Religion and Public Life research symposium

Announcement of research symposium hosted by the Centre for Religion and Public Life.

The Centre for Religion and Public Life is hosting a research symposium (14:00-16:00), followed by a public lecture at 16.30. Find out more and register your place for the public lecture.

The event is organised in collaboration with the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice, University of the Western Cape (South Africa), and the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield.

Students and staff of the University, and anyone else with an interest in the subjet, is welcome to attend. Please RSVP by email to the Centre's intern, Hollie Gowan.

Research symposium

Dr Lee Scharnick-Udemans (senior researcher, Desmond Tutu Centre, University of the Western Cape)

“Politics, Privilege and Pluralism: Exploring the Contestation of Religious Diversity in Contemporary South Africa”

Theoretically and empirically, the relationship between religious privilege which includes but is not limited to the social, legal, political and/or cultural favouring of one religion over others, and religious pluralism as the positive public recognition of religious diversity has been under-researched and under-theorised. In order to assess the ways in which religious diversity, religious pluralism, and religious freedom are asserted and negotiated within the context of contemporary South Africa, this presentation scrutinizes the Christian Friendly Products campaign. This movement advocates against the ubiquity of the halaal food symbol and halaal food in South Africa. Halaal is an Islamic term, which refers to food products that are ritually permissible for consumption by Muslims. The campaign claims that the visible presence of halaal food in public spaces undermines the rights of Christian consumers and their right to freedom of religion. Through a critical discourse analysis of the campaign material along with selected news reports on the matter this project found that the campaign demands religious privilege for Christian consumers by disparaging Islam. In this presentation I argue that although this case has not yet gone to court, the religious conflict demonstrated by this example illustrates the complicated ways in which notions of religious privilege and religious pluralism are engaged and negotiated within a context of religious diversity.

Dr Elaine Nogueira-Godsey (Assistant Professor of Theology, Ecology and Race, Methodist Theological School in Ohio)

“Religion and Social Activism in Times of Climate Change: Privilege or Necessity?”

This paper is about the role played by social scientists, of which scholars of religion are included, to address anthropogenic climate change. Anthropogenic climate change has been couched as a political issue—yet, based on data, it is undeniably personal; it leaves individuals, families and communities devastated or demolished in its wake. Through an autoethnographic approach, this paper analyzes the commitment from scholars of religion and institutions to generate environmental justice, to which issues of gender and sexuality are directly linked. As social scientists and humanities scholars, we have knowledge and skills that can be used in communicating and bridging people's denial and/or lack of awareness of anthropogenic climate change, potentially generating civic engagement. As educators, we have at our disposal tools to collectively challenge and motivate our students to re-orient themselves in their relation to the natural world and to others so that we can have an ecologically viable society. Yet, it is puzzling how so few scholars of religion have addressed climate change. In this paper, I explore the alleged conflict between scholarship and activism. I ask the question, “Is it ethical to use scholarship to generate civic engagement?” I explore a pedagogical philosophy that challenges students to think about how their own local realities influence global concerns and how to responsibly consider not only the impact of any action on themselves, but also to take seriously the effect that action may have on different social groups and communities of human and non-human beings.

Public Lecture

Professor Sarojini Nadar, Desmond Tutu Research Chair of Religion and Social Justice, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

“Sacred Sex, Sacred Text: Queering Religious Sexual Scripts in Transforming African Societies”

Find out more and reserve your place.