Events in Religion at Otago

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If you are interested in presenting a seminar as part of the Religion Seminar Series 2021, or for further information, please contact Deane Galbraith.

Religion Seminar Series 2021

Friday 5 March, 3pm

Seminar postponed to 4 June, due to Covid Level 2 restrictions

Friday 4 June, 3pm

How accurate are informant reports of their religious behaviour? A comparison of self-report and systematic observation in a rural Fijian Village

Associate Professor John Shaver
Head of Programme, Religion, University of Otago.

Social scientists rely on self-reports for measuring behaviour despite ongoing criticism concerning informant inaccuracy. But are informant reports inaccurate? And are biases in self-report random? Here I compare self-reports of church attendance to observed attendance across 48 services in a rural Fijian village. Findings suggest that: 1) self-report does not reliably predict observed attendance, 2) women with several children are more likely to over-report their attendance than women with fewer children, and 3) self-report of religiosity is more reliably associated with observed church attendance than self-report of church attendance. Further, third-party judgments of church attendance by fellow villagers are more reliably associated with observed church attendance than self-report. Findings suggest that informants inaccurately report their religious behaviour, but that biases are culturally influenced. Researchers interested in estimating behavioural variation should consider third-party methods to avoid biases inherent to self-report.

Room R1S3 (Te Tumu, Te Wānanga), Richardson Building South.

Friday 11 June, 3pm

Transformation and transferral of acceptance following the 2019 Christchurch New Zealand Mosque Attacks

Professor Joseph Bulbulia
School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington / Te Herenga Waka, on behalf of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study.

We systematically quantify prejudice before and after the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks in a nationally diverse longitudinal sample of New Zealanders (N = 11,272). We find that after the attacks acceptance of Muslims strongly increased. Encouragingly, acceptance also grew for Asian ethnic groups. Notably, prejudice for non-Muslim and non-Asian targets, such as the elderly and overweight people, remained constant. This pattern indicates the growth of Muslim acceptance and its transferral to Asians is a response specific to domestic terrorism. Thus, although the attacks were perpetrated to incite a race war, their immediate effects were to forge tolerance. Worryingly, however, the growth and spread of tolerance may be waning.

Room R1S3 (Te Tumu, Te Wānanga), Richardson Building South.

Friday 16 July, 3pm

Modelling Secularization across Nations Using Phylogenetic Causal Path Analysis

Dr Joseph Watts
Religion, University of Otago

Over the past century, there has been a tenfold increase in the number of people identifying as atheist or agnostic worldwide. This growth in secular affiliation has been highly uneven across nations: less than one percent of the population of Samoa identify as agnostic or atheists, whereas over half the population of Estonia identify as agnostic or atheists. Theories differ over the factors that explain the growth and variation in secularization across nations. Some predict that existential security reduces the needs for the reassurances provided by religions. Others argue that differences in secular affiliation reflect rising levels of formal education among populations, which promote analytic thinking and scientific based worldviews. The results of previous cross-national research has largely been taken to support the importance of existential security in secularisation, but has not sufficiently accounted for the historical relationships that exist between nations, nor the complex causal relationships that exist between hypothesized predictor variables. We aggregated cross-national databases and developed a method of exploratory phylogenetic path analysis to account for the common ancestry of populations, and disentangle the complex causal relationships among hypothesized determinants of secularisation. Our best fitting causal models show that while secularisation is associated with a wide range of factors, education is the strongest and most direct predictor of secularisation across nations. Our results challenge the importance of existential security in secularisation and show how new approaches to causal modelling can help disentangle complex pathways in human cultural evolution.

Room R6N4, Richardson Building.

Friday 6 August, 3pm

Topic tba

Associate Professor Natasha Tassell-Matamua
School of Psychology, Massey University / Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa

Room R6N4, Richardson Building.

Friday 20 August, 3pm

Troubling Subjects: Legal Performativity and Indigenous peoples’ FPIC

(Co-hosted by the Otago Centre for Law and Society)

Dr Stephen Young
Faculty of Law, University of Otago.

This book talk will provide an overview of some arguments I make in Indigenous Peoples, Consent and Rights: Troubling Subjects (Routledge, 2020). It considers how various individuals, communities and tribes position themselves - and are positioned by others - as 'Indigenous peoples' to claim international human rights law. Through an examination of how human rights are claimed to contest natural resource development projects, becoming identifiable Indigenous peoples can be troubling for states and businesses. Claimants might intend that effect, which supports their agency. However, claiming international human rights law as Indigenous peoples also has unintended and troubling effects for the claimant(s). Through a lens attentive to legal performativity, I argue that those who become identifiable subjects of legal discourse also become identifiable objects of broader social discourses. Where claiming international human rights supports claimants' agency, it comes with costs that are limiting, constraining and perverting. In short, international legal discipline is itself is a troubling subject.

Room R6N4, Richardson Building.

Friday 3 September, 3pm

‘A strange and interesting document’: how the Mormons discovered and reshaped the covenant (He Kawenata) of Māori poropiti Pāora Pōtangaroa

Associate Professor Ian Barber
Archaeology, University of Otago

Room R6N4, Richardson Building.

Friday 1 October, 3pm

Pigden Revisited, or In Defence of Popper's Critique of the Conspiracy Theory of Society

Dr Deane Galbraith
Religion, University of Otago

The subject of conspiracy theories has become a burgeoning sub-field within philosophy. Yet there was little philosophical interest in conspiracism before Charles Pigden stimulated such reflection with his influential 1995 article, "Popper Revisited, or What Is Wrong With Conspiracy Theories?" In that article, Pigden argues that Popper's critique of conspiracy theories is incorrect, if not absurd. I argue that Pigden's argument is not sound, due to its semantic misinterpretation of Popper. Yet Popper's methodological approach to the conspiracy theory of society, understood correctly, offers useful insight as to what is wrong with (some) conspiracy theories.

Room R6N4, Richardson Building.

Friday 5 November, 3pm

Religion, sex workers, and family: Sex workers perspectives on religion, self-identity and family relationships in New Zealand and Australia

Luka Johnston
Postgraduate student, Religion, University of Otago

A report on progress in the first study in New Zealand that shows the interplay between religious beliefs and sex worker identity. New Zealand and Australian sex workers were interviewed, in order to investigate the interplay between their religious beliefs and their sex worker identity. Familial acceptance has shown to be a key factor in relation to one’s sense of wellbeing among the LGBTQIA+ community, so several specific interview questions were asked in order to investigate the potential effects of familial acceptance on religious beliefs and sense of wellbeing amongst sex workers. Approaching this topic helps to draw insight into a marginalised group who hold religious beliefs themselves, and educate and ideally lessen the stigma surrounding people often considered to be on the fringe of society. Analysing the personal experiences of sex workers themselves will hopefully help educate the community at large, help encourage support systems within religious communities for those in sex work, and contribute to the better overall well-being of sex workers.

Room R6N4, Richardson Building.

2021 DIRI Buddhist Academy Zoominar Series

We are proud to co-host the 2021 DIRI Buddhist Academy Zoominar Series. This is a series of public lectures running from the 12th to the 30th of April. This zoominar series includes a number of outstanding scholars, including our own Dr Lina Verchery:

Buddhism and Filmmaking: Challenges and Possibilities

30th of April, 1-2pm NZST | 8-9am ICT | 2-3am CET

Dr Lina Verchery

In this talk, Dr. Verchery discusses the intersection of filmmaking and ethnographic work in Buddhist Studies, focusing on the example ofThe Trap/La Trappe, a short documentary on the Buddhist practice of animal release (fangsheng??)Linafilmed at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Filmmaking offers rich opportunities for exploring the affective and aesthetic dimensions of Buddhism as a living tradition, as well as for making work in Buddhist Studies accessible to a broader audience.In this talk, Lina will speak about some of the unique challenges and possibilities this can present for research in Buddhist Studies.

Zoom Meeting ID: 825 3655 7097
Passcode: 072

For more information, please see the Dhammachai International Research Institute page here.

Events Archive

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme