2011 Summer Research Seminar: Congregations and Social Change

Gerardo Marti

Congregations and Social Change:
Adaptation and Innovation among Religious Communities

June 27 - July 22, 2011

I will be directing a research seminar at Calvin College next summer. I've met other readers and contributors from this blog during the oh-so-pleasant Michigan summers and enjoyed the stimulating dialogue and scholarly support encouraged through these seminars. This is an open invitation:

Seminar Description

This research seminar will closely examine the ongoing relationships between congregations and processes of broad ranging, societal change. By incorporating a historical sensitivity and scholarship rooted in a sociological perspective, the seminar will continually connect societal arrangements with adaptation, reaction, innovation, and experimentation in congregational beliefs and practices. The focus will be on congregations of all types (whether church, synagogue, temple, or mosque) and encourages a look at both interpersonal dynamics (beliefs, micro-exchanges, small group interaction, etc.) as well as more macro-level phenomena (globalization, technological shifts, political systems, etc.).

The analytical perspectives on congregations can include --
  • singular case studies, particular historical periods,
  • whole denominational networks (Mormon wards, eastern orthodox churches, Jewish synagogues, mosques and Islamic centers as well as Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and other religious temples and missions),
  • types of congregations (small, rural, independent, mega, etc.),
  • regional centers (Southern California, Manhattan, Chicago Metro), and
  • any other appropriate and manageable arena of analysis.

The seminar also welcomes any aspect of congregational life that can be examined in relation to social change, for example,
  • changes or comparisons of liturgical design,
  • formation and negotiation of political identity,
  • mobilization tied to extra-congregational organizations or social movements,
  • creation of age-targeted ministry (twenty-somethings to retirees),
  • incorporation of creative arts,
  • negotiated relationships between religious and civic service structures or public agencies,
  • adoption of online social networking or use of new media and technology,
  • management of multiethnic/multiracial dynamics,
  • etc, etc.

Seminar participants will read sociological and historical literature, engage ethnographic methodology commonly employed in contemporary research, and discuss their own work toward creating a community of scholarship oriented around common concerns. Ideally, each participant will produce a polished piece of writing as a result of the seminar, eg., completing a conference paper, journal article, dissertation chapter, book chapter, or publishable mass-media article. As participants work on their own congregations and social change research during the seminar, they will receive guided feedback in a supportive environment. Housing, daily lunch with other scholars, library access, and a small research stipend is provided for seminar participants.

Who May Apply

This research seminar is most intended for current and recent doctoral students in fields related to religious and organizational studies (sociology, anthropology, history, ethnic studies, folklore, and others). While the seminar is designed toward social science-oriented scholars holding, or advanced to candidacy for, the terminal degree in their field (typically the PhD), I eagerly welcome humanities-oriented scholars as well theologically-oriented participants from seminaries and divinity schools. To the extent possible, I will select a group diverse in gender, ethnic, confessional, and disciplinary backgrounds, and with a variety of research sites (i.e., the confessional and/or social identities of the communities they plan to study). I also plan to choose among applicants a mix of participants ranging from doctoral candidates through recent doctorates in tenure-track positions and scholars working on their first or second books to mid-career scholars retooling with defined projects.

on the director, guest speakers, and application process.

Application information is at the bottom of the page. Deadline is January 14, 2011.


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