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Call for papers:

Contemporary religion in historical perspective: engaging outside academia

The Open University, Milton Keynes
15-16 May 2013

Download the call for papers [PDF, 34 KB]

What is the relevance of research on historical and contemporary religion for today? How might such research inform current debates on religion, and the practice and selfunderstanding of religious groups and practitioners? What might historical perspective bring to research on contemporary religion? This conference will address such issues under the broad theme of ‘contemporary religion and historical perspective’. There will be two parallel streams. The first is ‘engaging with the past to inform the present’ and the relevance of religious history for the contemporary context. The second is ‘the public value of research on contemporary religion’..

The backdrop for this conference is the growing acknowledgement that Religious Studies and other disciplines must engage with the wider society. Public ‘engagement’ takes many forms - from extensive projects to ad hoc engagement and involving diverse activities such as media work, lectures, workshops and online engagement. This conference will include practitioner perspectives on different themes, and reflect also on the ways in which academic research on religion might engage with communities of interest and place and private; interact with public and third sector institutions and organisations; and influence public discourse and the social, cultural and environmental well-being of society.

We invite paper and panel proposals for either stream. Papers could include case studies of previous or ongoing outreach, knowledge exchange or public engagement. Topics discussed might include (but are not limited to):

  • the relevance of historical research on religion for contemporary debates on religion; and for present-day religious groups, organisations and institutions;
  • intersections between research on contemporary religion and present-day contemporary understanding and practice of religion;
  • the idea of ‘applied’ or ‘public’ Religious Studies;
  • methodological, theoretical and ethical issues relating to Religious Studies and knowledge exchange.

Confirmed speakers include: Marion Bowman; George Chryssides; Dan Cohn-Sherbok; Matthew Cragoe; John Eade; Dawoud El-Alami; Rob Gleave; Ronald Hutton; Frances Knight; Kim Knott; Edward Royle; Steven Sutcliffe; David Voas; John Wolffe.

The conference is organised by the Open University’s Religious Studies Department.


Due to demand for places this conference has now moved to a larger venue and we are able to open more panel slots. Please send a short (200-300 word) proposal for a 20 minute paper to Dr John Maiden ( by 15 March 2013.

To book, please contact Taj Bilkhu ( by 23 March 2013.

Cost: £20 per day + £20 for conference dinner on the evening of 15 May. Lunch and refreshments (except conference dinner) are included in the day cost; but we ask attendees to book/fund their own accommodation (advice on local hotels and B&Bs available on request).

Please note: only a limited number of subsidised places now remain, available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Additional places may increase in cost.