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Today we are pleased to have launched the new Critical Religion Association and website (http://criticalreligion.org) - a new site, with many pages imported from a site hosted by the University of Stirling. That site still exists (http://www.criticalreligion.stir.ac.uk/), and is now exclusively about the Critical Religion Research Group (CRRG) based at Stirling. So why this new site?
We have been pleasantly surprised, overwhelmed even, by the success of the CRRG site, which has attracted many thousands of visitors (the university even had to give us reserved server-space to accommodate the numbers!). The blog that we produced on the CRRG site was the primary attraction in this regard, and our readership has grown consistently and sometimes in unexpected ways since we started that site with a posting on 31.1.11 by Andrew Hass, asking the ever pertinent question, What is a University for? On the back of that and a subsequent posting on a related theme, he was interviewed for a BBC programme broadcast earlier this year. This is but one example of the numerous ways in which our site has reached people in many different settings.
This extensive readership has emerged in part through our good connection to Ekklesia, Britain’s leading think-tank on religion, and we are very grateful to them. In particular, we want to record our thanks to Simon Barrow, one of the co-directors, for continual support, encouragement, and reposting of blog entries. Whilst we have generated many thousands of hits on our website, Ekklesia’s reposting of our blogs has ensured a readership well into six figures. Ekklesia has also been involved in a public lecture we organised in London, held by Professor Naomi Goldenberg (as an aside, we are very glad that she is joining this new project).
We are delighted that Ekklesia are happy to continue their engagement with the new CRA, and we look forward to ongoing collaboration with them.
As the CRRG site became more well-known, we also began to receive requests from other scholars seeking to be involved. We – the Stirling staff running the CRRG site – discussed this at length this summer, and decided that the best way for the site to include scholars working in Critical Religion elsewhere would be to create an entirely new website. This would not be based so explicitly at Stirling, though its roots would be there. Instead, the new website would enable scholars from around the world to become more easily involved, make connections, and foster intellectual exchange. This, the Critical Religion Association website, is the result of that decision.
All the postings from the old site are being imported here (at the time of writing, a small number still need to be republished, but that will happen very soon). Our first new blog posting is by Stirling’s Timothy Fitzgerald, and addresses the issue of the breadth of Critical Religion. The following week, we will be posting a fascinating piece on Lebanon by Alex Henley, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, currently based at Harvard University’s Centre for Middle Eastern Studies. We see these two blog postings as an important symbol of the new site: Critical Religion is not only a way of approaching topics that long-established scholars are picking up on, but it is also something that some of the most promising emerging scholars in critical thought are engaging with, and indeed, perhaps some of the most exciting ways of thinking about Critical Religion are to be found with newer scholars.
It is our hope that the new site will enable this kind of range of scholarship to reach a much broader audience. Whilst staff based at Stirling will continue to write blog entries, we will be featuring contributions from many other scholars based in other institutions and countries around the world. We expect the Scholars page – today dominated by those at Stirling involved in this project – to gradually grow and include many other people, all of whom will be writing for the blog. Critical Religion, as Tim Fitzgerald says in his blog posting today, is not just about ‘religion’, but about interrogating many other assumptions about modes of thought, and in that context, we look forward to wide-ranging discussions and engagement. On this note: we welcome enquiries from scholars seeking to join us: please take a moment to look at the Organisation page for details. We also intend the engagement with these topics to happen in new ways as well (for example, we are now on Facebook), and details of further plans we have will be forthcoming (these include development of audio and video content, more formal publications, and much more). We also welcome suggestions for additional things we might pursue.
We want to thank you, our readers, for stimulating our thinking in these areas for nearly two years now. As the new site has been worked on over recent months, blog postings have become infrequent, but we look forward to picking up on that again now. This is a new and exciting stage in our exploration of Critical Religion and we are grateful that you are with us, engaging with our work, challenging established thinking, and enriching everyone’s understanding.
Tim Fitzgerald, Andrew Hass, Alison Jasper, Michael Marten
* The Critical Religion Association - pioneering intellectual engagement with questions of religion. http://criticalreligion.org/
* Critical Religion articles and news on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/criticalreligion
Michael Marten is Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies with Religion at Stirling University. More about his work here: http://criticalreligion.org/scholars/university-of-stirling/michael-marten/Tweet