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Public Engagement with Religion May 2016 Forum

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A one-day public engagement event organised by Dr James Hodkinson from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and Dr Elisabeth Arweck from the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU) in the Centre of Education Studies (CES) at Warwick took place on 18 May 2016 at the Scarman Conference Centre.

In plenary and break-out sessions, participants of the Forum explored the impact of the current ‘post secular’ era (including the perceived global return to organised religion, renewed interest in esoteric and alternative spiritualities, and the resurgence of fundamentalism) on culture, society, and on academic and public debates. The Forum sought to connect academic researchers of various disciplines with students, teachers, non-academic groups, including faith-based communities and organisations, and those of no faith. The participants included representatives from these different groups. The Forum thus demonstrated one way in which the University’s aim of public engagement could be realised. It also demonstrated the University’s emphasis in interdisciplinary collaboration across departments, which also ties in with the ‘hub and spoke’ strategy of the Centre for Educational Studies.

The purpose of the Forum was to extend the reach of debate about religion(s) in contemporary society by bringing together colleagues who have an interest in matters religious and individuals and groups whose perspectives of religion(s) is not primarily academic, taking an approach that is related to the everyday lived religion and encounter with religion. The underlying thought was that the participants would have much to offer each other, but needed to be brought together to explore this.

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The forum included a presentation by Prof. Simon Swain, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts and Social Sciences, on religion and public engagement at Warwick University, a keynote address by Dr Abdullah Sahin (WRERU) on “Reimagining Islam within the Context of Post-secular Europe”, and case studies of public engagement by Dr Hodkinson and Dr Arweck. In break-out sessions, participants discussed the ‘return of religion’ and to what extent this is relevant to the personal and professional ‘spheres’ in which they move as well as identified shared interests on matters of religion and possibilities of working collaboratively with attendees.

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(Dr Abdullah Sahin giving his keynote address)

The Forum was financially supported by the Warwick Public Engagement Fund which is designed to facilitate the engagement of academic research in social spheres beyond academia.