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Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular

Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular

Edited by Abby Day and Christopher R. Cotter

Call for Papers

Many people may not identify strongly or consistently as religious, yet

religion still matters for them at certain times and in certain

contexts. Rather than dismiss those self-identifications as meaningless,

incoherent or insignificant, we may find through in-depth research that

they are meaningful, coherent and differently significant (Day 2011).

What is sometimes construed as empty space is filled with something –

but what? One typology advanced by Day (2006; 2009; 2011) suggested

Christian ‘nominalism’ is an important way to mark social identities she

described as Christian ethnic nominalism; natal nominalism and

aspirational nominalism. While her theory about Christian ethnic

nominalism has been analysed cross-culturally and operationalized (see,

for example, Storm 2009; Voas 2009) it is still limited by its Christian

scope. Are there Muslim or Buddhist ‘nominalists’, for example? How can

we best describe and understand such people who are neither, or are,

perhaps, more fluidly, religious or secular? (Woodhead 2012)

Such explorations require innovative methods that do not force religious

answers with religious questions and suggest new interpretations of what

it may mean to be ‘non-religious’ (Cotter 2011). This under-explored

domain between the secular and the sacred is a contested space that

requires further investigation through innovative methods and fresh

analytical thinking.

We are therefore delighted that we have been encouraged by the editors

and publisher of the new Ashgate AHRC/ESRC Religion & Society series,

edited by Prof. Linda Woodhead and Dr Rebecca Catto, to submit a full

proposal for an edited collection: Social Identities between the Sacred

and the Secular.

Our first priority has been to confirm the participation of key Religion

& Society programme scholars. We are now extending our Call to the

wider academic community. Publication dates will be negotiated but we

will aim for chapter submission date by April 2012, assuming 12-14

chapters of 5,000 words each.

Below you will find a summary of the publication. If you would like to

contribute, please let us know as soon as possible and provide a title

and 100-word abstract by October 31 2011.

Email: and


This collection of interdisciplinary chapters will present current

empirical scholarship from local, national and international contexts.

Work will negotiate and advance knowledge and understanding of the

important conceptual and lived spaces between the contested poles of the

‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’.

Researchers finding themselves in this space often did not expect to be

here. Many may have intended to study ‘traditionally’ religious or

non-religious individuals, communities, and institutions, but found

something else, something that was neither religious nor secular. It is

that important work we aim to capture.