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Centre for Religion and Public Life

September 2020

Welcome, everyone, to our first newsletter of the academic year 2020/21. We are looking forward to a fantastic year of seminars, events, blogs and articles associated with the Centre.  In this newsletter, you will find details of our seminar series (which will remain, unless we are told otherwise, as an online event through Microsoft Teams), as well as other exciting news from over the summer period. We hope to see you at our events this year. Johanna and Caroline (Interim CRPL Co-Directors)

New on the Religion in Public blog

Our Centre's Religion in Public blog has featured a great new post over the summer in our exciting Faith and Activism series: We have also just published a highly topical blog article by our own Professor Rachel Muers, titled On 'British Fair Play': Christian Theology and the Rule of Law.

Our Researcher of the Month in August was Dr Lee-Shae Salma Scharnick-Udemans, and you can read about her journey here.

We are currently still accepting proposals for contributions for the Faith and Activism series. If you are interested in contributing, please read through our CfP here and contact Hollie Gowan at

CRPL Seminars 2020/21

Over the summer, Johanna and Caroline have been busily planning the CRPL seminar series for this year.  We are thrilled to have confirmed such a great range of national and international speakers.  Our seminar series will take place every fortnight on a Thursday, starting on the 1st October.  The confirmed line-up for semester 1 is:

October 1st (4pm):  Dr Olivia Wilkinson (Joint Learning Initiative) UNICEF Faith and Positive Change for Children Project. Note time change from usual seminar time.

October 15th (2pm): Dr Amy Langenberg (Eckerd College, Florida) and Dr Ann Gleig (University of Central Florida). From Sudinna to the Sangha Sutra: Classical and Contemporary Buddhist Responses to Sexual Misconduct. Note time change from usual seminar time. 

October 29th (11.30-1pm, 2 papers in one session!) Dr Nella van den Brandt (Utrecht University) Losing Faith  and Complicating Belonging: An Exploration of Stories of Women Leaving Religion and Dr Mariecke van de Berg (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)  Saying No to Jesus: A Theology of Failed Conversion.

November 12th (11.30-1pm) Professor Simon Robinson (Leeds Beckett University) The Duty of Candour? Does Theology have a contribution?

November 26th (11.30-1pm) Dr Megan Robertson (University of the Western Cape) Butch Lesbians, Femme Queens and Promiscious Clergy: Queering the Body Politics of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

December 10th (3pm - 4.30pm) Dr Philip Deslippe (UC Santa Barbara) Title TBC. Note change from usual seminar time. 

If you would like to attend the seminars, and you haven't already been sent an Outlook link, please get in touch with Dr Hollie Gowan ( for a TEAMS joining link. 

We hope you will join us for what promises to be a super series of talks!


Dr Mikel Burley on YouTube!

CRPL members will be interested in two of Dr Mikel Burley's lectures which are now available to watch on YouTube.

'Samkhya philosophy and Yoga practice: how are they related?', SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies, 26 June 2020,

'Conceptions of immortality and nirvana among interpreters of Buddhism', Inform, 30 July 2020,

Congratulations to Dr Mel Prideaux

We are thrilled to annouce that our very own Dr Mel Prideaux has been awarded the British Association for the Study of Religion (BASR) Teaching and Learning Fellowship.  Dr Prideaux is an inspirational teacher in Leeds PRHS, who earlier this summer also received a University Partnership award for her innovations and dedication to student education.  Congratulations, Mel!

CRPL gets a shout-out in the Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies!


Johanna Stiebert guest-edited a special issue of the open access Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (JIBS), Volume 2/1, which was published in September 2020. It has the title Activism in the Biblical Studies Classroom: Global Perspectives and includes contributions on a range of social justice causes and strategies. Johanna's introduction includes a special tribute to CRPL... 

Leeds Community Religions Project

The Community Religions Project continues to be busy supporting student engagement and research. During 2020 Natasha Jones (level 2)  has been working as an undergraduate research assistant with Dr Mel Prideaux (CRP Director) on a teaching resource to support the recently produced BASR Research Ethics Guidelines. They presented the work undertaken at the BASR 2020 online conference where Mel was also awarded the BASR Teaching and Learning Fellowship.

The CRP will also be helping students to feel at home in Leeds during these unsettled times by running a series of CRP Walks. During Induction Week all new students will be invited on a Campus Tour where they will explore some of the lesser known religious features of the campus landscape. Then throughout the semester there will be weekly walks from the campus to somewhere in Leeds looking at religion en route and at the destination. Students from all levels can meet each other (physically distanced of course!) and get to know bits of Leeds they might not yet have seen - whilst also being encouraged to apply their learning to what they observe in the locality.

For more information on the work of the Community Religions Project visit our webpage ( or contact Mel (


Conceptualising Religious Infastructures International Workshop, September 24th, 2020

Infrastructure is conventionally defined as the background “scaffolding” that makes social and economic activity— even life itself —possible. Recent anthropological studies have foregrounded the social work that infrastructural networks do by constituting and reconfiguring everyday forms of sociality and lived experience. These insights generate new opportunities to “think infrastructurally” (Chu 2014) about religion.

Bringing together international scholars with empirically-grounded contributions from sub-Saharan African, Russian and Central Asian settings, this workshop aims to consolidate a theoretical framework of “religious infrastructures” which extends the concept’s analytical potential. In thinking infrastructurally about religion, we explore how religiously-devised infrastructures intersect with broader infrastructural landscapes, and how—no less than mass transit systems and water supply networks—they sustain shared ecologies and enable socio-material conditions of life support and survival (e.g. Böhme 2017; Farías/Blok 2016; Larkin 2016). We focus on the agency of religious infrastructures themselves rather than their constituent parts, i.e. specific objects or technologies mediating (religious) experiences (cf. De Vries 2008; Meyer 2015). This multi-scalar and multi-sited notion of infrastructure presents new ways of thinking about the distribution and operations of religious agency, generating alternative units of analysis for the study of religion. It also contributes to wider efforts to dislodge received assumptions about “religions”, or indeed “religion” as a bounded domain which can be understood in isolation from “secular” dynamics (Larkin 2016; Spies 2019).

  • Everyone is invited to participate as an active "attendee" (paper presentations are already planned).
  • You can sign up by emailing Dr Benjamin Kirby at and you will recieve a Zoom link.
  • The workshop is funded by Frobenius Institute Frankfurt and the British Academy.


Kenyan, Christian, Queer film goes global!

The documentary film Kenyan, Christian, Queer was launched on 31 July, with hundreds of people from across the world being part of the global premiere. The film, which is related to CRPL member Adriaan van Klinken’s book Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism and Arts of Resistance in Africa, features the first LGBT church in Kenya. It documents how this community provides a space where LGBT Kenyans can be affirmed in their sexuality and faith, and how it seeks to promote an inclusive and progressive form of Christianity in a rather conservative society. 

Since its launch, the film has been screened at the SOUL Festival of the British Film Institute, and in the coming weeks will be screened at three more international film festivals: Africa in Motion (Glasgow), Film Africa (London) and Out on Film (Atlanta). If you haven’t watched the film yet, please register for one of these festivals for a virtual screening.  More festivals are lined up for later this year. When the COVID-19 restrictions have relaxed, we also hope to host a life screening on campus.  

Religion, Power and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World

Dr Caroline Starkey has co-edited an Religions journal special edition, entitled Religion, Power and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World.  The articles in the special edition, all of which are sociologically-focused, are open access, and can be found here.

ABOUT THE Centre for Religion and Public Life

The Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds is a hub for research into the important, and increasingly contentious, role of religion in public life in the world today, both locally, nationally and internationally. It provide a forum in which contemporary research and scholarship can be debated and disseminated. The Centre works closely with non-academic partners to identify the ways in which religion is relevant to their work and to produce research that is capable of meeting their need to better understand the nature of religion and religious organisations locally, nationally and internationally.

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