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Conference "Alternative Spiritualities, the New Age and New Religious Movements in Ireland"

  • 2009-10-30
  • 2009-10-31
  • Maynooth (Ireland)
"Alternative Spiritualities, the New Age and New Religious Movements in Ireland": Interdisciplinary conference at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (October 30th - 31st, 2009). Welcome address: Prof. Tom Inglis (UCD) Plenary lectures: Prof. Eileen Barker (LSE) Prof. Paul Heelas (Lancaster University) Call for papers: In recent decades, the religious landscape of the island of Ireland has transformed dramatically. New religious movements and what is sometimes called the "New Age" have flourished, along with the arrival of religions long-established elsewhere. Ways of being which classify themselves as non-religious or as consciously resisting religion (new spiritualities, humanism, skepticism, anti-cult organisations etc.) have also become far more significant. (The "newness" of any movement or group, and the "New Age" classification, are of course both often strongly contested, but are used here for practical purposes.) This is the first conference to bring together academic research on these topics in Ireland. We are interested in work on religious groups and movements, as well as more diffuse expressions of spirituality and religious organisation which have arrived, (re-)emerged or flourished in Ireland after 1945. These developments raise big questions for the study of religion, but also have important implications in fields as wide-ranging as gender relations, roads protests, the politics of church and state, immigration, tourism, funeral practices, education, youth cultures, health and regulation, globalization, and our relationship to the past, physical or imagined. They shed light on the transformation of religion in contemporary Ireland as well as providing us with insights into the nature of the society we live in. With this in mind, we welcome theoretical and empirical papers in a range of disciplines on all aspects of these new movements in Ireland, including but not limited to "New Age" groups, pagan / Celtic movements, other new religious movements, world religions in Ireland, alternative medicine and bodywork, "cults" and schisms within established Irish churches, non- and anti-religious groups, and new religious movements abroad which have strong Irish roots or influences. While the conference is dedicated to academic research, it will be open to the public and we expect interest from the media as well as from mainstream churches, alternative practitioners and other interested parties. Suggested themes We welcome papers by established researchers and graduate students in all academic disciplines (including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, economics, English, health research, history, neuroscience, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, religious studies, tourism studies, women's studies …) as well as cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary papers and work by researchers outside of academia. Papers may be theoretical or empirical in their approach, and include historical, qualitative and quantitative studies, documentary and case study approaches, and other methodologies and approaches. The only limitation is that this is a research conference rather than a place to debate the truth or religious value of particular religious beliefs or practices, and we are looking for papers which advance understanding rather than simply describing, celebrating or condemning. Some suggested themes for papers include: The New Age and understanding religion: concepts and theories, understanding "experiences" and techniques, biography and religion etc… New religious movements and social change in Ireland: secularisation, class, Celtic Tiger and prosperity consciousness, modernity and post-modernity etc… Alternative spiritualities and identity: ethnicity, feminism, bodies, ecology, landscapes, globalisation, "Celticity", counter-culture etc… The organisation of the New Age: new religious structures, the Internet and new religions, credentialism, seminar spirituality etc… Contesting religion: media coverage, mainstream religious responses, moral panics, anti-cult movements, secular movements etc… Institutional implications of new religious movements: education, health, policing, funerals, marriages, conflicts over regulation etc… The economics of new spirituality: commodification, publishing, spiritual tourism, alternative health etc… Historicising new religious movements: reading the pre-Christian past, Orientalism in Ireland, literary aspects etc… We also welcome proposals on other topics related to the conference focus. Timeframe and other practical details: The deadline for proposals is May 1st, 2009. Please submit proposals by email to Olivia Cosgrove (, including an abstract of no more than 500 words in .rtf, .doc or .pdf format and your academic or institutional affiliation. We will notify acceptance of proposals by May 31st at the latest. Papers accepted for the conference will be distributed to participants on the day, and may be reworked for later publication elsewhere. The deadline for registration, and for submission of completed papers, is October 1st, 2009. Papers should be in .doc format and be no longer than 9,000 words including footnotes, bibliography etc. Speakers will have 20 minutes for each paper. The conference will run during the day on Friday and Saturday, with plenary lectures in the evening. An excursion to local pre-Christian sites (which include Tara and the Boyne Valley tombs) will be organised on the Sunday if there is sufficient interest. As this will be a multi-disciplinary conference, as well as being open to an informed and interested public, we encourage presenters to deliver papers which are clear and accessible, without talking down to their audience or devoting the whole of their paper to simple description. We intend to publish a volume based on selected papers from the conference, suitably rewritten, as a definitive collection on the subject. Maynooth is 15 miles outside Dublin, close to the airport and easily accessible by rail and bus as well as car. More details at and In May-June we will organise affordable accommodation for those who need it and make details and a booking form available. We will also work to deal with specific food requirements at that point. Organising committee: Dr Anthony d'Andrea, University of Limerick Ms Olivia Cosgrove, University of Limerick Dr Laurence Cox, NUI Maynooth Ms Maria Griffin, NUI Maynooth Dr Carmen Kuhling, University of Limerick Dr Peter Mulholland, NUI Maynooth Dr Patricia Neville, University of Limerick Ms Ciara O'Connor, NUI Maynooth

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