Living With More Than One Tradition

18 October 2021 - 21 October 2021


What does it feel like to live with more than one religious tradition in your life, family, or community? Through presentations and facilitated discussions, this gathering will enable people who have personal experience of living in interfaith settings or belonging to more than one religious tradition to come together with academics who research multiple religious belonging and interfaith matters to explore what it’s really like. Meeting online and offering access for free, we hope to be an international community with many different perspectives. We will have live sessions to hear from speakers, a static space accessible all week to share images and documents, and opportunities for informal conversation.

Living With More Than One Tradition WoodbrookeKeynote Speaker: Professor Mitsutoshi Horii
Mitsutoshi Horii is Professor of Sociology, Shumei University, Japan, and Principal, Chaucer College, UK. He is the author of The Category of ‘Religion’ in Contemporary Japan: Shūkyō and Temple Buddhism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). His forthcoming book is entitled ‘Religion’ and ‘Secular’ Categories in Sociology: Decolonizing the Modern Myth (Palgrave Macmillan).

To be Pragmatic about the Categories of ‘Religion’ and ‘Tradition’
This keynote lecture explores what it means to live with more than one tradition or more than one religion, from the perspective I have developed in my recent publications. My academic research in recent years critically examines the ways in which people’s lifeways and worldviews are classified into ‘religious’ and ‘nonreligious’ or ‘secular’ kinds. My argument is that the religious-secular distinction is an ideological construction, which has historically been built to normalise specific norms and values. In the same way, the boundaries between different ‘religions’ are also arbitrary. In addition, what we call ‘tradition’ is an invention, too. This way of thinking challenges implicit forms of essentialism in the conventional ideas of ‘religion’ and ‘tradition.’

The boundaries between ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular,’ and those between multiple ‘religions,’ are all artificial. When we reframe our thoughts based upon this position, it helps us to focus on commonalities, rather than differences, between different human lifeways and worldviews. When we recognise that what we call ‘tradition’ is an invention, it helps us to realise that current traditions are hybrids of prior traditions. These points of view will be clarified by using examples from my critical study of the category ‘religion’ in Japan.

From this perspective, I would like to rethink the main question of this event – what it means to live with more than one tradition or more than one religion. The ideas of ‘one tradition’ and ‘one religion’ are artificially created illusions, and all that exist are unclassified diversities of lifeways and worldviews. What matters the most for us is to consider carefully how we should name and classify the world and human phenomena around us. My hope is that this kind of detachment from, and pragmatism about, the categories of ‘tradition’ and ‘religion’ could encourage us constructively to reflect upon our own identities. I believe that it also provides us with something useful to overcome challenges and struggles in the world where ‘tradition’ and ‘religion’ are still understood as distinguishable and independent from other aspects of human life.

This event is being organised in partnership with the Hyphen Project. Find out more about them on the University of Birmingham website:

All times given are UK time.

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This course will involve:

Live discussionLive talkPrivate discussionRecorded videoWritten and visual

Accessibility info:

On the booking form, there is a chance for you to let us know about any accessibility or communications adjustments that will enable you to participate more fully in the course. Closed captions can be made available on all recorded material and may be available for live sessions upon request; please contact us directly in addition to booking if you require closed captions.

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