another more broadly. This is so in the case of religion as much as any other. As older forms of communication begin to cede their exclusive hold on the public’s attention, it becomes all the more urgent to ask what newer forms stand to offer and what challenges they pose, not least because these burgeoning media are modifying and adapting themselves at unprecedented rates. In this context, a newly released SSRC report explores the “new landscape of the religion blogosphere,” mapping out its contours, presenting the voices of some of its bloggers, and asking what new possibilities blogging might represent for public and academic conversations about religion. In conjunction with the release of this report, we’ve asked a number of bloggers, journalists and scholars: how are blogs and new media changing both academic and public discussions of religion?