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Individualization I

Session Chair: N.N. | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Hermen Kroesbergen

The dynamics of individual responsibility in religion

This paper argues that a contextual view of religion obscures the individual's responsibility in bringing about change. Ethicists have distinguished individuals who act applying their convictions, and others who act considering concrete situations (cf. De Villiers 2012). These two ways of acting for change can be accounted for by a contextual approach, investigating the influence of someone's context of historical events and social processes (cf. Giddens 2009). Yet, the responsibility involved both in acting from conviction and in acting from responsible consideration, paradoxically, results in 'irresponsibilization' (Derrida 1996): someone hides behind what everyone in that situation should have done. Individual responsibility in religion, however, goes beyond what either absolute principles or considerate policies would recommend. Luther's alleged statement 'Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise' will be used to illustrate this. Restricting oneself to analysing the context, it will be argued, leaves out taking personal responsibility within that context.

Kseniya Miadzvedzeva

‘Monos’ in a coenobitic monastery: on intimacy and individualization in a community

The paper covers the topic of intimacy and individualization of an inmate in the context of a Russian Orthodox Christian monastery. The topic of relationship between the individual and the group, the individual and the institute reveals itself most clearly when it comes to cenobite institutions, those in which people live. Monastic structure is represented by the coordinate system which is formed by the intersection of organizational and individual levels. In other words, monastic rules and regulations intersect with personal, interiorised rules. In such case the notion of intimacy becomes important. The paper discusses what it means to be a ‘lone’ person and to live in a community, and how intimacy is possible in a group. For this analysis fieldwork data is used, collected by the author since 2011 using methods of participant observation and interviews in several Russian Orthodox convents, as well as data in open access.

Anna Haapalainen

”I have to set them on the right path.” The problem of individualization in a Christian institutionalized religious community

Individuality, spirituality and religious experience are concepts used and transmitted in Christian communities. However, communities as well as members of Christian communities approach these concepts in ambivalence: individual religious experience is encouraged as a resource of ”living faith” but in tandem it is seen as a potential danger towards ”sound doctrine”.Therefore, in these communities a notable amount of effort is given to control individual spirituality and patchwork religiosity. In this paper, I shall scrutinize how the problem of individualization is framed and dealt with in one Finnish Evangelical Lutheran congregation. I shall approach the question from the point of view of power relations between pastors and laymen, and ask: How is the concept of individualization contextualized in the congregation? What possibilities do laymen have for influencing religious operations and substance? What are the circumstances in which individualization is considered to go too far and when is it acceptable?

Colin Duggan

Individualism and Politics in the Early 20th Century Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society played a major part in the individualisation of religion and spirituality resulting in the diffuse presence of many of its ideas in the mid to late 20th century ‘New Age’ milieu. This paper looks at individualization among of members of the Theosophical Society with regard to their views on politics and social reform. It shows that although the term ‘theosophist’ is not necessarily inferentially rich with regard to spiritual or political belief and practice, it becomes more so when the mechanisms by which individuals argued for and justified their positions are examined. This paper will primarily focus on Irish and British members of the Theosophical Society using examples drawn from their personal publications particularly those printed in Theosophical journals as they are the location of strong debate among members concerned with the pressing social and political issues of the early 20th century.


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