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Network objectives

This project will bring together an international network of scholars and practitioners to support a new research area on surveillance and religion. Religious communities are targets, as well as consumers, of surveillance. Many Muslims in Europe and North America encounter the securitisation of their identities within counter-terrorism strategies. Jewish communities, particularly in northern Europe, rely on being subjects of state surveillance for the protection of synagogues from right-wing, neo-Nazi attack. Religious practice as a site of surveillance and religious identity as a justification for the state’s security-gaze has received little focused attention within the field of surveillance studies.

Religious communities are also consumers of surveillance. This may be in the form of CCTV for the security of places of worship (and/or vulnerable people therein) or the collection of personal data from communities of worship or potential areas of recruitment. Religious people are aware of the lure of online material that can be counter to their ethical standards. Software is marketed that can distribute a report of browsing activity to an ‘accountability partner’.

The paucity of research into surveillance and religion is the result of limited intersection between the multi-disciplinary field of surveillance studies, and the fields of religious studies and theology. This new network aims to create opportunities for engagement between these fields.

The network will be dedicated to exploring the connections between surveillance and religion in a trans-disciplinary and inter-faith approach. Its goals are threefold.

Firstly, the network will create international dialogue among scholars in surveillance studies, religious ethics and theology; across the boundaries of faith traditions and intra-faith ‘denominational’ boundaries.

Secondly, it will encourage collaborations among scholars who share common faith stances.

Thirdly, the network will establish knowledge-exchange links that foster collaboration with religious practitioners in the UK and parts of Europe (principally, but not exclusively, leaders of religious communities).

By making engagement possible between scholars of different disciplines and with diverse practitioners, this project will pool knowledge, share ideas, generate new research initiatives and consider new syntheses of methodology that will develop much-needed ways of cooperatively tackling the challenges of surveillance of, and by, religious communities.
The project will:

  1. Establish an international, multi-disciplinary network of scholars to examine the relationship between surveillance and religion. The network will bring together seasoned and emerging scholars, from a range of fields, such as sociology, theology, communications, religion, philosophy, security, government, culture, and criminology.
  2. Include religious leaders who will be able to bring their own insights as faith-practitioners and, as policy-makers and planners, connect with their respective communities.
  3. Include other participants beyond the academic and faith communities who will be able to bring the findings of the network to bear on their work as policy-makers and planners.
  4. Expand the embryonic network of surveillance studies scholars who have an interest in religion that will continue beyond the lifetime of this project and will seek to stimulate the study of surveillance and religion in new spheres.
  5. Run three workshops funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council during the period 2016-2017; one that will focus on security, the other on consuming surveillance and a third to consider connections bridging security and consumption.
  6. Publish papers from the AHRC-funded workshops. This volume will set the agenda for other research projects and give methodological clarity to the study of surveillance and religion from both an outsider and insider perspective.