Yes, as of today we have a new research project at the University of Newcastle. It builds on the former Religion and Radicalism project, but is bigger and better. A whole bunch of Marxists have joined us, from history, sociology, education, economics, and so on.
So here’s the propaganda sheet, or manifesto as one member called it.
Religion, Marxism and Secularism
This research program brings together those interested in the rich intersections between religion, Marxism, and secularism. Each has a much-debated presence in global politics and public life, generating some of the most significant issues of our time. We address these debates through three research concentrations:
- Marxism: religion, culture and education
- History: religion, radicalism and revolution
- Political theory: religion after secularisation
The program is based in the School of Humanities and Social Science in the Faculty of Education and Arts, at the University of Newcastle. The university is uniquely positioned for such a research program: it is situated in the Hunter Valley of Australia, with its rich mixture of working class culture, artistic communities, and a stunning natural environment. This context has produced a long history of radical political and religious activity, creating the possibilities for thinking in new ways and for exploring unexpected connections and ideas.
The Religion, Marxism and Secularism program brings together researchers with skills from philosophy, religious thought, history, sociology, education, cultural studies and political theory. The program is also the nerve centre for a global research network, with international conferences, scholarly exchanges, postgraduate students from around the world, and a major book series with Palgrave Macmillan, called Religion and Radicalism.
Marxism: Religion, Culture and Education
Marxism in all its variety is the focus of this concentration, with specific interest in religion, culture and education.
The perpetual and sustained interest in religion by Marxist philosophy goes back to Marx and Engels, and it is found in all of the leading philosophers and activists of that tradition, including Lenin and Mao Zedong. We also research the use of Marxist methods for interpreting religions, with a focus on historical movements, scriptures, and religious thought. Indeed, the University of Newcastle is at the centre of a world-wide renewal in debates over the question of Marxism and religion.
Cultural analysis has been a feature of Marxist approaches for decades. Our concerns are popular cultural forms, such as music, literature, film, and the internet – with a focus on protest and resistance. In terms of education and Marxism, the history is long and full of fascinating practices: Soviet-era Russia and Eastern Europe provide rich contexts for analysis, as do the continuing educational policies of Vietnam, China and South American socialism.
The Marxism concentration has close collaborative research links with centres for Marxism in China. These include Renmin University (Beijing), Fudan University (Shanghai) and the Academy of Marxism, within the Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing).
History: Religion, Radicalism, Revolution
Historical analysis is another crucial feature of our program, with a focus on revolution and radical religion. While the religious right has been grabbing the headlines (Christian reactionaries, Islamic militants, Hindu nationalists), the radically progressive forms of religion and politics have received less attention. We seek to address this imbalance.
The revolutionary religious tradition is long and colourful, full of ‘heretics’, armed peasants and workers, and new forms of communal life. This tradition typically has three features. First, tyrannical earthly powers are condemned since they do not live up to divine justice, particularly for the poor and oppressed. Second, communal forms of life are practised, in which radical equality – in terms of gender, class and ethnicity – is assumed and property is held in common. We are particularly interested in the crucial role of gender and sexuality in such formations. Third, new types of spirituality appear that both arise from and feed into communal life and radical calls for justice. Such movements have appeared from the earliest moments of religions such as Christianity, including the Peasant Revolution with Thomas Müntzer of sixteenth century Europe, the Diggers with Gerrard Winstanley in seventeenth century England, the Taiping Revolution in nineteenth century China, Liberation theologies of the twentieth century and their influence on politics today in Latin America.
Political Theory: Religion after Secularisation
Religion’s new and persistent visibility demands critical analysis of past secularisation theory. Assumed interpretations of key European thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger and Karl Barth are now challenged and members of our team are leading the effort to reinterpret their work. A significant feature of the program is to develop an Australian tradition of political theory that contributes to international debate. Earlier elements of this tradition may be found not in the assumed locations of philosophical endeavour, but rather in the unexpected realms of religious thought. Further, we explore key contemporary issues such as interreligious strife in the public sphere and the unfolding investigations into sexual abuse by clergy in major religious traditions. These elements will be worked into an innovative and coherent whole that addresses the distinct nature of Australian political life.
Roland Boer, School of Humanities and Social Science
Members (in alphabetical order):
Geoffrey Boucher, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University
Euridice Charon-Cardona, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Tom Griffiths, School of Education
James Juniper, Newcastle Business School, Faculty of Business and Law
Terry Lovat, Faculty of Education and Arts
Frank Millward, School of Fine Arts
Marion Maddox, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University
Roger Markwick, School of Humanities and Social Science
Kathleen McPhillips, School of Humanities and Social Science
Sara Motta, Newcastle Business School, Faculty of Business and Law
Christina Petterson, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Timothy Stanley, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Robert Myles, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle
Sean Durbin, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University; School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle
Lu Shaochen, Centre for the Study of Contemporary Marxism Abroad, Fudan University, China (2012)
Mika Ojakangas, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (2013)
Chen Guo, Social Sciences Institute, Fudan University, China (2014-2015)