2019 Events

PhD Master Class: The Study of Islam and Muslim Societies

Location: Parramatta South Campus

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

Location: Whitlam Institute, Western Sydney University

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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