2019 Events

Religion and Society Research Cluster HDR Day

Date: Friday, 18 October 2019

Time: 10:00-16:00

Guest Speakers: Dr Sebastian Boell (University of Sydney), Dr Lisa Worthington (WSU)

Convenors: Dr Jennifer Cheng (WSU) and Dr Alan Nixon (WSU)

The RSRC is holding a workshop day for HDR students. It will work through various problems experienced by those undertaking a HDR project. The day includes a workshop, two guest speakers and two group activities:

Workshop: "Dealing with Information Overload in Research: a Hermeneutic Approach to Literature Reviews"

By Dr Sebastian Boell

Over the last few decades we have seen an exponential rise in the amount of research that is available online. Dealing with this 'information overload' has now become a major issue for academics. This presentation focuses on how to make use of this wealth of research without getting lost in the literature. Using the concept of the ‘hermeneutic circle’, it introduces techniques and approaches for the efficient identification of relevant literature. This hermeneutic approach offers an antidote to the often misused ‘systematic literature reviews’ in the social sciences and humanities. By using the techniques introduced in this presentation, time can be spent reading relevant research instead of engaging in a painstaking process of spending days sorting through thousands of documents to identify only a few relevant publications.

This workshop is suitable for HDR students at any stage of their candidature as well as seasoned academics, as the techniques can be applied in any academic work.

Dr Sebastian Boell holds a PhD from UNSW and an MA from Saarland University in Germany. Sebastian’s research draws from his multi-disciplinary training in Information Systems, Information Science, Cognitive Psychology, Engineering and further expertise in different research methodologies including: histography, qualitative research, interpretive work, scientometric and bibliometric approaches, practical information retrieval and literature analysis. This broad intellectual foundation is applied to problems such as: the use of technology for remote work (telework); conducting literature searches and analysis; the visibility of research output in journals, libraries and online; the creation of knowledge in academic disciplines; and for investigating fundamental concepts in information systems and information science.

Talks: “Advice from After the Finish Line”

By Dr Lisa Worthington

Others have come before you in this process and it can be useful to hear about their experiences. Those who have recently graduated have likely gone through a similar process to you and have experience in how to make it to the other side. In recognition of this, Dr Lisa Worthington, one of our more recent HDR students, has volunteered her time to give you insights on her PhD journey and what she learned during the process. Come along and learn from those who have experience in how to make it to the other side!

Group Activity: “Staying Sane during the PhD Process”

By Dr Jennifer Cheng

While it is important to stay focused on your thesis, we sometimes neglect ourselves during the PhD process. This activity will discuss self-care during the PhD journey. We will explore different types of self-care (especially on a tight budget), how to deal with “imposter syndrome”, and how to respond to obstacles both in life and in research.

Group Activity: “Communicating your Research Succinctly”

By Dr Alan Nixon

There are many situations where academics and HDR students need to explain their research in a short and succinct way. From confirmation of candidature panels to discussions with colleagues, networking at conferences and 3 minute thesis competitions. In this group exercise we will help each other to communicate our research, quickly and concisely. A skill that is especially important when speaking to non-experts.

See flyer for the event here

Photography, Race and Slavery: African sitters of Qajar Era Iran – Seminar and Exhibition Opening

Curated by Dr Pedram Khosronejad (Western Sydney University), this exhibition traces the unexplored history of African slaves in Iran during the Qajar dynasty and looks at the unique relationship between photography and slavery in Iran from 1840s to the 1930s. This exhibition is presented as part of the UNSW Library Exhibitions Program and the Silk Roads@UNSW Research Network Seminar Series in collaboration with the Religion and Society Cluster of Western Sydney University.

Date: 23 September  - 18 October 2019

Seminar and Exhibition Opening:
Wednesday 25 September
Seminar 5.00pm
Opening 6.00pm

Please look at the film on this link:
https://vimeo.com/378401840?fbclid=IwAR1JTcwpo5zKjl0z-WAlPr1zQ9h7twXZURe0XD3hzjrjm73y9rKKO0x3P8A

Religion and Ideas Roundtable - Modern Thinking in Islam Series 2019

Day and Time: Fridays, 10.00am – 12.00pm

Sponsored by: The School of Humanities and Communications Arts (HCA)

It is a common assumption that since the so-called closing of ‘the gates of ijtihad,’ there has been no genuine intellectual activity on the part of Islam. Such a view is undoubtedly fiction but the bias nevertheless persists, especially under the guise of the Muslim world’s alleged inferiority to the West. The ongoing intellectual engagement of Islam with modernity is well documented, yet what remains unaddressed is the extent and scope of the originality and creativity of the Muslim thinkers involved therein. Thus, the present roundtable aspires to answer the following question: How has Islam contributed to the prime production of ideas in the modern period?

Certainly, to answer adequately such a question one must consider the specifics of time and place, context and circumstance, as well as individual idiosyncrasies. Moreover, no answer can just assume that originality and creativity are given; what has to be explored and delineated is where, why, and how Muslim thinkers have been original and creative. Islamic modernism in all its forms – liberal, reformist or moderate – is the most promising field of reference with regards to the exploration of the alternatives that Islam may present to standard Western versions of modern theory and critical thinking.

The discussion series will delve into a wide range of areas of thought, such as political theory, philosophy, sociology, art and literature, theology, education and historiography, and at the same time consider a diverse number of Muslim thinkers, including Shariati, Taha, Nurbakhsh, Ahmed, Nasr, an-Naim, Soroush, and Kermani. These figures are not cases of passive and/or benign modernisation or even westernisation, but on the contrary represent instances of a robust and sustained encounter with the challenges of the West; this encounter becomes especially intriguing as it is about ideas that remain controversial for dominant Muslim perspectives throughout the world today.

The 2019 series will run every month on a Friday from March–June and August–November. It will host invited speakers leading discussion on suggested topics.The roundtables aim to foster inter-institutional collaboration on cutting edge scholarship in relevant fields of the study of religion. The objective of the seminars is to provide a platform for discussion of key issues in relation to religion in the modern world. Proceedings will be submitted for publication in a special series/edited volume.

See the flyer for the series here and individual talk flyers below

List of Presenters:

Friday 22 March - Professor Bryan Turner (ACU) - Orientalism: From Edward Said to Wael B. Hallaq (Flyer)
Friday 5 April - Emeritus Professor Garry W. Trompf (USYD) - Questions of Gnostic Islam (Flyer)
Friday 3 May - Dr Aydogan Kars (Monash) Soroush Between Tradition and Innovation (Flyer)
Friday 7 June - Dr Vassilis Adrahtas (Macquarie) - From Tradition to Modernity and Vice Versa: The Progressive Islam of Mahmud Muhammad Taha (Flyer)
Friday 2 August - Dr Maria Bhatti (WSU, Law) - The interaction between Islamic law and secular law (Flyer)
Friday 6 September - Dr Lucia Sorbera (USYD) - Beyond the Modernity–Tradition Binary: For a Women’s Intellectual History of Islam (Flyer)
Friday 4 October - Associate Professor William Shepard, retired (UC, Christchurch) - The Islamist Paradox (Flyer)
Friday 1 November - Dr Milad Milani (WSU) - Shahab Ahmed and the Hermeneutics of Islam

PhD Master Class: The Study of Islam and Muslim Societies

Date: 2 October 2019

Convenor and Organiser: Dr. Pedram Khosronejad (Religion and Society Research Cluster, Western Sydney University)

Morning Session

8:00-8:30 - Welcome

8:30-10:30 - Women, Sufism & Islam

Chair Prof. A. McWilliam / Commentator Dr. P. Khosronejad

Problems Faced by Indonesian Female Muslim Students in the US and Australia: An Intercultural Communication Case

Ms. Win Arifin (PIES student, Department of Political and Social Change, the Australian National University)

The Politics of Mobilizing Piety: Islam and Women in Gaza

Ms. Ayah Abubasheer (PhD student, Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society, Australian Catholic University)

Being Women Sufi in Modern Life: An Anthropological Study of Women Members within the Naqshabandiyyah Nazimiyyah Sufi Order

Ms. Laily Hafidzah (PhD student, School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University)

Local Tarekat and the State: Tarekat Shiddiqiyyah and Its Efforts to Preserve Nationalist Values in Indonesia

Mr. Rizqa Ahmadi (PIES student, Department of Political and Social Change, the Australian National University)

10:30-10:45 (tea break)

10:45-12:00 - Media & Society

Chair Dr. P. Khosronejad / Commentator Prof. A. McWilliam

Media and Democracy in the Third Space: Locating the Spatial Axis of the Turkish Media in the Euro-Muslim World

Ms. Fulya Vatansever (PhD student, Southern Cross University)

The Sound of Utopia: Prayers as Sonic Invocation of a Perfect Public in Contemporary Iran

Mr. Simon Theobald (PhD student, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University)

12:00- 13:00 (lunch break)

Afternoon session

13:00-14:30 - Islamophobia

Chair Prof. L. Briskman / Commentator Prof. A. McWilliam)

Countering Islamophobia: The Role of Muslim Community Organisations as Agents for Positive Change

Ms. Sara Cheikh Husain (PhD student, Alfred Deakin Institute of citizenship and Globalisations, Deakin University)

Normalising Islamophobia: Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Liberal Party of Australia and the current othering discourse

Ms. Heela Popal (PhD student, School of Social and Political Science, The University of Sydney)

14:30-14:45 (tea break)

14:45-16-45 - Interdisciplinary Study of Iran

Chair Dr. P. Khosronejad / Commentator Prof. L. Briskman

Contingency of Text in 17th Century Safavid Art: An Intertextual Survey of the Epigraphic Program of the Prayer Hall of Shaykh Lutfullah Mosque

Ms. Mahroo Moosavi (PhD student, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney)

Searching for a Meta-Theoretical Framework for Analysis of Rival Conceptions of Rights during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran

Mr. Behzad Zerehdaran (PhD student, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne)

Migration and Refugees

Chair Prof. Prof. L. Briskman / Commentator Dr.P. Khosronejad

Islamic Leadership and Muslim Immigration: A Framework for Reflection and Analysis

Mrs. Mehrnosh Lajevardi Fatemi (Religion and Society Research Cluster, Western Sydney University)

Mechanics Fleeing Communism: the Russian Refugee Diaspora in Iran and its Resettlement in Australia and the United States, 1930-1960.

Mr. Marcus James (PhD student, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University)

Islamic Law

Chair Prof. A. McWilliam / Commentator Prof. L. Briskman

‘Green Islam’ in Indonesia: Prospects and Challenges

Mr. Mohammad Hasan Basri (PhD student, School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University)

The MTB Bargain: Using Religion and Autocratic Leadership for Economic Advancement in West Java

Mr. Shinta Dewianty (PIES student, Department of Political and Social Change, the Australian National University)

Reinventing the Progressive Era of Thought: State, Political Dissonance, and the Origins of Reformist Thought in the Teaching of Islamic Law in Post-Suharto Indonesia

Mr. Wildani Hefni (PIES student, Department of Political and Social Change, the Australian National University)

16:45-17:30 Concluding Remarks

Prof. A. McWilliam, Prof. L. Briskman, Dr. P. Khosronejad

Islam and Society: Challenges and Prospects - AAIMS Second Conference on the Study of Islam and Muslim Societies.

Date and time: 30 September-1 October 2019

Speakers: Professor Deepa Kumar, Professor Fethi Mansouri, Dr Shakira Hussein

Sponsored by: Western Sydney University, AAIMS, Deakin University and Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation

The two leading nodes in Australian scholarship of race and ethnic studies are combining to offer the second Australian Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (AAIMS) Conference. After the successful inaugural conference, the second conference will further represent the depth and breadth of scholarship in Australia and internationally. It will showcase and reflect upon the range of Muslim experiences across many countries from multi-disciplinary perspectives. The conference will bring together scholars from such disciplines as law, politics, sociology, religious studies, geography, philosophy and theology. The conference will feature international and local keynotes who are leading scholars in their fields.

Participants are expected to organise and financially cover their own travel, accommodation and registration expenses.

Please find the conference flyer here

Researching New Religions: Qualitative Methods in a Controversial Field

Date: Thursday, September 19, 2019

Speaker: Dr Susan J. Palmer (School of Religious Studies, McGill University)

The media dubs them “CULTS”, the churches condemn them as “Heresies”, scholars call them “NRMs” – but for the groups themselves they are God’s Holy Family or Heaven on Earth, or The Chosen Ones, or Shambala, or the Ancient United Order of Melchesidek (etcetera). How does the Intrepid Researcher go about studying them, using real, offline, on-the-ground field research?

In Susan J. Palmer’s Master Class, we will explore how standard research methods may be applied to the study of unconventional spiritual groups, radical spiritual/social movements -  what Palmer likes to refer to as “baby religions”. Topics to be addressed include:

  • Choosing your group and doing a background study
  • Classifying your group (Roy Wallis’ typology of NRMs)
  • Identifying sources of information/agendas; Eileen Barker’s typology of “cult-watching groups” (CWGs)
  • Introducing yourself; the process of negotiating access
  • Participant observation field research; from “deep” to “distant” to “going native”
  • Conducting interviews: techniques and pitfalls
  • Understanding Research Ethics; complying and coping with your ethics committee
  • That Elusive Thing called “Objectivity
  • Analyzing and interpreting your data
  • Must one choose sides? From the Ivory Tower to the “Cult Wars”

This workshop involved the students in exercises and brief focus group discussions

Bio: Susan J. Palmer is an Affiliate Professor at Concordia University, where she teaches. She is an affiliate member of the School of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts at McGill University and a researcher at the ‎Centre d'expertise et de formation sur les intégrismes religieux et la radicalisation (CEFIR) at the Cégep Édouard-Montpetit. Her research in the field of new religious movements has been funded by six federal grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). In April 2017 she was awarded a five-year Insight Grant (SSHRC).

Read: Susan J.Palmer, "Caught Up in the Cult Wars: Confessions of a Canadian Researcher." https://blog.longreads.com/2013/09

Minors in Minority Religions: The Delicate Balance between Religious Freedom and the Well-being of the Child

Date: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Speaker: Dr Susan J. Palmer (School of Religious Studies, McGill University)

What is happening to children born into the so-called “cults”? Are they captive, abused or free? And what should be done about this situation?

Ever since the spiritual seekers of the 1960s and '70s settled down in new religious communities to raise alternative families, these concerns have been expressed by journalists, social workers and government deputies. While “hippy” parents voluntarily embraced radical social experiments, their children today are gazing with curiosity at the surrounding world they never chose to reject. Many leave, a few write their memoirs.

The presence of children in these religions challenges basic assumptions about religious freedom. For some, “religious freedom” means “freedom from religion. For others, children have the right to practice their parents' faith. Palmer shares the preliminary findings of her Children in Sectarian Religions project and addresses these issues:

  • the conflicting evidence concerning children's secret lives in sectarian religions.
  • the complex role of the “objective” researcher in the emotionally-charged micro-sociology of NRMs.
  • cases of state intervention in the family life of minority religions.
  • obstacles to research posed by ethics boards, “anticultism” - and the unpredictability of NRMs.

Susan J. Palmer is a researcher and writer in the field of new religious studies. She is an Affiliate Professor at Concordia University in Montreal and  is currently working at McGill University as Principal Investigator on a four-year research project supported by the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council:  Children in Sectarian Religions and State Control.  She is a Lecturer at McGill's School of Religious Studies where she also teaches the course on New Religious Movements. Palmer has published eleven books, sociological studies of new religions, notably: Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers: Women's Roles in New Religions (Syracuse, 1994); Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion (Rutgers, 2004); The New Heretics of France (Oxford University Press, 2011); The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control (Ashgate 2010), and (co-authored with Stuart Wright) Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religions (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Please find the Guest Lecture flyer here

Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity and Migration Symposium

Date of Symposium: Friday 2 August 2019

Keynote Speaker: Associate Professor Richard Vokes (Department of Anthropology, University of Western Australia)

Convenors: Prof Cristina Rocha (RSRC), Prof Mark Hutchinson (Alphacrucis College), Dr Kathleen Openshaw (RSRC), Mrs Ingrid Ryan (Alphacrucis College)

Sponsored Annually by: Western Sydney University and Alphacrucis College

Over the past few decades, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity (PCC) has exploded in the Global South and grown considerably in the Global North. Much of this  growth is fuelled by networks of megachurches, the mobility of community leaders across diasporic networks, migration, and (mass and digital) media.

While (traditionally) missionaries would travel in a North-to-South direction, more recently megachurches from the Global South have moved horizontally, across to other developing countries, and also made inroads into the Global North in efforts of  reverse missionisation.

Such attempts to missionise to locals in the Global North have been largely (though not wholly) unsuccessful and churches have turned their focus to migrants from the Global South. Many studies have shown that migrants, who were not attached to PCCs before migration, join churches in the diaspora as they offer them a home away from home. Meanwhile, diasporic churches also face difficulties keeping these (as well as second generation) migrants, since they may prefer local churches in an effort to integrate.

This symposium will probe these themes, discussing the many connections between PCCs and migration.

Please find the Conference website here

Please find the Conference flyer hereOpens in a new window

Guest Lecture: Spiritual and Class Insecurity among South Africa's Emerging Middle Class Christians

Speaker: Dr Ibrahim Abraham (Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and Social Sciences - Australian National University)

Sponsored by: The Religion and Society Research Cluster (RSRC) and the School of Social Sciences and Psychology (SSAP) at Western Sydney University

Date: Wednesday, 8 May 2019

This guest lecture reflects on ethnographic research in Cape Town across several years, by engaging with the interrelated realities of “spiritual insecurity” and “class insecurity” in the lives of South African Christians of the emerging black middle class. The concept of spiritual insecurity, as developed by Adam Ashforth, theorizes responses to “unmanageable dangers, doubts, and fears” emerging from the spiritual realm in everyday life. In South Africa, these responses draw from an array of Christian and non-Christian resources, including local and global Pentecostalism, and increasingly politicized engagements with traditional African religion. However, members of South Africa’s new black middle class must also negotiate “unmanageable dangers, doubts, and fears” emerging from the economic realm in everyday life. High levels of unemployment, dysfunctional educational and welfare systems, financial obligations to family, and unclear pathways out of poverty, make the economic realm as difficult to decipher and negotiate as the spiritual realm. Drawing on additional insights from South African literary fiction and popular culture, this lecture develops ideas from the presenter’s work-in-progress, Religion and Moral Ambition in South Africa: Race, Class, and Christianity.

Ibrahim Abraham is the Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences at the Australian National University. He is the author of Evangelical Youth Culture: Alternative Music and Extreme Sports Subcultures(Bloomsbury, 2017) and the editor of Christian Punk: Identity and Performance (Bloomsbury, forthcoming).

Please find the guest lecture flyer hereOpens in a new window

Symposium - 'Religion and Race/ialisation in Australia'

Date and Time: Friday, 26 April 2019

Speakers: Professor FethiMansouri (Deakin University), Professor Kevin Dunn (Western Sydney University), Associate Professor Farida Fozdar (University of Western Australia), Dr Jennifer Cheng (Western Sydney University)

Sponsored by: The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), The Religion and Society Research Cluster (RSRC) and the School of Social Sciences and Psychology (SSAP) at Western Sydney University

Conveners: Alan Nixon and Rosemary Hancock

Australia has recently seen the return of ‘race politics’ which is often connected to the religious faith of those being racialized. It is evident in discussions of Middle Eastern migrant communities, which are inevitably associated with Islam despite Islam being a global religion and the Middle East being religiously diverse. This discourse treats Islam as a monolithic whole and racializes Muslims and those who appear to be Muslim, ascribing particular characteristics such as violence and criminality, and oppressive attitudes towards women and sexual minorities. Such discourse fails to recognise the diversity within Islam, both in terms of its different legal schools and the cultural and geographical particularities that exist. Although much of the current work on religion and race both in Australia and internationally focuses on Islam, race and religious identity intersect across a range of other religions in Australia to produce various discourses of ‘othering’ both inside and outside religious communities. The relationship of Christianity to whiteness and Australian identity is also pertinent to this discourse: particularly in light of current political discourse on migration policy.

The study of religion and race/racialisation is a fast-developing field. Scholarship from the United States dominates the existing literature, with a secondary substantial contribution coming from the UK and Europe. We believe that this event will be an excellent opportunity to:

  • bring together sociologists working in this field in Australia to reflect on the relevance of trends in the current international debate to the Australian context,
  • share their work with other sociologists working in cognate areas,
  • build an Australian network of sociologists with a shared interest in religion and race.

Please find the symposium flyer hereOpens in a new window

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