Conference by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

Alex Fry, PhD in Religion and Society

Photo by Florian Pircher on Pixabay.com

In October 2018, I attended an international conference arranged by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR for short!). The conference was attended by doctoral students and professional researchers across the disciplines in Religion and Social Science. It was a two-day event that took place at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. My main reason for going was to present some of my own research and to engage with those who were conducting similar or complementary research to my own.

shed further light on the interaction between gender and religion.

At the conference, I gave a twenty minute presentation on the role of system justification within the Church of England, specifically in relation to how it permits gender inequality amongst the clergy. It was presented along with three other papers that explored the role of gender in contemporary religious practices. This was followed by an extended discussion, where the audience could ask questions to those presenting their papers during the panel session. There was also the opportunity for all in attendance to engage in conversation regarding how the different papers relate to each other, and how they can shed further light on the interaction between gender and religion.

A particular highlight of the conference was spending time discussing my research with one of the world’s leading sociologists of religion.

I was paired with a mentor who is an experienced academic in my field of research, and they were able to give me feedback on my paper, with regard to content and presentation. This led to valuable advice on how to proceed with my research from a methodological standpoint, in order to publish it in a journal. The conversations also helped prepare me for the job market after my studies are complete. It further allowed me to network with others within the academy outside of Durham, which is helpful for seeking employment and learning of opportunities for research funding and newly available posts. Finally, there were a number of career development sessions for postgraduate students that provided me with useful information for publishing my research, something which is particularly useful for entering an academic career once the PhD is finished!

A particular highlight of the conference was spending time discussing my research with one of the world’s leading sociologists of religion. Her own interests include the Church of England, thus this conversation provided helpful insight into how I can develop my doctoral thesis. We also discussed how a researcher can use the knowledge they gain to benefit wider society. This led us to discuss how I could work with the Church of England in the future in order to try and tackle gender inequality.

I was also pleased to meet colleagues from all over the world

Another highlight of the conference involved catching up with colleagues from different universities who I do not see on a regular basis. I spent many hours with a fellow social psychologist comparing experiences of our studies and fieldwork. This was a cathartic process as the life of a researcher is often somewhat solitary, and so it can be tricky to exchange ideas and encourage fellow early-career researchers.

I was also pleased to meet colleagues from all over the world, many of whom were from North America. This provided me with good opportunities to network, something that is a priority for me, as I come to the end of my doctoral studies and look for an academic position. It was a pleasure to get to know many of them on a less formal basis, and be able to offer and receive feedback on each other’s current papers and career goals. This was my second time attending the SSSR conference and I have found it to be both a welcoming and intellectually stimulating scholarly community. I am thankful to St. John’s for aiding the associated costs through the bursary.

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