Conference: Strictly Observant Religion, Gender and the State
Monday, March 25
Welcome and Introduction
Panel 1: Conceptual and political contestations of religion, gender and the state
Romina Istratii (SOAS): 'Religious fundamentalism': Contemplating the epistemological, ethical and practical limitations of the conceptual category in its cross-cultural deployment
Sukhwant Dhaliwal (London Metropolitan University): 'Gender Terrorism' and 'Misogyny' as frames for recognising and responding to fundamentalist violence
Petra Klug (University of Bremen): Forced Marriages at the intersection of religion, gender, and the state
Discussant: Tobias Müller (Woolf Institute)
Chair: Miriam Wagner (Woolf Institute)
Panel 2: Challenging sexuality and the state in religious groups
Michal Kravel-Tovi (Tel Aviv University): "Bringing the State Back In": Sexual Violence, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Activism, and the Israeli State
David Lehmann (University of Cambridge): Moral panic and conspiracy theories in a messianic congregation in Brazil
Mahmood Jaraba (Max-Planck-Institute Halle): The Internal dynamic of khul in Germany. The debate on child custody and Mahr
Discussant: Esra Özyürek (LSE)
Public Keynote: Torkel Brekke (University of Oslo and PRIO):
Fundamentalism: Reflections on Definitions, Religious Authorities and Research Agendas
This lecture is now available on Youtube.
Conference Dinner - St Edmund's College
Tuesday, March 26
Panel 3: Contesting knowledge orders: Relationality, Feminism, Reproduction
Pinar Dokumaci (University of Toronto): Feminism Beyond the Secular, the Sacred, and the State: Can the Women’s Rights Movement in Turkey Transform the Relationship between Secular Feminists and Pious Feminists?
Ben Kasstan (University of Sussex) and Lea Taragin-Zeller (Woolf Institute and University of Cambridge): Sex and the State: Conceptualising rights to reproductive knowledge among religious minorities in Israel and England
Malcolm McLean (University of Cambridge): Transitioning to Post-Christianity: Evangelical receptions of trans discourse
Discussant: Katie Gaddini (University of Cambridge)
Chair: Julian Hargreaves (Woolf Institute)
Panel 4: Governing (through) gender: Relations of state agents and religious actors
Hans Vollaard (Utrecht University): The freedom to limit freedom. Orthodox-protestants on women's rights of political participation
Eva-Maria Euchner (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich): Secular politics of sexuality and the response of Christian Churches: supporting, undermining or boycotting state goals in policy implementation?
Nurul Huda Mohd Razif (International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden): Obedient wives and rebellious citizens. Dismantling Gender Equality Through Islamic Fundamentalism in Malaysia
Discussant: Michele Martini (University of Haifa)
Chair: Guy Eyre (SOAS)
Lunch (Westminster College)
Panel 5: Political mobilisations of religion and gender
Blandine Chélini-Pont and Robin Presthus (Aix-Marseille Université): Debating the Religious Right's Trump Endorsement and Gender: Macho Descriptive Identity or Substantive Pragmatism?
Jessica Roda (Georgetown University): Between Private and Public Negotiations: When the Theological Discourse on Gender and Sexuality is Challenged from Within
Camille Lardy (University of Cambridge): 'Mum, Dad, and the kids: it's natural': Catholic references to universalism in French bioethical debates
Discussant: Susanna Cerasuolo (Harvard University)
Chair: Katherine O'Lone (Woolf Institute)
Round table on publication and research strategies
This conference seeks to address the question how strictly observant religious groups or "fundamentalists" (Harding 2001) challenge two basic principles within contemporary societies: gender equality and the modern state. The conference will bring together political scientists, sociologists, social anthropologists, gender studies scholars, postcolonial scholars, theologians and religious studies scholars to discuss different approaches to the contestations over gender roles, patriarchy and the politics of sexuality between and across strictly observant religious groups and the nation state. In the broadest sense, it seeks to address the question, what happens when fundamentalist groups and the state interact concerning questions of gender and sexuality?
Drawing on Martin Riesebrodt's work on fundamentalism as "patriarchal protest movement" (1992, 2000), the conference seeks to investigate what role gender plays for the persistence of self-identifying strictly observant, fundamentalist, exclusivist, (ultra)orthodox, traditionalist, or socially conservative religious people in their interaction with state actors at different levels. The conference aims to address the question how particularly the changing role of women and embodied religion within and outside fundamentalist movements poses challenges to established religious authorities (Stadler 2009). As the work of Saba Mahmood (2005) and Anabel Inge (2016) demonstrates, women play an increasingly important role in the organisational structures and recruitment successes of strictly observant religious movements. At the same time, gender inequality remains a pivotal building block of these groups. Thus, building on the work of Talal Asad (2003, Asad et al 2009), it is incumbent for researchers to investigate how the family, marriage (Chambers 2017), LGBTQ+, the "sanctity" of women and "hegemonic masculinity" (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005; De Sondy 2013) are mobilised as crucial arenas of religious and political assertion against both the religious establishment and the nation state in different religious, social and spatial contexts (Fernando 2014; Pateman and Mills 2007; Scott 2017).
The struggle over the role of women is closely connected to the contested relationship between fundamentalists and the nation state (Fischer 2009). Torkel Brekke's (2011) claims that the modern nation state in its different varieties of secularism has always functioned as a crucial target for fundamentalist struggles, for example for a Caliphate State, a Christian Dominion, or a Jewish homeland. The conference seeks to address the question on what grounds strictly observant movements challenge or are at odds with key tenants of the modern state, particularly in relation to the role of women, LGBTQ+ and the family. It seeks to uncover to what extent and for what reasons certain aspects of state are accepted, which could include e.g. socio-economic support, health infrastructure, or legal protection of religious freedom, and what elements of the state are actively challenged, for instance certain aspects of secular family law, equality legislation, dress regulations, counter-extremism policies, institutionalised discrimination, or foreign policy and development aid.
The conference seeks to address, among others, the following questions:
- How should we conceptualise the relationship between strictly observant religion, gender and the state?
- What are the analytical and ethical challenges of different conceptualisations of these groups as "strictly observant", "fundamentalist", "socially conservative" etc. and what methodologies should we employ that are appropriate and sensitive to power-dynamics between researchers and researched groups, especially in postcolonial contexts?
- How are strictly observant groups' attitudes and practices regarding gender and sexuality being perceived by different state and non-state actors?
- How do strictly observant groups interpret the relation between gender roles, sexuality, and various dimensions of the state, including state apparatus, populations, spaces and political ideas?
- To what extend do changing gender norms in society challenge, stabilise, or transform gender norms and conceptions of the self in strictly observant religious movements and how does this intersect with categories such as class, race, age, and disability (cf. Yuval-Davis 2010)?
- How does a secular "politics of sexuality" contribute to governing the lives of or dis/enabling agency across strictly observant and other religious and non-religious individuals and groups?
- What concepts, theories, narratives, languages, theologies, disciplines, materialities, affects and practices are mobilised in the struggles around the role of gender and sexuality strictly observant groups and the state are enmeshed in?
Confirmed Keynote Speaker
Prof Torkel Brekke, University of Oslo and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Tobias Müller, post-doctoral Junior Research Fellow, Woolf Institute and POLIS, University of Cambridge
Dr Ed Kessler MBE, Founder Director, Woolf Institute and St. Edmund's, University of Cambridge
How to book
There are limited spaces available for non-participating audience members. There is a £30 charge to cover catering costs. In case you would like to attend as audience member, please apply by sending a brief outline (max 100 words) of your interest and prior work on the topic to Tobias Müller by 25 February 2019 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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