January 21, 2003

Halle Institute hosts conference, Jan. 24-25

Lailee Mendelson is communications coordinator for the Office of International Affairs

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 Spiritualities.”

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 society.

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.






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