Religion, security and surveillance

Faith traditions understand the Divine gaze, Divine assistance, and human relations in different ways. These religious themes relate directly to contemporary issues of national and personal security to which surveillance technologies are a significant response.

The Surveillance and Religion Network, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, aims to advance understanding in faith communities and the public sphere, including the academy. We are convening a workshop in Birmingham, UK, 17 – 19 October 2016 to bring together faith practitioners, theologians and surveillance studies scholars. (More details here.)

Theological ideas of Divine omniscience, omnipotence and Providence, along with political and social ethics, intersect with 21st century strategies of data-gathering, profiling, and pre-emptive intervention. Faith traditions have contributions to make to public debate regarding the widespread use of surveillance technologies to address security concerns.

In some cases it is religious identity that marks people for more intensive, and arguably intrusive, surveillance.  More widely, the ways in which surveillance systems shape social relationships demands critical examination.

Participation in the workshop.

We invite leaders in faith communities and theologians to propose a short talk (10 minutes) or a more substantial academic paper (30 minutes) they would like to give at the workshop in October.  (Where a tradition distinguishes between ‘lay’ and ‘ordained’ we welcome proposals from both. ‘Theologians’ may, or may not, have a formal academic affiliation.)  The aim of a talk or paper could be to unpack some aspects of how the speaker’s own faith tradition interprets theological themes that intersect with contemporary surveillance concerns such as privacy, trust, or risk. Alternatively, a talk might focus on the experience of the speaker’s faith community when its members encounter surveillance-security systems (e.g., in airline passenger profiling).

The workshop takes place during the afternoon of Monday 17th October, all day Tuesday 18th, and the morning of Wednesday 18th. There is no workshop registration fee: the facilities as well as light refreshments at the workshop, including lunch on Wednesday, are funded by an Arts & Humanities Research Council grant. Participants from outside Birmingham will, however, need to make their own accommodation arrangements.

Preferential B&B rates at the workshop venue are available for bookings made before 31st August 2016. Details on booking will be provided to participants but single occupancy B&B rate for 17th October is £63 per room, for 18th October is £85 per room. There is no requirement that participants take accommodation at the venue.

Next step.

If you would like to give a short talk or a more substantial paper to the workshop please send a short proposal (not more than 300 words) to the workshop organiser, Dr Eric Stoddart, not later than 24th August 2016. Please indicate your position within a particular faith tradition and whether you would like to attend the whole, or just part, of the workshop.