Religion in American Life Conference

Religion in American Life
Two-day international conference, February 22-24, 2013

50 years ago, the religious landscape in the U.S. and the relationship between state, law, and religion was transformed. In the landmark cases Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), the US Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional school-sponsored prayer and Bible reading activities, sparking sharp debates about the place of religion in American life. To mark the anniversaries of both cases, the Institute of North American Studies at King’s College London and the School of History and Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent are holding an international conference on the theme of “Religion in American Life.”

The conference brings together 65 international experts on US religion who will discuss the role of religion in American life. Contributing perspectives from the political sciences, religious studies, history, American studies and media studies, the scholars will discuss the transformation of religious practices in the US, and examine the nature of secularization processes in America, as signified by the two court cases. The papers analyze the interplay between religion, politics, the law, and cultural change over the course of three centuries. With its interdisciplinary approaches the conference aims to provide a deeper understanding of the striking dynamism of religious life in the United States today.

The conference opens on Friday, February 22nd, with a keynote lecture by Darren Dochuk entitled: “Sun Oil: What the History of a Petroleum Company can Teach us about Religion in American Life” . Darren Dochuk is Professor in Humanities at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. His first book, published in 2011, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (W.W. Norton) garnered a number of awards, including The Society of American Historians’ Allan Nevins Prize, American Historical Association’s John H. Dunning book prize for outstanding historical writing on any subject in U.S. history, and The Organization of American Historians’ Ellis W. Hawley prize for best book in post-Civil War U.S. political history. Professor Dochuk is currently working on a project tentatively titled Anointed With Oil: God and Black Gold in Modern America.

The conference was made possible by financial support from the Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (KIASH), the University of Kent, King’s College London, and King’s Worldwide.

Click here for conference programme.

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