Theology, Religion and Popular Culture Network
The Theology, Religion and Popular Culture Network was founded in 2005 at the initiative of Professors Gordon Lynch and Peter Ward. It was recognised that there was a need for some serious, rigorous academic engagement within the field of interaction between religion and popular culture which, whilst undertaken on an academic footing, also recognised the challenges brought to and by popular culture’s presence in faith communities. The appearance of the word ‘theology’ in the Network’s title signalled that practitioners as well as academics were involved.
In similar ways to the manner in which discussions were happening in cultural studies about how (indeed whether) scholars could also be fans, and fans of what they were allegedly critically and dispassionately studying, it was acknowledged that those studying popular culture and religion might be fans of both popular culture and religion. They might also be critical of neither. At the same time, it could not be assumed that no interests were being served in the work of scholars professing no religious commitments.
It was, then, a live issue to enable exploration of commitment/s (to religion and/or popular culture) in a critically rigorous, academically-satisfying way, in a way which may benefit faith communities and wider society. A new forum needed to be found for this. TRPCN was born.
The Network therefore exists to broker the best of research into popular culture and faith/ religion/ theology to faith communities, and to encourage rigorous academic reflection (for those of all faiths and none) on issues which arise in society at the interface between popular cultures, theologies and religions.
The Network enables people from a variety of disciplines – not just religious studies, theology and sociology, but also sport and cultural studies, psychology, anthropology, media studies – anyone who has an interest in what goes on at the contemporary interface between religion and popular culture, to examine what is happening in society today.
The Network had largely, though not exclusively, Christian roots when it first emerged. It clearly could not stay that way, though it has proved a slow process to become more religiously diverse. Nor could it be confined to an interplay between religious studies and sociology, though as anyone who works in inter-disciplinary fields knows, it is hard to foster wide networks simply because different disciplines speak different languages and have different methods. But the Network is committed to enabling as wide a conversation as is possible to take place.
It looks likely that the Network will continue to support a major event every two years – and is now beginning to plan for the 6th event which it has either directly organised or has co-sponsored for 2017.
To register your interest in the Network’s work, and to receive its, and other groups’, mailings about events in the field, sign up to join the e-mailing list at: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?SUBED1=TRPC&A=1
To raise any queries, or to offer any suggestions, pertaining to the Network’s life, please contact either of the co-chairs: Dr. Steve Knowles (University of Chester) firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Clive Marsh (University of Leicester) email@example.com