Lived Religion Workshop

Alan Wolfe, Boston College
Patricia M. Y. Chang, Boston College
Nancy Ammerman, Hartford Seminary
R. Marie Griffith, Princeton University

Dates: June 14 – 16, 2002
Location: 24 Quincy Road, Boisi Center


From June 14th through the 16th the Boisi Center hosted a workshop for younger scholars working on the theme of “Lived Religion.” This label issued increasingly to distinguish ethnographic research that focuses on the everyday “lived experiences” of religious practitioners. The workshop, which included senior scholars Nancy Ammerman and Marie Griffith, brought together advanced graduate students and junior scholars working in different contexts in order to facilitate a sharing of experiences among researchers who are typically immersed in the context of a single congregation or group. The research engaged in by participants ranged across a diverse spectrum of religious tastes and themes including Lesbian-Bisexual-Gay and Transgendered congregations, bi-racial congregations, Lutheran congregations in Anupiac villages, and AIDS activism. The discussions ought to bring the scholars together across this diversity by focusing sessions on the themes of identity, worship, witnessing, and doctrine.

The theme of the workshop was inspired by research Professor Wolfe is pursuing in his latest project on the religious practices of contemporary Americans which draws insights from a cross reading of published ethnographic materials on how religion is actually practiced, as opposed to how theorists, journalists, and public intellectuals typically characterize religion. Professor Wolfe challenged participants to think outside a narrow academic audience when writing up their research for publication, and to pay more attention to the narratives of experience rather than the theoretical frames in their writing. He also encouraged them to think about the implications their research might have for public debates about religion, and exhorted them to become more deeply involved in the public discourse about religion.