Appel à contribution – The Critical Role of Religious Community Life

On October 19th – 21st 2016, UCSIA organizes the academic workshop ‘The Critical Role of Religious Community Life: A World Between Tradition and Innovation’ at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.


This workshop wants to bring together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds in the social sciences, humanities, religious studies and theology, to discuss the role of traditional as well as new forms of religious community life in Europe. By paying attention to the internal as well as the external dynamics of religious communities (and the dialectics between them), the programme wants to grasp their critical role and future role within the Church and society today.

In many world religions, believers create religious communities and live together according to specific rules, that may function as a framework to make a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience and purity concrete. This religious coexistence may be manifested in different forms; e.g. religious congregations and religious orders, as well as spiritual movements and lay groups. In these plural forms, religious communities take a ‘separate’ position in secular society where they may play a critical role both within their own religion as well as outside, in an attempt to formulate alternatives. These attempts may still be questioned and show a world between tradition and innovation.

Taking into account the dialectic of rule and life, we look at the bond that regular clergy and lay groups have with (monastic) rules: do these rules limit life or do they actually give freedom to live? According to Giorgio Agamben (The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, Stanford UP, 2013) it is first and foremost by the rules of monastic life that the life of monks acquires meaning. One may ask then whether monastic life or a life bound by rules, actually affirms its autonomy from the law more profoundly? Furthermore is there flexibility for monks and members of religious communities to interact with their religious tradition, to allow a degree of freedom for contemporary interpretation? How can rules like commitment and community life, but also vows to poverty, obedience and celibacy get a contemporary definition? And how do other people connected to religious orders (like oblates) relate to these rules and their possible renewal?

In this workshop programme we question how various forms of religious community life may change due to – or in interaction with – societal transformations like increasing individualization and personal autonomy as well as the religious importance of a direct personal experience of the transcendent and mystical experience. Within the internal dynamics, we explore how both regular clergy and religiously oriented people see the changes in religious community life today; which communities can bind people ‘successfully’ and what distinguishes them from others? How does larger society understand these rule-abiding religious communities and what is their critical role in the church of the future? From an external perspective, we look into religious community life and its importance for religion. In reverse, is a religious community possible without connection to church institutions or what is the minimum commitment to a religion to not end up in a New Age, something-ism belief? What is its relationship to asceticism and mysticism?

Researchers, doctoral students and other experts are welcome to submit their application until 15 June 2016. Further details and the online application form are available at the website.

Source : UCSIA – Universiteit Antwerpen

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