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 Tuesday, October 24, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


New Center Raises Issues of Religion and Media
By Corey Jones, sophomore, Pre-Journalism

An international conference on "Fundamentalism and the Media," held Oct. 10-12, was the founding event for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication's Center for Media, Religion, and Culture.

Although the center was officially founded in 2005, research and conferences focusing on religion and the media have been under way at the school since 1991. The center's goal is to do research, teaching, and outreach focused on the interaction between religion and media in contemporary politics, society, and culture.

"The work at the intersection between media and religion has exploded, and every time I think it is going to calm down something else happens," said Professor Stewart Hoover, director of the center.

The center exists in part as a secretariat, acting as an agency that coordinates international conferences, according to Hoover. Past efforts have included conferences and sessions in Edinburgh, Scotland, Stockholm, Sweden, and Tehran, Iran. "Fundamentalism and the Media" was the first conference to call Boulder home since 1996.

"There is a degree of religion interest in Boulder that might not appear on the surface," said Hoover. "As a general matter, people in Boulder are intellectually curious, and the city has a lot of religion and a lot of interest in religion."

The World Association for Christian Communication co-sponsored the conference, which brought together nearly 80 participants, including religious scholars, members of the news media and members of the religious community.

Participation benefited from a wide range of representation across countries as well as disciplines within the academy.

"We tried to make this a welcome for new scholars as a way to introduce them to the field and to interact with some of the leading authorities on these issues," explained Nadia Kaneva, a graduate student and staff member of the center.

The conference featured plenary sessions and breakout panels open only to conference registrants, in which speakers addressed fundamentalism in religious culture and history, focusing on Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

"Looking at how fundamentalist groups use media and also how media interpret fundamentalism to the general public is very important," explained Hoover. "There are a lot of new ways you need to think about what fundamentalism is when you think about it happening in an age dominated by mass media."

Kaneva emphasized, "This type of work is really on the cutting edge of what is defining some of the issues in American society today, both culturally and politically."

The conference also offered two events open to the public at no charge, both of which received worthy attention. Professor Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame provided the keynote address. Appleby is director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and is a leading expert on religious fundamentalism.

An advance screening of the Public Broadcasting Service documentary, "Knocking: Fundamentalism and Freedom Meet at the Front Door," was also featured, followed by a public discussion with the film's director, Joel P. Engardio, and a panel of scholars.

"The conference was an excellent launch for the center," said Hoover, who was very pleased with the level of interest throughout the event. "It received international attention and that will attach to the center, too."

For more information, visit the Center for Media, Religion and Culture website.

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