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Cambridge Interfaith Programme

 
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Bringing two seemingly distinct practices and their practitioners into dialogue, this half-day exploratory workshop probes the relationship between things and texts as the focus of inter-religious encounter. What are we thinking and doing as we approach Scriptural Reasoning, or facilitate object-oriented encounters? How do these practices relate to the concept of “reasoning”? 

Scriptural Reasoning

Scriptural Reasoning (SR) has been a cornerstone of CIP’s work from inception, packets of pre-selected texts serving as a common focus for conversations across faith boundaries. The invitation to discuss one another’s religious sources together as equals proved compelling for participants in different settings and with varying levels of pre-existing religious literacy. 

The practice is open-ended, combining reading and reasoning, typically between the three Abrahamic faith traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and with a close attention to detail that borrows from Jewish traditions of reading and debate. It has been employed with healthcare workers, prison chaplains, and (of late) stakeholders in the UK water industry—and features in the OCR Religious Studies A-level syllabus as an exemplar of inter-religious dialogue. 

Object-oriented pedagogy

In 2023, CIP began to pilot new object-oriented pedagogies, investigating their potential to facilitate challenging conversations around and about religion in school classrooms.  In-classroom trials were grounded in the notion that taking objects as interlocutors in a collaborative and creative process offers multiple entry points into difficult topics and creates new conditions for exchange—one that begins from a place that is less fraught and prone to reproduce divides or the inability to speak. 

Inviting students to closely engage and produce stop-motion animation films using objects whose religiousness is in some way ambiguous, the pilot proved highly promising. (It is part of a wider arc of attention to material possibilities, and the main researcher is also acting as a consultant on object-based interventions within the Faith & Belief Forum’s school programmes. There are good prospects for further work in this space.) 

Different modes?

At first glance, these two approaches seem to be divided by qualitatively distinct foci: words v. things. They seem to invite distinct modes of interaction and enable distinct, and incompatible or even competing, possibilities for knowledge production. 

But is this necessarily always the case? To what extent do differences reflect the perspective of the onlooker and their patterns of thought? 

Inspired by recent moves to rethink these distinctions and the assumptions and histories they entail, this workshop aims to explore multiple practices of reasoning—with text and with objects, scriptural and material, asking what we might generate by exploring their alignment and/or synergies.   

Workshop goals

  • To trial different reasoning approaches in proximity, and invite reflection on the impact of this format 
  • To learn about and extend an intellectual and practical understanding of the different approaches, their affordances and limitations 
  • To generate reflections and analysis on how one might think about the dynamics of ‘reasoning about texts’ in relation to dynamics of ‘reasoning about objects,’ and vice-versa. 

Context

This is the first in a series of experimental workshops, probing the qualities and potential of diverse approaches to inter-religious encounter around the theme of “reasoning” and “practice”.

Over the course of these workshops, we will consider questions such as: 

  • If we take SR and object work as practices of reasoning, what do these different practices afford?  What kind(s) of reasoning do they enable?  Equally, how can we understand reasoning in this context?   

  • To what extent do SR and object work unfold in similar/different ways and enable similar/different things?  

  • What might SR and object work do when brought together or done alongside each other?   

  • How might such juxtaposition of SR and object work make us rethink our conceptualizations of text and object?  

  • Does the workshop format enable meaningful exploration of these questions? Are there other approaches to consider?  

Practical information 

The workshop is hosted by Cambridge Interfaith Programme (CIP) at the Faculty of Divinity, West Road, Cambridge. Participation at this event is open to members of the Cambridge Interfaith Research Forum and others by invitation. It is free to attend.  

RSVP/advance registration is required. Remote participation is not possible. 

Readings

To enable all participants to begin from a common foundation, two pre-reads are indicated. Each is a relatively short self-contained account of a given practice. Copies of both will be available to those who register for this workshop. The key readings are:

  • A.R. Badder. Reflections on a pilot in progress, August 2023. This two-page summary was written during a class trial of object-led approaches. (A more detailed report is available to those who register to attend.)
  • D.H. Weiss. What is Scriptural Reasoning? (Forthcoming.) This article provides a brief introduction to the practice of SR. It is pending publication and shared only with workshop attendees.

For those who have leisure for further reading and wish to go deeper into any of the practices, the following items may illuminate different dimensions of the topic.

Badder, A.R. Beyond dialogue: creative possibilities for new interfaith exchange. This 20-page report is available on registration. 

Budach, Gabriele, Donna Patrick & Teevi Mackay. 2015. Talk around objects: designing trajectories of belonging in an urban Inuit community. Social Semiotics 25 (4): 446-464. 

Budach, Gabriele, Catherine Kell & Donna Patrick. 2015. Objects and language in trans-contextual communication. Social Semiotics 25 (4): 387-400. 

Devellennes, Charles & Benoît Dillet. 2018. Questioning New Materialisms: An Introduction. Theory, Culture & Society 35 (7-8): 5-20. 

Ford, David & Pecknold, Chad (eds.), The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006).  

Kell, Catherine. 2015. Making people happen: Materiality and movement in meaning-making trajectories. Social Semiotics 25 (4): 423-445. 

Weiss, Daniel H. 2017. Scriptural Reasoning and the academy: the uses and disadvantages of expertise and impartiality. Journal of Scriptural Reasoning 16.1. 

 

Date: 
Monday, 17 June, 2024 - 14:00 to 17:00
Event location: 
Faculty of Divinity, Sidgwick Site

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