Areas of Research
- Religion and Secular Authority (PL Stanley)
- Religion and Radicalism (CIs Boer and Lovat)
- Religion, Gender and Politics (CI McPhillips)
- Religion and Colonial Legacies (CI Carey)
Religion and Secular Authority (PL Stanley): The Program Leader will coordinate a major investigation into religion’s impact upon secular authority today. What has become evident in a number of genealogical accounts of the history of secular democracies is that they are structured in response to religious concepts and legacies. For instance, Talal Asad has persuasively argued that secularism is another way for the state, especially in Muslim-majority states, to control religion (Asad 2003) while Charles Taylor has proposed that far from being anti-religious, the many strains of secularism are other ways of being religious (Taylor 2007). Thoroughgoing accounts of the religious underside of enlightenment political orders have now emerged, leading to renewed interest in Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology (2005), and a series of creative projects and edited compendiums have ensued (Vries and Sullivan 2006; Hoelzl and Ward 2006, 2008; Crockett 2011; Davis, Milbank, and Žižek 2005; Cavanaugh 2011). These debates ave expanded well beyond the boundaries of traditional theological circles and now include atheist political philosophers who actively draw on theological categories to develop their own arguments and political projects (Badiou 2003; Agamben 2005; Žižek 2003; Vattimo and Derrida 1998). This RIPL stream will investigate the central paradoxes which emerge from this interest in the new visibility of religion in secular societies, with a particular emphasis on the Australian context. It will interrogate the political nature of religion itself, proposing new models of understanding the relationship between religion and secular authority. An international cohort of world leading historians, sociologists, philosophers and theologians will gather for a symposium and public lecture on 22-23 July 2013, which will result in an edited book outcome with Continuum Press.
Religion and Radicalism (CIs Boer and Lovat): Since the ‘religions of the book’ centre on calls to personal and social transformation (Hebrew shuv, Greek metanoia, Arabic tawbah), they have given rise to repeated radical and revolutionary movements (Kautsky 1947-a, 1947-b; Kautsky and Lafargue 1977; Moltmann 1969; Lincoln 1985; Boer 2007). This radicalism continues, even in the context of the privatized and individualist faith of the West, but also in Eastern contexts, such as the Taiping Rebellion in China (Reilly 2010). The political and legal definition of such an act is ‘treason’: conspiring to overthrow the ‘state’, whether the political state or the states of our social and individual lives. Theology is also notorious for supporting the status quo (see Romans 13; Boer 2009c; Elliott 2008). Thus, theology is caught between political reaction and radicalism: the same theological system – whether Christian, Islamic or Jewish – can foster support of an oppressive status quo and yet undermine that state. Or, one theological system – notably some forms of Islam – may challenge the dominance of another, such as Christianity (see Qur’an 5:51; Lovat and Samayari 2009). This tension between religious reaction and radicalism, which takes place within and between theological traditions, will be the focus of a two day symposium (Nov 2012). It will be organised by CIs Boer and Lovat who apply their expertise to the Christian and Muslim dimensions of this tension. Speakers will bring new perspectives to this debate, especially from Asia. An international symposium will run in October, 2012, which will result in two special edition edited journals. CI Lovat will also run a public forum event on this theme with particular attention to Islam in November 2013.
Religion, Gender and Politics (CI McPhillips): The third stream of RIPL systematically examines the intersections between religion, gender and politics, with particular attention to the experience of women as citizens and adherents of religion at a global level. State and Church have historically excluded women from positions of authority and power (Daly 1986; Ruether 1974, 1993). Do new global power arrangements re-enforce this or offer women new forms of participation? Both the radicalizing of religious traditions, particularly Islam, and the development of religious institutions into public forums has had significant impact on the ability of women to participate as religious and political citizens. In particular, the developing osmotic brittleness between public and private spheres of sociality erodes processes of secularization and rationality, the hallmarks of the modern state. This can be clearly seen in the global claims by religious groups for inclusion in political and legal processes. The two dimensions outlined below examine the ways in which gender relations play into the increasing instability between religious and state institutions and the believer and the citizen. An international symposium event will run in December, 2012 which result in an edited book with Equinox Press. As well, a symposium will occur at the University of Winchester in December 2013, resulting in another edited book outcome with Equinox Press.
Religion and Colonial Legacies (CI Carey): The fourth RIPL stream investigates the historical relationship between religion and politics in the contemporary post-colonial world. Arguably, the twin forces of colonialism/imperialism and its later legacies of colonial nationalism are the single most important political force which impacted the settler world of the former British Empire, including Australia. However, its religious legacy has seldom been interrogated except by specialist religious historians, though the late Adrian Hastings (1997) has done much to insist on the religious foundation of modern nations and nationalism, while Tony Ballantyne (2005, 2006) has argued for the strength of imperial religious networks generated by Sikhism. There is also a growing literature relating to imperial networks of religion and humanitarianism (Elbourne 2002, 2003; Hall 2002; Thorne 1999). This stream of the RIPL program will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to colonial and post-colonial religion, to explicate the ways in which religion and colonialism served as mutually enforcing agencies in the political life of modern nation states. This work has been the subject of ongoing research by CI Carey, including two ARC-funded research grants, Religion and Imperialism from Colony to Nation (2005 – 2007) and Liberty, Anti-transportation and the Empire of Morality (2010 – 2012). This stream of RIPL takes advantage of the depth of interdisciplinary expertise in the research group to pursue a number of related but mutually independent case studies. An international symposium will run in early December 2012, which will result in an edited book outcome.