(Un)Making Violence

Religion and Education in the (Un)Making of Violence

REA Annual Meeting 2014

7-9 November, Chicago, Illinois

REA2014 Call

Call for Proposals

2014 REA Annual Meeting
7-9 November 2014
Doubletree Hotel, Chicago – Oak Brook
1909 Spring Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523

Religious Education (RE) as a field and the Religious Education Association (REA) as an organization with 110 years of history have at our core a responsive instinct to current, exigent issues inscribed in/by the intersections of religion and education. In keeping with this keen attention, the organizing theme of the association’s Annual Meeting in 2014 in Chicago forges a conceptual problem out of a practical concern for what we have been witnessing in local and global current events:  the problem of violence and the function of cultural and religious imagination in its making and unmaking.

Depending upon one’s calculus, the twentieth century (of the “Common Era”) was either the most “murderous” or increasingly more peace-seeking than previous eras of modern history[1], but it is hard to ignore the violent tantrums of the first decade of the 2000s. Even with sketchy memory work, one can catalogue ad nauseam repetitions of violence in intricate forms both visible and invisible, and on scales both micro and macro:

  • gun / gang violence
  • sexualized violence / intimate partner violence
  • violence motivated by religion, ethnicity, nationality (from genocide to hate crimes)
  • state-sponsored / military violence
  • the “normalized” cultural violence found in sports, hazing, bullying
  • the tacit violence of unstable economies
  • the quiet rage imbedded in prison industrial complexes
  • the slow yet lethal violence of ecocide / biodestruction
  • the violence of historic injuries that continue to bleed through (e.g., racism, misogyny, homophobia)
  • spiritual/psychological violence
  • violent acts against self

While there have been robust study of violence grounded in a variety of disciplines (from philosophy to public policy, anthropology to law, political science to literature), one wonders how RE could engage with distinctive conceptual frameworks or hermeneutic positionings for the study of how violence is continually produced today. One suspects that such inquiry would lead to more efficacious breaking or un-making of violence’s vicious cycles. This endeavor is also in keeping with REA’s “strategic priority #3”:  articulation of RE’s distinctive nature, functions, values and contributions to scholarly and public imagination about contemporary civic and religious lives.

Of all the research possibilities, religious educators’ scholarly instincts could shed light on the dimensions of faith/spirituality/religiosity and the dimensions of teaching/learning:

On the teaching/learning of violence, RE scholars could inquire into how various mediums of “religion” and “education” function explicitly and implicitly to produce matrices, mindsets, or cultures of violence.

Our focus must be contextually sharp: violence is sustained contextually and situationally, which means forces of religion and education (and religious education) interface differently depending on context and situation. Thus, you are invited to scrutinize the teaching/learning of violence with very specific contextual coordinates, attending to specific settings, the nooks and crannies, and the local and transnational backdrops of everyday religious lives and practices. Generative questions require such contextual specificity.

Consider specific and unique settings for uncommon interfacing of religion and education: prisons, schools, “residential schools,” rehabilitation centers, hospitals, nursing homes, social service, agencies, community clubs, movie theaters, concert halls, places of worship, coffee shops, mega-malls, public parks and landfills, city “shelters” and financial districts, rehabbed neighborhoods, city refuse sites, Second Life…

Look locally and transnationally for historical arcs: inquire into less researched geopolitical regions across the globe (Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Philippines, Bolivia, Oceania)… OR less familiar coordinates which rose into international infamy (Herzegovina, Belfast, Toul Sleng, Saigon, Waco, Sandy Hook)…

Generative questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What are the socio-cultural and religio-political mechanisms which breed, aid, facilitate, or bolster the matrix of violence in question? How does RE contribute distinctive disciplinary lenses for the analysis of such mechanisms?
  • How have religious communities been “educated” toward “mis-recognition” of evil? Where are instances of violence’s hegemonic power over cultural and religious imagination?
  • How have familiar tools of religion contributed to the production of certain forms of violence in ways that are explicit and implicit via religious education—such tools as religious texts, symbols, performances, rituals, ceremonies, or codes and creeds?

On our efforts to find clues for the “un-making” of violence, RE scholars could press for how the very tools and mediums of “religious education” could offer distinctive yet cross- or inter-disciplinary contributions:

  • What pedagogies, practices, strategies, and capacities are needed to facilitate the un-learning of violence? How does RE turn communities into “contact zones” instead of “combat zones”?
  • How does RE teach communities to speak about God, self, “other,” and human flourishing in the thick of death-dealing human conditions and situations?
  • When there is trauma, violence, or injury to the human spirit, what capacities does RE help to cultivate for liberative responses? What capacities are needed to continue “believing” (“faithing”) in this world?
  • What stands in the way of all this work?

For details about submitting a proposal, visit the Guide for Submitting Proposals page.  Deadline was May 2, 2014.

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Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate | Leave every hope, ye that enter (Dante)

Photo courtesy of FlickrCC
Photo courtesy of FlickrCC

[1] Cf. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011); Ursula King, “Reflections on Peace, Women, and the World’s Faiths,” Dialogue & Alliance 25, no. 1 (June 1, 2011): 8-18.

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