This lecture is part of IRCPL’s Rethinking Public Religion in Africa and South Asia Project.
While the secularization thesis ceased to offer the dominant analytical frame in the study of religion in modern societies some decades ago, the question how to make sense of the complex religious dynamics of our time – within nation-states and regions in the Global North and Global South, as well as across – is still one of the biggest empirical and conceptual challenges faced by the study of religion today. The focus of this lecture is the public, and by implication material and corporeal, presence of religion in plural configurations in Ghana, where I have conducted research over a long time-span, and in the Netherlands, where I live and work. My guiding idea is that a focus on religious matters – in the sense of concrete material forms and as matters of concern in public debate – is a productive empirical starting point to conceptualize the current co-existence of multiple religiosities. Against the horizon of these two sites, which long seemed to be worlds apart in both my own professional experience and the study of religion, I will address the following questions: How is the publicness of religion facilitated and hampered legally and politically? Which differences exist with regard to the accommodation of religious plurality and pluriformity within each of these, as well as between, these sites? How can a comparative study of plural and pluriform religious matters in the public domain be of use to flesh out fresh concepts and approaches for research on religion in the interface of anthropology and religious studies?
This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for African Studies, the South Asia Institute, the Department of Anthropology, and the Institute for Social and Economc Research and Policy.
Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies, Utrecht University
Trained as a cultural anthropologist and working on lived religion in Ghana for more than 20 years, Birgit Meyer studies religion from a global and post-secular perspective. Her research is driven by an urge to make sense of the shifting place and role of religion in our time, and to show that scholarly work in the field of religion is of eminent concern to understanding the shape of our world in the early 21st century. In so doing, she seeks to synthesize grounded fieldwork and theoretical reflection in a broad multidisciplinary setting.Her main research foci are the rise and popularity of global Pentecostalism; religion, popular culture and heritage; religion and media; religion and the public sphere; religious visual culture, the senses and aesthetics. In 2016 she embarked on the collaborative research program Religious Matters in an Entangled World (www.religiousmatters.nl).