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Conferences and Workshops

Workshop on Proselytizing and the Limits of Religious Pluralism in the Era of Globalization Print
Date: 16 Sep 2010 - 17 Sep 2010
Venue: ARI Seminar Room
Tower Block Level 10, 469A Bukit Timah Road
National University of Singapore @ BTC
Organisers: Dr FINUCANE Juliana
A/Prof FEENER Michael

Processes of globalization have posed new challenges and offered new opportunities for religious groups to propagate their faiths. Conversations about religious responses to “others” in the global era have largely focused on groups that embrace an intolerant fundamentalism on the one hand or those that embrace a much more tolerant religious pluralism on the other. Yet a wide range of newly emergent religious groups and institutions occupy a grey area in between these two extreme positions. This workshop proposes to explore this grey area though a consideration of proselytizing in the global era, a practice about which there has been a notable silence in much of the scholarly literature. Proselytizing—or, the attempts by a group or individual to encourage the conversion of others—tests the limits of religious pluralism, as it is a practice that exists on the border of tolerance and intolerance. The practice of proselytizing presupposes not only that people are freely choosing agents and that religion itself is an issue of individual preference, but also that the choice one makes to adhere to a particular religion is one that can be clearly evaluated as being “right” or “wrong.” How have religious groups—both new religious groups, as well as traditional religious groups that take new globalized and trans-national forms—responded to global processes through adopting new and creative ways of reaching out to non-member “others” and encouraging their conversion?

Papers presented at this workshop will examine competing social, political and theological understandings of religious proselytization in everyday life through focused studies exploring the practice in a number of ethnographically and historically diverse contexts across Asia. Particular attention will be devoted to the following questions:

• How have religious groups balanced the need to get along with others in increasingly crowded public spaces, while still seeking to propagate their own religious traditions?

• How do these new types of missionary activity intersect with competing sources of authority and allegiance, including nations?

• How do simultaneous evocations of both universal human rights and sectarian religious truths function in these developments?

• Where does “communication” end and “coercion” begin for the many groups that embrace “modern” understandings about the freedom of religious self-determination at the same time that they continue to vigorously proselytize on behalf of their own religions?

This conference is designed to facilitate the production of an edited volume that considers new forms of proselytizing engaged in by religious groups and institutions in the era of globalization and explores the implications of these new forms of proselytizing on debates about balancing religious freedom and religious harmony in increasingly crowded public spaces.


Workshop Convenors

Dr Juliana FINUCANE (
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Assoc Prof Michael FEENER (
Asia Research Institute and Department of History, National University of Singapore


Miss Alyson ROZELLS
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
#10-01 Tower Block,469A Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 8787
Fax: (65) 6779 1428

Contact Person: Ms ROZELLS Alyson Adrianne