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Call for contributions to edited volume on surveillance and religion

Surveillance and Religion: Faith Communities Watching and Being Watched

to be edited by Eric Stoddart (Scotland) and Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson (Sweden)

Call for contributions to an edited volume.


Religious communities are targets, as well as users, of surveillance. Balancing human rights to freedom of religion, of expression and of privacy is a complex activity that intersects with politics, culture and, significantly, religious beliefs and practices. These inter-related dimensions will be the focus of an edited volume examining everyday encounters with surveillance systems across a range of faith traditions and global contexts.

Religious traditions have significant contributions to make to contemporary discussions of the ethics of surveillance – whether in the realm of national security, human rights, trust, privacy and human flourishing in general. As targets, Muslims (for example) currently encounter the securitisation of their identity when the state or commercial companies seek to address, prevent and pre-empt terrorism. Questions around the surveillance of religious communities has a long history for example in the UK and Ireland, given conflict on the island of Ireland.

Religious communities also use surveillance. The need to secure their property can lead to the use of CCTV at, and in, places of worship. A search for accurate data on the growth or decline of a denomination (or local congregation) leads to information gathering that, depending on the resources available, might be sophisticated ‘customer’ data management. Also, rituals create new sorts of interactive and digitalized possibilities which can open for a new understanding of community, and also serve as a tool for steering behaviour.

Given that most religious worldviews include a concept of a watching deity/deities, the matter of encountering surveillance needs to be examined in the light of specific beliefs. The ethical challenges of using and participating in surveillance need to be considered within and between the beliefs of respective religions or faith stances.

Together, the essays will show the value of integrating religious and theological studies into the field of surveillance studies. Core questions for this collection are:

  • What is the everyday experience of religious groups within cultures of surveillance?
  • How do communities of faith interpret contemporary surveillance from the perspective of their own systems of belief and practice?
  • How, and why, do state or corporate actors target religious groups and believers for surveillance?
  • What is the potential for religious traditions to contribute effectively to global surveillance ethics?

Other perspectives are invited, such as human rights or political science.

Articles will be 8-9,000 words in length, including references. At this stage, abstracts are invited of approximately 150-200 words accompanied by a short biography. These should be sent to Eric Stoddart ([email protected]) – to which queries may also be addressed.

The extended deadline for abstract submission is 15 May 2021. The editors aim to respond by end of May 2021. Subject to securing a publishing contract for the volume as a whole, contributors will be expected to submit first drafts by 31 January 2022.

Eric Stoddart Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson
School of Divinity
University of St Andrews, Scotland
University College Stockholm / Stockholm School of Theology, Sweden
Coordinators of the Surveillance and Religion Network


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