The Center for Media, Religion and Culture is one of the very few institutions worldwide dedicated to building knowledge and expertise in the emerging field of media and religion studies. It draws on resources from a broad range of disciplines and seeks to engage scholars, professionals, students and interested publics to build knowledge about the ways that religion and media are interacting and evolving in contemporary global cultures.
Religion is a dominant force in the 21st century. It is no longer only a private matter or only about institutions, doctrines and histories. It is changing in ways that have implications for politics, the economy and for social and cultural life, nationally, regionally and globally. The understanding of religion among various publics has lagged behind its development. However, there is increasing attention being paid by central voices in education, government, scholarship, religious institutions and the public sphere.
All contemporary institutional, social and cultural trends take place in a media context. They shape–and are in turn shaped by–media. At the same time, religions and spiritualities have always been mediated and many use modern “legacy” and “digital” media to pursue their interests and truth claims. While the intertwinement of media and religion is relevant to understand contemporary social and political dynamics, there is a lack of knowledge about it. CMRC aims to address how media and religion are now being transformed by changes in each and by their interactions with each other.
The center’s students and faculty are engaged in groundbreaking work at the intersection of media and religion. Their research has received recognition within a wide variety of disciplines from media studies, journalism and religious studies to anthropology, art history and business.
Studies focus on the practices and experiences which define religion and spirituality today. Researchers explore such issues as how religions and spiritualities are represented by media, how they interact with religion in the political sphere, how they are used by both formal and informal groups and movements, and their implications for religious institutions and authority.
The center connects scholars, educators and leaders in media, religion, culture and politics. The development of such networks grounds scholarly work in real-world expertise and brings the results of research to bear in settings where it can be most useful. Teaching, as well as conferences and seminars, are at the center of these efforts, attracting leaders in research and practice as well as interested publics.
The center’s teaching mission extends from its ongoing research seminar and its involvement in a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses to its broader influence in the growing field. It supports educators and their students through published resources, presentations, lectures and teaching collaborations domestically and internationally, and regularly welcomes visiting scholars who wish to engage in its discourses and research efforts.
The center is regularly involved in domestic and international conferences. International conferences on religion journalism, fundamentalisms and the media, spiritualties and social Change, Islam and the media, digital religion, and global religion have been successful and notable occasions for scholarly and professional dialog and interaction. A conference on media, religion and culture is in the planning stages. The center has also organized seminars and sessions at academic and professional meetings and has acted as the secretariat for the biennial International Conferences on Media, Religion and Culture, held by the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture.
Through teaching and conferences the center enhances dialogue between scholars, professionals and the public. This is a primary way CMRC fulfills its goal: creating new knowledge and awareness of the ways religions and spiritualities are being transformed through modern media.