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Bringing Stratification Processes “Back In” to the Scientific Study of Religion
A Penn State Stratification and Social Change Conference
Nittany Lion Inn on the Penn State Campus
May 20 – 21, 2011
The Penn State Stratification and Social Change conference series aims to reinvigorate the theoretical and empirical linkages between the concerns of traditional stratification scholars and the concerns of leading scholars in other substantive sociological scholarly arenas. Social stratification—that is wealth, income and status inequality and associated social mobility processes—has long been a core focus of sociological research. In recent years, however, research on stratification has become increasingly disconnected from some of the substantive institutional arenas of modern societies and of areas of growing import to the field — areas like religion, family, and social movements. We aim to bring the conceptual gear of social stratification processes “back in” to increasingly vital communities of sociologists working with new and diverse conceptual kit bags of their own. Mainstream stratification scholars also have much to learn from key developments in other subfields. This series of conferences is intended to generate a series of vigorous intellectual exchange around stratification; we believe such debate will trigger important proposals for new research directions for stratification scholars and provide rich opportunities to improve and complicate the agendas unfolding in these related subfields.
The Penn State Department of Sociology will convene its first Stratification and Social Change Conference—Bringing Stratification Processes “Back In” to the Scientific Study of Religion—during the spring of 2011 on the Penn State campus. John D. McCarthy, Professor and Head of the Penn State Department and Lisa Keister, Professor and Director of the Markets and Management Program in the Duke University Department of Sociology will serve as co-conveners of the Conference. Michael Hout, Director of the Berkeley Population Center Professor of Sociology, Professor of Sociology and Department Chair of Demography at the University of California, Berkley, will deliver a keynote address. We are soliciting 12-14 original manuscripts; selected authors will present their work at the conference and several leading scholars will serve as critical discussants. The collection of papers will be published in a special issue of
Research in the Sociology of Work.
The intersection of religion and stratification is ripe for new thinking and research; while it was once quite central to earlier sociological thought and practice, in recent years, with minor exceptions, it represents an almost pure vacuum in scholarship. Sociological interest in the relationship between religion and social stratification structures and processes has its origins in the writings of Karl Marx, who saw religion as an ideology of exploitation, and Max Weber, who wrote of three class-based systems of religious meaning. Of special importance in the American context was the emphasis placed upon social class by the widely influential work of H. Richard Niebuhr (1929:19) who wrote of “the churches of the disinherited” — those that catered to the religious tastes of low-income Americans. Empirical research relying on evidence from the middle decades of the Twentieth Century confirmed differences in the religious activities of lower class, middle class, and upper class Christians in the United States, particularly the lack of church participation among low-income Christians (e.g., Demerath 1965; Vidich and Bensman 1958). By the 1970s, however, social scientists had come to believe that the effect of social class on religious participation had pretty much disappeared (e.g., Alston and McIntosh 1979; Hoge and Carroll 1978), leading Mueller and Johnson
(1975:798) to conclude that the interest in class differences in religious involvement was “perhaps unwarranted (at least in contemporary society).” Today, accelerated globalization processes are affecting stratification processes both within and between nations in direct and indirect ways. These same processes also contribute to changing patterns of religious affiliation, participation, and ideation. Taken together, these observations urge us to push the neglected nexus of religion and stratification back to the
center of discourse on social change.
We envision scholars proposing papers for the conference that focus upon how religious structures and process affect stratification structures and processes, and illuminate the reverse causal process. Some papers will draw upon ongoing research and theoretical agendas, and others will propose ambitious new agendas. We anticipate papers that will focus upon single nations, but we hope to receive papers that use crossnational evidence to illuminate transnational processes. Scholars who are interested in participating in the conference should submit either an extended abstract (3 to 6 pages) or a completed paper to the conveners by January 15, 2011. Authors will be notified of acceptance by late February. Lodging and meals will be provided for all participants.
Submit abstracts or papers via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and also by mail to:
Department of Sociology, Penn State University
Attention: Erin Murtha
211 Oswald Tower
University Park, PA 16802-6207
For additional information on the Conference Contact Erin Murtha at 814-863-4907 or
via email to email@example.com