Impression of the Start Meeting of the Religion and Gender Project
By Nella van den Brandt, PhD Candidate at Ghent University, Belgium
On the 29th and 30th of August 2012 the start meeting of the international Religion and Gender project took place in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In her opening speech Professor Anne-Marie Korte highlighted the many ambitions of this project: strengthening a network of researchers working in the area of religion and gender; setting up new research projects on the basis of national or European-based grants; organizing future expert meetings; strengthening the network of the new academic journal Religion and Gender; and the establishment of an international association for the study of religion and gender. The first day of the meeting was about getting to know each other as individual researchers and representatives of departments and institutions. The project appeared to be highly interdisciplinary – the key participants have backgrounds in disciplines ranging from theology, cultural studies, biblical studies, religious studies, anthropology. I found it a wonderful group of scholars, but started wondering at the end of the day what would be the issues, questions and concerns that could bind a group of researchers as diverse as this?
The second day of the meeting proved to be very constructive and inspiring. Through a presentation and discussions about opportunities for European research funding and the establishment of an international association for the study of religion and gender I was offered a view into a world of expertise and opportunities that PhD students are often not (yet) aware of. The brainstorm about themes for joint research applications showed that the highly diverse group of scholars could in fact quite soon get to a consensus about what should be the main topics and concepts to focus upon. This was certainly an inspiring moment for me!
The international association that is planned to be established during this project would set itself high ambitions. Its goals include the organization of expert meetings, conferences and PhD summer schools, the setting up of panels at large conferences such as the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. It would moreover become the institution behind the journal Religion and Gender. The first expert meeting is already on its way and will take place in December 2012 at SOAS, University of London under the title ‘Catachreses? Gender, Religion and Postcoloniality’.
As a PhD student, I felt I learned much from attending the first meeting of this international project and from the ambitious scholars that make up this inspiring network. Especially the first day I wasn’t sure if and how I could fit in this project. But at the end of the second day I felt I could in fact become part of it. The brainstorm showed that also my research interests connect with those of others, notably when it comes to researching the women’s movement and its (dis)connections to religion and secularity. The question of how to explain the West-European women’s movement’s clinging to forms of secularity that are intolerant to religion at large and women’s religiosity in particular is what concerns me at the moment most. I sincerely hope to be able to contribute to the workings of this project in the future, and to continue being inspired for my own research by the critical perspectives of the participants in this network.