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Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective

About the Research Group:

Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective was established as a research group in the Department of Religious Studies at the Open University at the end of 2000, and is supported by the Department. It aims to invite exploration of questions relating to the centrality of belief vis à vis experience and outward observance, and the location of boundaries between the 'alternative' and the 'mainstream' at historical, institutional, definitional, traditional, geographical, methodological, and transnational levels.

The group intends to facilitate the production of research in those religions and spiritual groups which fall outside the remit of mainstream or traditional religion (as temporally or geographically defined), both contemporary and historically, constituting observable religion outside what is conventionally regarded as religion. Such religions include (but are not limited to): Paganism; New Age; New Religious Movements; spiritualism; traditionally Eastern beliefs in a Western setting (e.g. Western Buddhism); Hinduism and Islam in diaspora; vernacular religion; diaspora religion.

The group will also explore topics (e.g. civil religion and Celtic spirituality) that represent significant bridges between the 'alternative' and the 'mainstream', and thus provide a basis for testing boundaries. Interdisciplinarity is strongly encouraged, along with the development of inter-institutional and international contacts, collaborative projects, network formation and mutual support. Research will be facilitated through regular seminars held at Walton Hall and other locations, and through national and international conferences.

For further details contact Arts-Rel-Studies-Conferences@open.ac.uk

Past Meetings and Conferences:

Follow the links below for details of events held by our eariler research group, Belief Beyond Boundaries:

Religious Identities, Sectarianism, and Bridgebuilding, 30 April 2007; a one-day symposium at The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Religion and Philanthropy, 9 May 2006 at The Open University, Milton Keynes. A one-day conference examining the links between religion and philanthropy.

Locating the Ancestors, 20 April 2005 at The Open University, Milton Keynes. A one-day conference examining the place of ‘ancestors' in contemporary religions, cultures and societies.

Alternative Spirituality and New Age Studies (in association with the 11th Annual Contemporary and New Age Religions Conference) 30 May–1 June 2003 at The Open University, Milton Keynes. See the Asanas website for programme details.

From Vernacular Religion to Contemporary Spirituality: Locating Religion in European Ethnology, 4th ESRC Research Seminar in European Ethnology, January 2003, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.

Contemporary Civil Religion, 10th Annual Contemporary and New Age Religion Conference May 2002 The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.

The Development of Paganism: History, Influences and Contexts, 1880-2002 - a one day conference held at the Open University, January 2002.

Death and Dying - October 2001, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.

Music and Song in Contemporary New Age Religion - May 2001.

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