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A Study-of-Religions Approach to Textbook Research

A213
Panel Chair: Jenny Berglund | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

This panel presents different study-of-religions approaches to textbook research related to education about religion in Norway, Italy, England and Japan. The papers relate to the study of different aspects of textbooks for religious education, including the way that the representation of religions is influenced by the general framework for religious education or by religious concepts about the use of images. Furthermore, more general issues relating to textbook-research related methodology are raised.

Satoko Fujiwara

A Critical Reflection on the “Communitarian Turn” in Religious Education

It was in 2007 that the UK government issued a guidance which made it a duty for schools to promote “community cohesion.” Since then, RE in England has been directed to contribute to the new duty more explicitly, and teaching materials with reference to the term have started to be published. This shift can be called “communitarian” (à la Sandel and Taylor) or “post-secular” (à la Habermas). It has concurred with the “religion in the public sphere” discussions within the study of religion as well as with the development of citizenship education. This paper examines the benefits and dangers of this shift, which is not confessional but normative nonetheless. Examples will be taken from RE textbooks in England to show how the representations and applications of religion(s) have changed. They will be compared with Japanese textbooks, which have established a virtual “civil religion” (à la Bellah), as I have argued elsewhere.

Sissel Undheim

Aniconism and images in Norwegian RE-textbooks. Representations and historical change

The paper will investigate representations and interpretations of aniconism in Norwegian RE-textbooks in the period from 1997 to 2014. By studying changes in visual representation of Islam and Judaism in two “generations” of textbooks, namely those published in connection with the Norwegian curriculum revisions of 1997 and 2008, the paper will discuss different interpretations of Islamic aniconism as it is expressed in textbooks from the four major Norwegian publishers. The analytical approach will rely on critical and cultural perspectives from the academic study of religion, in addition to theories on multimodality and media. Both the cartoon controversy of 2005 as well as the increasing religious plurality that is to be found in Norwegian society and classrooms will be among the factors considered in order to explain the palpable changes that are found in the material.

Maria Chiara Giorda

Religion and school textbooks. Methodological assessment and empirical examples

Textbook controversies involving religion are part of a larger cultural debate; they reflect to a large extent the social cultural and political imaginaries that are dominant in a particular national context in a given moment in time. This endeavour requires a sound theoretical and methodological reflection. Up until know, the different efforts to scrutinize the representation of religions in school textbooks has followed numerous, sometimes divergent, paths. The aim of this paper is to offer a critical tour d’horizon of the methods currently employed in this field in order to discuss their strengths and their weaknesses and foster a debate between different approaches. Despite the fact it’s often (unjustly) considered to be a quite boring subject, the focus on methodology should offer a thread permitting to bound and organize different texts of different subjects (not only RE, but also literature, philosophy, history…) and dealing with different religious traditions. The goal is to elaborate a schedule analysis to collect data, based on qualitative analytical techniques, content and didactic analysis, aiming at a general model for Religious Studies based analyses of textbooks.

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Thematic Outline

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