Apocalyptic Times: Spirituality in Global Revolt
  • Apocalyptic Times: Spirituality in Global Revolt

    University of Exeter, 7-8th September 2023


    Apocalyptic Times: Spirituality in Global Revolt

    7-8th September 2023, University of Exeter and Online

    In recent years, ideas and practices of spirituality have become increasingly visible within activist and protest movements across the political spectrum, from ecological and decolonizing movements to populist revivals of religious nationalism and ‘traditional values’. The last few decades have seen not only a global rise of transnational, inter-religious right-wing politics, but also pushback in the form of alternative and counter-spiritualities, both within religious establishments and in spiritual traditions historically marginalised or overlooked. Across these movements, white, Euro-American accounts of secularization have been provincialized and challenged. The apocalyptic has also been revived as an enduring, powerful – and sometimes problematic – mode of critique, from eco-apocalyptic literature to the political ideology of russkiy mir.

    In this workshop, we seek to think with and against apocalyptic framings of the present day to try to make sense of spirituality as a contemporary form of political and cultural critique. Does spirituality offer a helpful lens through which to make sense of recent movements for political and social change? Can thinking with, rather than about, spirituality help de-centre white, Euro-American narratives – or might it reinforce those very narratives? And how do we make sense of these ‘critical spiritualities’ in relation to histories of the secular and critiques of secularization theory?

    This two-day workshop aims to bring together scholars from across disciplines and geographical regions to examine the role of spirituality within contemporary political and cultural critique, and to explore their relationship to histories of the secular. The workshop aims to bring into dialogue theoretical work on religion and the secular, with empirical case studies of spirituality’s role in recent political and social activism. In doing so, the workshop aims to explore a global history of contemporary critical spirituality by asking:

    • How is spirituality and religion (broadly conceived) entangled in political and cultural protest movements or activism around the world? What connections, if any, can we make between local, national and transnational movements?
    • How can attention to spirituality – and thinking with, rather than about, spirituality – help make sense of contemporary political and cultural critiques and their historical roots? 
    • How might these examples of ‘critical spirituality’ alter our histories of modern religion, secularization, and ‘de-secularization’?

    Possible topics for discussion include, but are by no means limited to:

    • The relationship between religion, secularity, spirituality, and the (post)colonial: colonialism and the making of secular religion; the (non-)recognisability of spirituality; indigenous spiritualities and cosmologies; spirituality in law
    • Eco-apocalyptic literature; provincializing environmentalism; ‘more-than-human’ perspectives
    • Religion’s relation to populism, liberalism and democracy: Judeo-Christianity, secularism and whiteness; civilizational politics; religious nationalism; anti-fascist, anti-communist and socialist spiritualities; religiosity and civic engagement
    • Health and healing; non-dualistic and spiritual anthropologies; ‘alternative’ healthcare
    • Queer theologies; spirituality and sexuality; gender equality and secularism; religion in ‘anti-gender’ movements
    • Magic and secular reason; ritual and re-enchantment; witchcraft; paganism
    • Entanglement of race and religion; racial epistemologies; spirituality and struggles for and against racial justice
    • Political martyrdom, death and witness; mysticism as politics; sacrifice and religious persecution
    • Histories of the secular, multiple secularities, the ‘return of religion’, post-secularism, de-secularization, and religious freedom

    For more information, please contact us by email (ir299@exeter.ac.uk) or on twitter (@CritSpirit)

    This workshop is funded by the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.