Is religion conducive to a global civil society or antithetical
to it? This will be the question taken up Jan. 24–25 when
the Halle Institute for Global Learning hosts its conference, “Religion
and Global Civil Society: Religious Rebellion, Pluralism and New
The conference will be the culmination of the 2002 Halle Faculty
Seminar, which gathered nine Emory faculty together for an interdisciplinary
exploration of religious communities and their varied responses
to the changes wrought by globalization.
They are responses that have ranged from violent to cooperative,
according to Mark Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology at the University
of California-Santa Barbara and leader of the seminar. Juergensmeyer
is the chair of UCSB’s Global and International Studies Program
and has published widely on the subject of comparative religion
and religiously inspired terrorism.
“Traditional religious communities are ambivalent about the
cultural dimension of globalization,” Juergensmeyer said.
“In some cases, they despise it and violently rage against
what they regard as a new world order promoted by U.S. capitalism.
In other cases, religious communities participate in global society
by learning to adapt to the multicultural milieu of global urban
centers, such as Atlanta. Yet another aspect of global religion
is nontraditional—shared values and spiritual sensitivities
that emerge in pluralistic societies and in the virtual communities
formed through the Internet and other forms of electronic communication.”
At the two-day conference, to be held in Gambrell Hall, Halle seminar
participants will present their projects, each of which explores
religion as it either conflicts with emerging societal values or
contributes to the common principles necessary to a global civil
Presenters will include sociology Associate Professor Frank Lechner,
who will address religious objections to globalization, such as
the unity of world religions in their call for the repudiation of
debt owed by developing countries to developed ones. Law Professor
Harold Berman will discuss the emergence of a world law as a form
of faith. Carrie Wickham, associate professor of political science,
will present her research on a strain of Egyptian Islam that is
seeking within its religious tradition the grounds for pluralism.
Closer to home, project partners Elizabeth Bounds, associate professor
of Christian ethics, and Bobbi Patterson, senior lecturer in religion,
will discuss their ongoing research in the refugee community of
Clarkston, Ga., where representatives of many different traditions
are working together to open a charter school.
A full schedule for the conference, as well as a complete list of
presenters and their paper topics, is available at www.emory.edu/OIA/Halle/seminars/HalleSeminar.pdf.
According to Halle Distinguished Professor Thomas Remington, who
led the seminar in its first four years, the interdisciplinary nature
of the group was particularly valuable to the topic of religion,
which he said was too large to be confronted from any one direction.
“In the case of religion,” Remington said, “we
have to understand many of the sociological dimensions, how it is
practiced, how it is affected by politics and economics. We have
to look at the internal theological underpinnings of a faith. And
we have to look at human psychology. There is no one discipline
that can cover all these levels.
“This has been our fifth Halle seminar, and all of them have
taken advantage of the considerable diversity of disciplines and
methodologies represented by the faculty participants,” Remington
said. “And, as always, we have discovered that we learn a
great deal when we have to address questions that we may normally
not encounter speaking only to our fellow scholars in our own disciplines.”
All conference events will take place in the Agnor Room on the third
floor of Gambrell Hall. For more information, call 404-727-7504.