Value, values and religion in the contemporary world

Workshop on the 24-25th May 2018 at the Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies, University of Copenhagen

We have a very exciting line-up for our workshop on the concept of value at the Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies. The scholars invited are working with value as a concept across a diversity of geographical and religious contexts. We look forward to engage over two days with ten very different, ethnographically informed papers that discuss theories of value.

VALUE_poster

This workshop seeks to engage with a seeming resurgence of interest in theories of value. In studies of religion, value has generally been used in the sociological sense of ideas about the good and desirable (religious/cultural values), a field of study recently revitalised by Joel Robbins. Value in the economic sense of ‘price mechanism’ (Graeber) has been employed analogically to uncover the economic workings of religion, for example in concepts such as symbolic value and the religious marketplace. However, economistic dimensions of religion are often assumed to be antithetical to religious values, particularly in analyses of religion and consumer society (Carette and King). We seek to question this assumption through discussion of the relationship between sociological and economic approaches to value in relation to religions and spiritualities in the contemporary world. Instead of understanding the commodification of religion as inevitably leading to a devaluation and lack of authenticity, we look at how commodification might also provide added value to local religious goods, ideas and lifestyles, as argued by Comaroff and Comaroff (2009) in relation to the commodification of ethnicity. For example, how has the marketing and branding of religion aided a process of growth and revitalization of religious institutions? What possible contentions and ambiguities arise within the nexus of religion and economics when religious or spiritual values become marketized and positioned within an economic value regime? How might discussion of value (economic) and values (sociological) open up ideas about the relationship between the individual (value as connected to strategy, agency, motivations, aspirations, interests, “homo economicus”) and the collective (values as moral, traditional, connected to socialization practices)?

 

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