Public Lectures on Religion

The University of Mauritius in collaboration with The LSE Society Trust Fund cordially invite you to a series of Public Lectures on Religion by Prof. Eileen Barker, Emeritus Professor of Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Professor Eileen Barker is an expert from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests include “New Religious Movements (‘cults’, ‘sects’), especially in Eastern and Western Europe, and North America. Religious situation in former communist countries”.

As a joint initiative between the University of Mauritius and The LSE Society Trust Fund, she will be delivering three public lectures on the 14th and 15th of October 2008 as follows:

Democracy and religious pluralism: a global perspective – Tuesday 14th October 2008 (14.00 – 15.00)

New religious movements: a perspective for understanding society – Wednesday 15th October 2008 (11.00 – 12.00)

Contribution of Religions towards peace and social stability – Wednesday 15th October 2008 (13.30 – 14.30)

Venue: Lecture Theatre II
Coordinator: Mrs R. Prayag-Beesoondial (UoM Representative on the LSE Society Trust Fund)

More details about the lectures
1. Democracy and religious pluralism: a global perspective – Tuesday 14th October 2008 (14.00 – 15.00)
Ever since human beings first traded women, artefacts and culture, there has been the potential for, and realization of, religious diversity. Conquests, social and geographical mobility and missionary religions particularly Christianity and Islam) have seen the imposition, acceptance and rejection of different gods in new locations. The evolution of communication techniques, from the printing press to the Internet, has increasingly facilitated the exchange and spread of ideas to the extent that the whole world can now be referred to as a global village. But it is a complex and by no means homogenous village. Whilst for much of the twentieth century commentators assumed that secularization was the most appropriate concept for understanding the state of contemporary religion, it is now more likely to be argued that diversification is the most pervasive process that is taking place in the religious scene. This religious diversity exists in a
variety of social circumstances, ranging from peaceful coexistence in, mainly, democratic societies to fiercely combative situations in, mainly, totalitarian regimes. This talk will discuss such concepts as globalization and ‘glocalization’ with reference to the state of religion in various regions of the contemporary world, considering those aspects of contemporary society that encourage and those that discourage pluralistic tendencies.

Suggestions for background reading
– Albrow, Martin, Helmut Anheier, Marlies Glasius, Monroe E. Price, and Mary Kaldor (Eds.). 2008. Global Civil Religion 2007/8. Los Angeles, London: Sage.
– Giddens, Anthony. 1998. The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.
– Heelas, Paul, Linda Woodhead, Benjamin Seel, Bronislaw Szerszynski, and Karin Tusting. 2004. The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality. Oxford: Blackwell.
– Martin, David A. 2005. On Secularization: Towards a Revised General Theory. Abingdon: Ashgate.
– Marty, Martin E., and R. Scott Appleby (Eds.). 1995. Fundamentalisms Comprehended. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
– Melton, J.G. & Baumann, M. (Eds.) (2002). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices (4 volumes). Santa Barbara: ABC CLIO.
– Repstad, Pål (Ed.). 1996. Religion and Modernity: Modes of Co-existence. Oslo, Oxford, Boston: Scandinavian University Press.

2. New religious movements: a perspective for understanding society – Wednesday 15th October 2008 (11.00 – 12.00)
All religions were new at the time of their origins and new religions have appeared throughout history, particularly at times of rapid social change. Those that became visible following the Second World War and which are sometimes referred to in popular parlance as ‘sects’ or ‘cults’, have been seen as both a reflection of and a reaction to society. Some commentators have seen them as the last flutter of religion in a secularizing world; others as a sign of the vitality or renaissance of religious and spiritual life. Whilst insisting that one cannot generalize about the new religions, the talk will point to some of the features that they are likely to share in so far as they are both new and religious, and will consider some of the
reactions that they have evoked from their host societies, suggesting ways in which these reactions, like the new religions, reveal characteristics of the societies themselves.

Suggestions for background reading
– Barker, Eileen (Ed.). 1982. New Religious Movements: A Perspective for Understanding Society. New York: Edwin Mellen Press.
– Barker, Eileen. 1989. New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. London: HMSO.
– Beckford, J.A. (1985). Cult Controversies: The Societal Response to the New Religious Movements. London: Tavistock
– Bromley, D.G., and Melton, J.G. (Eds.) (2002). Cults, Religion and Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
– Chryssides, G.D., & Wilkins, M.Z. (Eds.) (2006). A Reader in New Religious Movements. London: Continuum.
– Dawson, L.L. (Ed.) (2003). Cults and New Religious Movements: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.
– Palmer, Susan Jean. 1994. Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers: Women’s Roles in New Religions. Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press.
– Richardson, James T. (Ed.). 2004. Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe. New York & Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
– Wilson, B.R., & Cresswell, J. (Eds.) (1999). New Religious Movements: Challenge and Response. London: Routledge.
– Wallis, R. (1984). The Elementary Forms of the New Religious Life. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

3. Contribution of Religions towards peace and social stability – Wednesday 15th October 2008 (13.30 – 14.30)
Whilst sharing a religion can bond communities together and whilst religion is often referred to as the cement of a society, not sharing a religion may be seen as a cause for division and conflict. At all levels of society, religion has contributed to both war and peace and to both change and stability. Whilst one might suspect that many religious battles, such as those associated with the Crusades or the European Wars of Religion, were as much to do with politics as religion, there are undoubtedly millions who have been prepared (in both senses of the word) to fight and die for their God or gods. It is also true that there have been those who, because of their religious beliefs, have devoted themselves to promoting the welfare of
their fellow humans, some even being willing to sacrifice their lives for others. This talk will look at the various functions and dysfunctions that can arise from religious beliefs and identities and how such concepts as universal brotherhood, love, honour, the holy war and jihad can be drawn on in creating and resolving the tensions that arise within and between individuals and societies.

Suggestions for background reading
– Coser, Lewis. 1956. The Functions of Social Conflict. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
– Halliday, Fred. 1996. Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East. London: I. B. Taurus.
– Kaldor, Mary. 2003. Global Civil Society: An Answer to War. Cambridge: Polity.
– Kaldor, Mary, Martin Albrow, Helmut Anheier, and Marilies Glasius (Eds.). 2007. Global Civil Society 2006/7. London: Sage.
– Martin, David. 1965. Pacifism: An Historical and Sociological Study. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
– Martin, David A. 1997. Does Christianity Cause War? Oxford: Oxford University Press
– Shimazono. 2007. “Peace and Harmony from Within: Buddhist Pacifism in Contemporary Japan.”


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