British Sociological Association

Sociology of Religion Study Group

Text and Religious Contexts

Plater College, Oxford

9 -12 April 2003



The 28th annual conference of the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group took place 9th-12th April 2003 at Plater College, Oxford. Participants from North America and continental Europe, as well as the UK responded to papers and presentations on the conference theme, "Texts and Religious Contexts".

The opening plenary lecture was given by Seth Kunin, who discussed the complexities of biblical narratives and structuralist theory, problematising certain aspects of Levi-Strauss's paradigm, and suggesting that a combination of text, context, agency, and ideology contributes a more adequate neo-structuralist approach. Another highlight of the programme included the keynote address by Jim Beckford. Following the new 'tradition' begun in 2001 whereby senior members are invited to discuss their work vis-à-vis the discipline, he considered changes in the field since his career began, his own intellectual journey as a scholar, and the role played by the Study Group.

At the Author Meets Critic session, David Martin talked about his latest two books: Christian Language and its Mutations and Christian Language in the Secular City. The audience was treated to a lively presentation and discussion led by panellists Robin Gill, William Keenan, and Duncan MacLaren. A welcome addition to this year's meeting was the Post-graduate Forum chaired by Mathew Guest and Neil Eliot, which was well received by student participants.

The gathering was further enhanced by a diverse collection of more than twenty five papers organised in parallel streams, many addressing the conference theme. The extraordinarily collegial tone of the conference-during which participants engaged each other in conversation at kaffeeklatsches, lunches, and special dinner-a was set by local organiser Elisabeth Arweck, along with other Study Group Committee members who assisted in the planning: Peter Collins, Ben Pink Dandelion, Douglas Davies, and Sarah Potter. Many thanks to the team for a well-organised, intellectually-stimulating and memorable event.

Nancy A. Schaefer