[UPDATE} Performing Religion in Public (abstracts due 9/15)

full name / name of organization: 
Joshua Edelman, Claire Marie Chambers, Simon du Toit
contact email: 

Performing Religion in Public: Acts of faith in the public sphere

Contemporary theories of community and democratic discourse, such as Jürgen Habermas’s theory of the growth and decline of the bourgeois public sphere and Michael Warner’s work on publics and counterpublics, have wrestled with the relationship of religion to public life in general. Much of this debate has taken place in terms of political or social theory. We would like to bring a performance studies approach to the table. Therefore, we seek contributors to an edited volume that will address the role of religious performance in the public sphere. We are interested in the ways that performative acts may de-center ideas of the appropriate role of religion in public and of the definition of the public sphere as a space of rational argument and negotiation. We seek examples that show religious performances wrestling with notions of what constitutes acceptable public speech or appropriate formations of a public polity.

The performances explored may include public speech and preaching, but we hope for conversation partners who examine broad categories of public religious embodiment across the contemporary world. Research questions addressed may include the following:

• How does “belief” or “faith” affect the cultural performance of publicness?

•How does public religious performance already engage with a public, or a counterpublic? How does it challenge the normative understanding of the public sphere in modern democracies?

• What is the relation between public religious identity and private religious experience? Is religious experience, in fact, private?

• How do religious performances circulate? How are they taken up and re-characterized away from the initial event?

• How are the relations between religious and national identity marked or troubled in public religious performance?

• How have contemporary media changed the nature of public religious action?

• What are the tensions between reason and performance, between theory and praxis, or between theology and ideology, in the construction of a public?

We propose an edited collection to be published as a single volume, gathering perspectives from a variety of religious traditions, historical eras, and cultural contexts,. Scholars in religion, history, sociology, cultural or performance studies (or any related discipline) are invited to contribute. Please submit abstracts of up to 350 words before 15 September 2011 to performingreligioninpublic@gmail.com . Abstracts should include your paper’s title as well as your name, affiliation, and contact information.

Proposers: Claire Maria Chambers (University of California-Davis), Simon du Toit (University of Windsor), Joshua Edelman (CSSD, University of London)

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