Advanced Research Consortium on Gender, Culture and the Knowledge Society

Religion, Gender and Human Rights Conference

An international conference, funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and Linköping University, and sponsored by NUI Galway, took place on 21-25 June 2011 in Sweden. Entitled Religion, Gender and Human Rights: Challenges for Multicultural and Democratic Societies, the conference was an initiative of the Gender and Public Sphere thematic group within Gender ARC. Dr Niamh Reilly (NUI Galway) chaired the conference with co-chairs Dr Stacey Scriver (NUI Galway) and Dr Sara Silvestri (City University London). Sixty-five international experts gathered from more than 15 countries over three days to consider the gender dimensions of new developments in the interrelation of religion, human rights and politics.

The conference aimed to move gender from the periphery to the centre of debate on the role of religion in public and political life in democratic and democratising multicultural societies. The programme was divided into three subthemes: Identity, migration, religion and multiculture, Contesting religious subjectivities and Human rights, religion and the state. Among the issues addressed were the human rights implications of different responses in Europe to women wearing the ‘Muslim veil’ and the wider challenges faced when accommodating religious pluralism and balancing different freedoms and rights in multicultural societies. Other important aspects were the changing roles of religious organisations in public life and in areas of public policy such as education, social care and healthcare provision.

There were lively debates among participants on these points. One keynote speaker, Titia Loenen, Professor of Legal Theory at Utrecht University, noted especially the very positive exchanges between early stage and advanced researchers and the importance of ensuring that the ideas of upcoming generations inform the work of more senior academics.

ESF research conferences offer a valuable opportunity for academics in universities such as NUI Galway to build European-wide research networks in areas of emerging concern and policy significance across Europe. Of the twenty research conferences that the European Science Foundation hosted in 2011, only four were in the area of social sciences and humanities. Dr Niamh Reilly and Dr Stacey Scriver, together with London-based colleague Dr Sara Silvestri, secured a prestigious ESF grant award of €40,000 for one of these four.

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Advanced Research Consortium on Gender, Culture and the Knowledge Society