By Kathrine van den Bogert, PhD candidate, Utrecht University
The expert meeting on post-secular perspectives to the study of religion and gender at the Åbo Akademi University in Finland was again, like the other expert meetings of the network, a great success and inspiring event. Also in Turku, the exchange between scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds proved to be very fruitful. On the first night, we enjoyed three presentations by Nordic scholars, Elina Vuola and Terhi Utriainen from Finland and Jorunn Okland from Norway, about Nordic approaches to the study of religion and gender. It was interesting to hear about the Finnish founding mothers and that in Finland gender studies always has been in close relationship with religion. As an anthropologist, I was specifically interested in the ethnographic tradition of Nordic studies in religion and gender.
After these opening lectures, we were very welcomed in the Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History by director Ruth Illman. She told us passionately about the history of the Institute, the unique building, and we enjoyed delicious snacks, wines, and the beautiful library! The next day started early with two key notes by Jorunn Okland and Eva Midden, which already showed the diversity of studies in the field of religion, gender and the post-secular. This became even more clear when we continued with round table panel discussions with individual contributions from the participants, with the diverse topics of women’s vote in the 19th century, multiculturalism and online forums, women and the ‘hugging’ Mother, feminist movements and religions in the UK and in Belgium, indigenous religions, spirituality and enchantment, and public debates on religion and homosexuality. After these fruitful sessions, three observants presented their impressions and ‘conclusions’ of the day, and thereby stimulated an interactive and insightful discussion on the concept of the post secular, how to use it, and how not.
Moreover, it was great to see many people again after the expert meetings in London, New York and the start meeting in Utrecht. I really feel ‘connected’ and part of a stable network, and I think this is true for more members. A network furthermore that is inspiring and positive, and especially encouraging. What I really enjoyed was the fact that everyone’s contribution, small or big, from students or professors, was appreciated and valued very much. For me, besides the new insights I gained from the expert meeting on the post-secular, this inspired and encouraged me very much for my own PhD research.
I would like to thank the organizers in Finland for inviting us to Åbo Akademi University in Turku, it was a great location for the expert meeting and for visiting the medieval Turku castle, the cathedral with the (fe)male Johannes at the last supper painting, and the islands of the archipelago. Thanks also for the healthy fruits, lunches and dinners during the conference, and your enthusiasm!