The Cadbury Lectures 2016: Religion in Public Life:  Levelling the Ground

1 March - 10 March 2016

Hosted by the Department of Theology and Religion. Our theme for 2016 was ‘Religion in Public Life:  Levelling the Ground', and consisted of a series of four lectures given by Professor Grace Davie (University of Exeter).

It is a commonplace to say that religion has returned to public life.  And like most commonplaces it is partially true.  Religion is most certainly present in public life in new and very visible ways but to imply that religion was once nowhere and is now everywhere is seriously misleading.  We need instead to enquire into the factors that have brought about the current shift in perspective.  That done, we must examine in detail the different - and at times contrasting - ways in which religion manifests itself in the very varied segments of society that we deem to be public.

Professor Grace Davie has chosen to tackle these questions by considering a series of 'levels', starting with the local and working up to the global. This is not a case of one size fits all. In so doing Professor Davie will pay particular attention to the notion of 'religious literacy' - a frequently used term. Central to the argument will be the need to think more analytically about this concept, and then to discern which particular body of knowledge (and associated discourse) is appropriate at which 'level', recognizing that the connections which emerge are very unlikely to be one-on-one relationships.

You can now read Professor Davie's essay that draws on her Cadbury Lectures, 'Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground', published by Theos.

Programme and videos of the lectures

1 March 2016
Lecture 1: Thinking locally: continuity and change 

This lecture will begin with an introduction to the series as a whole. It will then develop the 'local' case, underlining that the story is as much one of evolution as revolution. Exeter/the South West will be taken as an example, which will include attention to rural issues. What can and cannot be 'sustained'?
Watch the lecture

3 March 2016
Lecture 2: Rethinking the metropolis: The unexpected can and does happen

The second lecture focuses on London - a truly global city. Gone are the supposedly negative associations between religion and urban life beloved of social science. Emerging instead is a vibrant religious market serving an ever more diverse city. An imaginative response is required.
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8 March 2016
Lecture 3: National conversations: whose feathers are ruffled?

This lecture looks at two national debates which ran parallel and remain to a large extent unresolved.  The first was triggered by Faith in the City; the second by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.  A common theme is captured in the following question: whose feathers are ruffled when the churches intervene in public debate?
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10 March 2016
Lecture 4: Global challenges: The contributions of social science

The final lecture introduces a global initiative: The International Panel on Social Progress.  It asks two things: what is the role of religion in social progress and how can social science assist our understanding of this relationship? A short conclusion draws the threads of all four lectures together.
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Professor Grace Davie

Professor Grace Davie is professor emeritus in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter UK and a senior adviser to the Impact of Religion Research Programme at Uppsala University.  She is a past-president of the American Association for the Sociology of Religion (2003) and of the Research Committee 22 (Sociology of Religion) of the International Sociological Association (2002-06). 

In 2000-01 Professor Davie was the Kerstin-Hesselgren Professor at Uppsala, where she returned for extended visits in 2006-7, 2010 and 2012, receiving an honorary degree in 2008.  Professor Davie has also held visiting appointments at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (1996) and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (1998 and 2003), both in Paris.

In addition to numerous chapters and articles, Professor Davie is the author of Religion in Britain since 1945 (Blackwell 1994), Religion in Modern Europe (OUP 2000), Europe: the Exceptional Case (DLT 2002), The Sociology of Religion (Sage 2007/2013) and Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (Wiley-Blackwell 2015); she is the co-author of Religious America, Secular Europe (Ashgate 2008), and co-editor of Predicting Religion (Ashgate 2003) and Welfare and Religion in 21st Century Europe (2 vols) (Ashgate 2010 and 2011).  

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