Conference to Examine New Religious Movements

U.K. scholar of religions Eileen Barker will deliver keynote address at UC Riverside Feb. 14

Eileen Barker

Eileen Barker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — New religious movements have long been a part of human history. At what point are they no longer considered “new,” and if they relocate or retool despite their age, do they become “new” again?

International scholars will address these and other questions at a daylong conference, “When New Religious Movements Get Old,” on Feb. 14 at the University of California, Riverside. Eileen Barker, author of “The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice?” and professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, and will present the keynote address.

The conference begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 6 p.m. in the Interdisciplinary Building. It is free and open to the public. Registration is requested by e-mailing ryan.mariano@ucr.edu.Daily parking permits are available for purchase at kiosks located at campus entrances on West Campus Drive at University Avenue, and on Canyon Crest Drive at Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The event is sponsored by the Holstein Family and Community Endowment and the UCR Department of Religious Studies.

“While Scientology, the Moonies, Hare Krishnas (ISKCON), Jehovah’s Witnesses, various Guru movements, and even the Church of Latter-day Saints are seen as  ‘new’ religious movements, the LDS nears its second century of existence, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses are 150 years old,” said Ivan Strenski, the Holstein Family and Community Professor of Religious Studies at UCR.

The enormous variety of new religious movements makes it impossible to generalize much about them, he added. “But, we can ask – and we will – what happens when the so-called ‘new’ religious movements get on in years? How have the Jehovah’s Witnesses changed in their century-and-a-half existence? How, as well, has a very ancient religious movement, Yoga, become ‘new’ again in being imported into the West? Or, how have NRMs, old in the West, likewise become ‘young’ again by being imported into the post-communist world, or by being retooled for a presence on the Internet?”

Barker will be joined by scholars from universities in Denmark, Lithuania and California. Her topic is “New and Not-So-New Religious Movements: Changes in ‘the Cult Scene’ over the Past Forty Years” and will explore features that might be expected in an NRM in its early years and changes that it is likely to undergo over time. She also will consider relevant changes in the wider society since the 1970s.

Barker is professor emeritus of sociology with special reference to the study of religion at the London School of Economics. The author of more than 350 publications, her research focuses on new religions and the reactions they elicit. Since 1989 she has also been investigating changes in the religious situation in post-communist countries.

In 1988, supported by the British government and mainstream churches, she founded INFORM, a charity based at the LSE which provides information about new religions. She is a frequent advisor to governments, other official bodies and law-enforcement agencies around the world. She was the first non-American to be elected president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and in 2000 received the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

Responding to her address will be Wade Clark Roof, the J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society emeritus and director of the Walter H. Capps Center at UC Santa Barbara. A former chair of the Department of Religious Studies, he is author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 14 books including most recently the Encyclopedia of Global Religions (two volumes with M. Juergensmeyer) and dozens of journal articles and book chapters. He is a former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and is frequently cited in the media on religious and spiritual trends within the U.S.

Topics and presenters include:

“Who New?” Pre-Totemism and Post-Communism

  • Alexandra Maryanski, professor of sociology at UC Riverside — “The Missing Link in Durkheim’s Totemic Principle: An Old (New Religious) Problem Solved.” Maryanski is the author of four books includingOn the Origin of Societies by Natural Selection” and more than 50 articles. Her areas of specialization include religion, social networks, evolutionary sociology, and neurosociology or the study of the social mind. She is currently finishing a book on Emile Durkheim.
  • Milda Ališauskienė, associate professor at Vytautus Magnus University, Lithuania — “When New Religions Become Old in The Post-Communist Societies.“ Ališauskienė has 15 academic publications about contemporary religiosity in Lithuania and Eastern Europe, and has presented papers on NRMs in post-Soviet Europe at more than 20 national and international academic conferences. She has directed the New Religions Research and Information Centre in Lithuania since 2009.

Everything That Was Old Is New

  • Jon R. Stone, professor of religious studies at California State University, Long Beach — “Can New Religious Movements Become “Virtually” New… through the Internet?” Stone is the author of “A Guide to the End of the World” and “On the Boundaries of American Evangelicalism”; co-author of “Prime-Time Religion”; and editor of “Expecting Armageddon,” among others.
  • Richard Flory, associate research professor of sociology and director of research in the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC — “Between Innovation and Inertia: Balancing Charisma and Routinization at the L.A. Dream Center.” Flory is the author and/or editor of several books including “Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism” and “Growing up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens.”

“You Don’t Look a Day Over 150!”

  • Annika Hvithamar, associate professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen — “When the Jehovah’s Witness Truth Gets Old.”  Hvithamar teaches the history of Christianity and has published in the area of civil religion, nationalism, globalization, Russian Orthodoxy, and contemporary minority Christianity (Jehovah’s Witnesses). She also has written textbooks for primary and secondary education.

Bending the Frame: American Yoga and the Category of Religion

  • Gerald James Larson, professor emeritus of religious studies, UC Santa Barbara, and Tagore Professor Emeritus of Indian Cultures and Civilization, Indiana University, Bloomington —   ”Modern Yoga: The Wild Card in the Indic Religious Deck?” Larson is the author or editor of 12 books and more than 100 scholarly articles on cross-cultural philosophy of religion, history of religions, classical Sanskrit and South Asian history and culture, including “Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment.” His most recent publication is Volume XII of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, co-edited with the late Dr. Ram Shankar Bhattacharya, titled “Yoga: India’s Philosophy of Meditation.”
  • Chris Chapple, the Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology at Loyola Marymount University — “Inscribing and Defending Public Space: Yoga in Schools.” Chapple’s research focuses on the renouncer religious traditions of India: Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has published several books, including “Karma and Creativity,” “Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions,” “Hinduism and Ecology,” and “Reconciling Yogas.”
  • Jennifer Aubrecht, a Ph.D. student at UCR — “Visibilizing Vivekananda: Yoga Histories at Wanderlust Vermont.” Aubrecht researches the intersections of yoga practice and philosophy and modern dance history. She is particularly interested in theories of embodiment and performances of spirituality in each discipline, as well as the cross-cultural flows of movement practices and philosophies between the Indian subcontinent and the United States.
  • Amanda J. Lucia, assistant professor of American religions at UC Riverside — “Innovative Yoga Gurus: Charisma, Devotees, and the creation of NRMs.” Lucia’s ethnographic and historical research engages both immigrant Indian Hindus in the United States and American metaphysicals who seek out forms of Hindu spirituality. She is the author of “Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace,” which will be published in March.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Ivan Strenski
Tel: (951) 827-5986
E-mail: ivan.strenski@ucr.edu

Conference RSVP
Tel: (951) 827-6427
E-mail: ryan.mariano@ucr.edu

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