Conference | Third Tri-University Research Colloquium
Science of Religion at the Post-theological University
- Friday 14 June 2019
2311 BD Leiden
- 227 & 228
The state universities of Amsterdam, Leiden, and Utrecht no longer offer programmes in theology, but have retained programmes and research units in the study of religion. At this third tri-university research colloquium, we will discuss how to do science of religion in a university without theology. Key questions addressed in the talks and plenary debates will include: What binds us together as scholars of religion? What defines our discipline? And how can the study of religion survive institutionally without theology?
9.30-10.00 Welcome and coffee (Lipsius 227)
10.00-10.15 Opening Markus Altena Davidsen (Lipsius 227)
Session 1: Leiden (Chair Jo Spaans, UU; Lipsius 227)
10.15.-11.00 Ab de Jong (UL)
History of Religion in the Singular: Cultural Evolution and the Identity of the Science of Religion as an Academic Discipline
11.00-11.45 Markus Altena Davidsen (UL)
Van Baaren’s Systematic Science of Religion Revisited: Comparison, Explanation, and the Identity of the Science of Religion as an Academic Discipline
11.45-12.15 Coffee break (Lipsius 228)
Session 2: Utrecht (Chair Markus Altena Davidsen, UL; Lipsius 227)
12.15-13.00 Margreet van Es & Katja Rakow (UU)
Quo Vadis? Reflections on the Study of Religions at the Post-theological University
13.00-13.45 Lunch (Lipsius 228)
Session 3: Amsterdam (Chair Gerard Wiegers, UvA; Lipsius 227)
13.45-14.30 Wouter Hanegraaff (UvA)
Imagining the Future of Religion and Spirituality
14.30-15.30 Panel debate
How to do science of religion in a post-theological university: strategies for research, teaching, outreach, and cooperation?
Session 4, with drinks (Lipsius 228)
15.30-16.30 (or longer): Poster presentations by (Research) Master and Doctoral Students
Ab de Jong (Leiden): History of Religion in the Singular: Cultural Evolution and the Identity of the Study of Religion as an Academic Discipline
The study of religion has often been mocked for its inability to define its subject. One response to this has been the call to get rid of the concept of religion altogether, but the arguments mustered to support that proposal suffer from a myopic fixation on the West that is theoretically naïve and shockingly anachronistic. The future of the field depends on a conversation between those who restrict their interests to the specific and those who attempt to systematize knowledge. In this paper, I will address the limitations and the promises of the grand project of a history of religion in the singular as a platform where such a conversation can fruitfully be held.
Markus Altena Davidsen (Leiden): Van Baaren’s Systematic Science of Religion Revisited: Comparison, Explanation, and the Identity of the Science of Religion as an Academic Discipline
In 1969, the Dutch historian of religion Theo van Baaren proposed a reorientation in the comparative study of religion (vergelijkende godsdienstwetenschap) towards a “systematic science of religion”. As Van Baaren envisioned it, the systematic science of religion should salvage the strong aspects of the phenomenology of religion – comparativism and academic self-confidence – but abandon phenomenology’s essentialism, religionism, and Protestant bias. Unfortunately, a systematic science of religion failed to materialise in the Netherlands, and phenomenology was succeeded by a mode of scholarship that can best be described as a particularistic, fragmented, and a lacking theoretical ambition. This situation is academically unsatisfactory, and moreover it aggregates the vulnerable position of the study of religion in a political climate hostile to the humanities in general. With an eye to promising developments elsewhere, I propose a reorientation towards a comparative and explanatory science of religion à la Van Baaren as a way out of our current academic and institutional crisis.
Margreet van Es & Katja Rakow (Utrecht): Quo Vadis? Reflections on the Study of Religions at the Post-theological University
In our contribution, we will reflect on the three core questions raised in the abstract of the upcoming the Tri-University Research Colloquium: What binds us? What defines us? How to survive? Both of us pursued the study of religions in different disciplinary, departmental, and national contexts before we came to Utrecht University. We will take our specific backgrounds and experiences as starting points to think about the disciplinary boundaries and methodological challenges of the study of religions in the post-theological university. We understand the study of religions as a field of study where different disciplines come together. Such multidisciplinarity asks for transparency and a constant reflection not only of our own positionality and but also of the implications for how we pursue and teach the study of religions.
Wouter Hanegraaff (Amsterdam): Imagining the Future of Religion and Spirituality
I will be arguing that the current crisis of the humanities requires scholars of religion to move beyond deconstruction and come up with a bold and positive new vision, a new grand narrative that will make it possible to explain to wider academic and non-academic audiences why the study of religion is absolutely crucial to any adequate understanding of human culture and society. I will concentrate on two directions that I consider important to such a re-imagination of the study of religion: we need to shift our attention from discursive formations to imaginative formations, and we should think more systematically about the relation between “religion” and “spirituality.” I will finish with some reflections on the teaching of religion and spirituality at the University of Amsterdam.