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Geographies of Religion, Newcastle University

08 March 10

On 8-9th March, the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University hosted an international ‘Geographies of Religion: a new dialogue’ conference attracting participants from Australia, North America, Germany and the UK

The conference was organised by Dr Peter Hopkins (award holder on Phase 2 Small Grant 'Youth transitions, international volunteering and religious transformations' and a member of the Large Grant Marginalized Spiritualities team) and Professor Nina Laurie. A number of other Religion and Society grant holders presented and participated in the conference. Keynote speakers included Dr Andrew Yip (Nottingham University) who discussed his research about the intersections between religion, youth and sexuality, Professor Kim Knott (Leeds University) who considered how space has been theorised in religious studies and geography, and Dr Elizabeth Olson (University of Edinburgh) who set out an agenda for decolonising geographies of religion. Other presenters from the Religion and Society programme included Dr Peter Hemming (Brunel University) who discussed his work about youth and religion, Sarah Johnsen (York University) who contributed to the positionality panel and Dr Robert Vanderbeck (Leeds University) who presented his research about Anglican identities and sexuality debates. Also, Dr Liz Watson (University of Cambridge) discussed her work about landscape and religion in northern Kenya and Dr Matt Baillie Smith (Northumbria University) presented findings from research with young evangelical Christians volunteering in Latin America.

Other keynote contributions included Professor Lily Kong (National University of Singapore) who explored new opportunities for bringing together the study of religion with health and medical geographies and Dr Julian Holloway (Manchester Metropolitan University) who discussed the spaces and sensibilities of faith through the religious formation of the sermon. Dr Jason Dittmer (University College London) mapped out new directions in religious geopolitics and Dr Jane Pollard (Newcastle University) explored the connections between faith and economic geography through her research about Islamic banking and finance.

A number of parallel sessions - including a panel on issues of positionality – focused on: faith and the city; religion and development; and religious places and events; religion and youth; methods in researching religion; gender and sexuality; and sacred and secular spaces.

Overall, the conference was a great success with many of the contributors commenting that the event was a key milestone for the study of religion within human geography and beyond. The conference organisers plan to establish a ‘working papers’ series on geographies of religion given the breadth and depth of interest in this area.

The conference was supported by funding from the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle Institute for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers.

 Call for papers

We invite contributions on any aspect of geographies of religion and particularly encourage papers that seek to open up new dialogues within geographies of religion and between geography and neighbouring disciplines. Contributions might examine topics including, but not limited to:

- Religion and development

- Emotional geographies, faith and spirituality

- Childhood, youth and faith

- Politics, international relations and religion

- Political economy, religion and spirituality

- Space, place and belief

- Innovative methods and methodologies in researching religion

Submissions are particularly encouraged from postgraduate students, early career researchers and practitioners. If you would like to present a paper at the conference, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Jane Thomas (j.m.thomas@ncl.ac.uk) by Friday 8th January at the latest. The selection committee will inform contributors of the decision in the following week.

Call for panellists

The conference will also include two panel discussions focusing on key issues in researching religion. Panel discussions will include short 5-minute contributions from a number of speakers followed by questions and discussion. The panels will focus on:

1 - Religion and feminism

2 - Positionalities in researching religion

If you would like to contribute to one of these panels, please submit a 100 word summary of your intended contribution to Jane Thomas (j.m.thomas@ncl.ac.uk) by Friday 8th January at the latest. The selection committee will inform contributors of the decision in the following week.

Registration costs and funding

Conference registration is £55 (full waged) or £10 (postgraduate)                                              

Thanks to the Social and Cultural Geography Group of the RGS-IBG, we have a number of small bursaries to support postgraduate students who are presenting at the conference. Priority for funding will be given to postgraduate students who are not in receipt of ESRC funding. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please contact Peter Hopkins (peter.hopkins@ncl.ac.uk). Visit http://www.ncl.ac.uk/niassh/Geographies/index.htm for more information.

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