Sunday, May 17, 2009

Conference call for poster presentations

Alternative spiritualities, the New Age and New Religious Movements in Ireland: an interdisciplinary conference

National University of Ireland, Maynooth
October 30th – 31st 2009

Welcome address:

Prof. Tom Inglis (UCD)

Plenary lectures:

Prof. Eileen Barker (LSE)

Prof. Paul Heelas (Lancaster University)

Call for poster presentations

In recent decades, the religious landscape of the island of Ireland has transformed dramatically. New religious movements and what is sometimes called the "New Age" have flourished, along with the arrival of religions long-established elsewhere. Ways of being which classify themselves as non-religious or as consciously resisting religion (new spiritualities, humanism, skepticism, anti-cult organisations etc.) have also become far more significant. (The "newness" of any movement or group, and the "New Age" classification, are of course both often strongly contested, but are used here for practical purposes.)

This is the first conference to bring together academic research on these topics in Ireland. We are interested in work on religious groups and movements, as well as more diffuse expressions of spirituality and religious organisation which have arrived, (re-)emerged or flourished in Ireland after 1945.

These developments raise big questions for the study of religion, but also have important implications in fields as wide-ranging as gender relations, roads protests, the politics of church and state, immigration, tourism, funeral practices, education, youth cultures, health and regulation, globalization, and our relationship to the past, physical or imagined. They shed light on the transformation of religion in contemporary Ireland as well as providing us with insights into the nature of the society we live in.

With this in mind, we have just closed a call for
theoretical and empirical papers in a range of disciplines on all aspects of these new movements in Ireland, including but not limited to "New Age" groups, pagan / Celtic movements, other new religious movements, world religions in Ireland, alternative medicine and bodywork, "cults" and schisms within established Irish churches, non- and anti-religious groups, and new religious movements abroad which have strong Irish roots or influences.

We are now making a call for poster presentations, which may be particularly interesting for people who are just starting research in this area but wish to let others know about their research interests, as well as for people who have concluded or published research that they want to draw other people's attention to.

While the conference is dedicated to academic research, it will be open to the public and we expect interest from the media as well as from mainstream churches, alternative practitioners and other interested parties.

Suggested themes
We welcome posters by established researchers and graduate students in all academic disciplines (including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, economics, English, health research, history, neuroscience, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, religious studies, tourism studies, women's studies …) as well as cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary papers and work by researchers outside of academia.

Posters may be theoretical or empirical in their approach, and include historical, qualitative and quantitative studies, documentary and case study approaches, and other methodologies and approaches. The only limitation is that this is a research conference rather than a place to debate the truth or religious value of particular religious beliefs or practices, and we are looking for posters which advance understanding rather than simply describing, celebrating or condemning.

Some suggested themes for posters include:

  • The New Age and understanding religion: concepts and theories, understanding "experiences" and techniques, biography and religion etc…

  • New religious movements and social change in Ireland: secularisation, class, Celtic Tiger and prosperity consciousness, modernity and post-modernity etc…

  • Alternative spiritualities and identity: ethnicity, feminism, bodies, ecology, landscapes, globalisation, "Celticity", counter-culture etc…

  • The organisation of the New Age: new religious structures, the Internet and new religions, credentialism, seminar spirituality etc…

  • Contesting religion: media coverage, mainstream religious responses, moral panics, anti-cult movements, secular movements etc…

  • Institutional implications of new religious movements: education, health, policing, funerals, marriages, conflicts over regulation etc…

  • The economics of new spirituality: commodification, publishing, spiritual tourism, alternative health etc…

  • Historicising new religious movements: reading the pre-Christian past, Orientalism in Ireland, literary aspects etc…

We also welcome proposals for poster presentations on other topics related to the conference focus.

Timeframe and other practical details
The deadline for poster proposals is October 23rd, 2009. Please submit proposals by email to Olivia Cosgrove (, including an abstract of no more than 200 words in .rtf, .doc or .pdf format and your academic or institutional affiliation.

Posters accepted for the conference will be distributed to participants on the day, and may be reworked for later publication elsewhere. The deadline for submission of completed posters is October 23rd, 2009. We will make greater guidance on poster formats available nearer the time.

The conference will run during the day on Friday and Saturday, with plenary lectures in the evening. An excursion to local pre-Christian sites (which include Tara and the Boyne Valley tombs) will be organised on the Sunday if there is sufficient interest.

As this will be a multi-disciplinary conference, as well as being open to an informed and interested public, we encourage presenters to make posters clear and accessible, without talking down to their audience or devoting the whole of their poster to simple description.

Maynooth is 15 miles outside Dublin, close to the airport and easily accessible by rail and bus as well as car. More details at and In May-June we will organise affordable accommodation for those who need it and make details and a booking form available. We will also work to deal with specific food requirements at that point.

Organising committee:
Dr Anthony d'Andrea, University of Limerick
Ms Olivia Cosgrove, University of Limerick
Dr Laurence Cox, NUI Maynooth
Ms Maria Griffin, NUI Maynooth
Dr Carmen Kuhling, University of Limerick
Dr Peter Mulholland, NUI Maynooth
Dr Patricia Neville, University of Limerick
Ms Ciara O'Connor, NUI Maynooth