Workshop “Sensitive Social Data Science in Theology and Religious Studies”

Mixed Methods for Transdisciplinarity, Historiography and Ethics: International and Interdisciplinary Workshop

Call for Papers

The introduction of digital data into theology and religious studies research raises new methodological and ethical questions concerning the nature of research. These questions take on prominence because the data in question was often provided by individuals or groups who are in certain respects vulnerable. Therefore, the data provided not only qualifies as social data, but deserves to be called ‘sensitive’ social data. This workshop aims to generate academic discussions that acknowledge the sensitivity of digital social data in ways that invite critical reflections. Linked to these reflections, the workshop furthermore wants to investigate the usage of mixed-methodological approaches as one major point of entrance for ‘sensitive’ social data into the study of religion. Some of the questions, which shall be tackled, are:

  • How can the notion of ‘sensitive’ social data be filled in respect to questions raised in theology and religious studies? What notions of ‘sensitiveness’ must be applied, if any at all?
  • What kind of information can we derive from such sets of ‘sensitive’ social data?  How does this affect our perception of what is to be considered a proper research question within the field?
  • In dealing with social data, what methodological and ethical issues must the researcher seek to address? What can theology and religious studies learn from other scientific fields on that matter?
  • In what ways does the broadening of our sample spaces help to overcome the Eurocentric biases in religion related research? What blind spots and/or new problems that might (re-)emerge in this broadening of research?
  • Under what conditions do mixed methods serve to widen our perception? When do they generate a problematic potential for self referentiality or even immunization against criticism?
  • How applicable is historical social data within this picture? If to the contrary, in what ways are the precautions to be undertaken in the analysis of historical ‘sensitive’ social data, if there must be any at all?

To further broaden our perspectives, we are inviting researchers (especially those in pre – or early post-doctoral stages of their careers) to participate and (a) present a paper on a related issue or (b) facilitate a workshop session where we hope to impart some of the skills necessary to deal with religion related sensitive (historical) social data. If you are interested in either (a) or (b) above, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words, with a brief biography, to knut.wormstaedt {at} kt.rwth-aachen(.)de.  Submissions are due by 15th June 2021. Candidates will be notified of the decision of the selection committee by 15th July 2021. The workshop will take place from 28th to 30th September 2021.

Please note that the workshop will be held as an online event due to the unsure further progression of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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