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What do we mean when we say we research religion, or the secular, or the sacred or profane? All of these terms of constructed, constrictive and contested, yet all too often we use them as if they have a singular, agreed upon meaning.

Implicit Religion was intended to create a new approach to the study of religion. It took seriously the behaviours, beliefs, attitudes and actions of the individuals and communities at the place where they are. It did not attempt to assert that something was ‘merely appearing’ to be religious but was really ‘secular’, nor did it insist that something could be termed ‘religious’ by scholars regardless of what the participants thought. The specific nature of implicit religion lies in the attempt to override prejudices and stereotypes with the mechanism of forced repetition, so as to understand life and the world as experienced by people in the process of living. Thus it is necessary to go beyond such common schemes as the identification of the religious with churches, sects, and institutions, or the dichotomy of secular and sacred, as well the antonyms visible and invisible, sacred and profane.

Instead it took a particular interest in the ways in which people were expressing markers of faith, of belief, of ritual either towards or within parts of their everyday lives. For example, and as a means of demonstrating how it differs from spirituality, while partaking a sporting event or listening to a live jazz performance, the ways in which Christmas is both remembered and demarcated politically within communities.


To this end the founder of Implicit Religion, Edward Bailey, proposed three areas of focus, or analytical tools as he referred to them. Commitment (not necessarily religious in any traditional sense, but requiring some degree of sacrifice). Integrating foci, the aspects or rituals or material artefacts of the wider aspects of the commitment that enables the individual to bring the various aspects of their lives and / or identities into a coherent, meaningful whole. Intensive concerns with extensive effects focuses on what issues or causes arise from the commitment that the individual or community is willing to repeatedly act upon. Therefore it would seek to take seriously on its own terms the pilgrimage that people take to Graceland, the rise of the church of Jedi, the meaning and salvation found within punk rock, animal rights activism and the growth of veganism, the statement “football is my religion”, the global occupy protests or the way knitting as a form of self-care and community gives rise to deeper meaning and purpose for the knitters.
Today we are taking this further by asking if Implicit Religion has something to learn from and / or something to add to the changing discourse in the study of religion, especially in relation to social constructions such as race, gender, or patriarchy. We are also interested in seeing how the analytical tools of Implicit Religion could be helpfully applied to analysis of discourse of power, mutating forms of white supremacy, the means by which the study of religion has become dominated by specific confessional approaches or (unaware) attempts to Christianise studies that focus on alternative ways of being such as resistance to co-option, rejection of capitalism, the MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter and narratives about disability.
To begin to achieve this we are creating our first ever USA based Implicit Religion Conference from the 3 -5th June 2019. This is intended to be a space in which conversations about what we mean when we talk about these contested terms can happen, where people can explore and consider what adding Implicit Religion to their individual ethnographic projects or as a methodological tool could add to the outcome, data, methods, or findings. It is intended to be a supportive space in which those who are the most vulnerable, marginalised and under-represented scholars working within the study of religion and academia more broadly are able to present their work, engage in conversation and then tell us how best they can be supported through further mentoring, resources or opportunities. It is hoped this will be the beginning of a much wider Implicit Religion community, founded on, but expanding the work began by Edward Bailey.

Please use the tabs above to find the call for papers, information about the venue and the conference organisers and the deadline for abstract submission.

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