We are often told that we live in a ‘secular’ society, even though religion remains a central feature of the lives of millions, the focus of grass-roots social capital and the animator of countless campaigns for social justice. The ‘disenchantment’ narrative identified by Max Weber in his ‘secularisation thesis’ and beloved of secularists has, to a degree, been supplanted by signs of what Chris Patridge has called a ‘re-enchantment’ narrative and the persistence of what Grace Davie has called ‘believing without belonging’. Nevertheless, in spite of patch signs of growth in some faith communties, the landscape of the 21st century city is not what it was. It is fluid, superdiverse and complex. In such a context we need to get our heads round what we mean when we use terms like ‘belief’ and to take the time to understand the state of play. One resource form the USA that can help us is the online ‘Bulletin for the Study of Religion’. In the most recent issue there is an exploration of the rise of ‘Nones’ in recent US polling about religious identity and belief…..It’s an article that raises lots of questions as does the broader Bulletin and it’s well worth a read….
Is identity something that is fixed and given or fluid and created? Do we receive an identity or do we forge it for ourselves?
Over the last 20-30 years what the urban theorist Manuel Castells calls ‘primary identities’ – gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality – have become the foundation for the development of new models of grass-roots politics. Such patterns of political activism have become especially important in urban communities, on occasions supplanting formal models of doing politics. They are also of real importance for anyone who is interested in understanding the relationship between identity, spirituality, religion and activism. In an increasingly fluid and superdiverse city can ‘identity’ provide an inclusive basis for dialogue or networked activism and community development?
Culture on the Edge is an online resource that offers fascinating and challenging reflections on identity and its formation – It’s well worth having a look.
We are often told that research methodology is [or should be] ‘value free’. Such a perspective flies in the face of the recent recognition that whenever we write, research or teach we express the values that guide our lives – this is often refereed to as our ‘standpoint’. Such reflexivity shapes our work whether we acknowledge it or not. For those of us [including myself] who are committed to progressive and liberative theologies ‘Action Research’ methodology offers the perfect model of social research. Here is a short video clip introducing such research for social change.