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International Summer School on Religion and Public Life, Negotiating Space in Diversity: Religions and Authorities, Yogyakarta and Bali, Indonesia, 3-17 July 2012

International Summer School on Religion and Public Life Negotiating Space in Diversity: Religions and Authorities, Yogyakarta and Bali, Indonesia July 3-17th 2012

The International Summer School on Religion and Public Life (ISSRPL) is a unique, global initiative providing an annual international, inter-religious summer school of approximately two weeks. Each year the school explores critical issues around religion and society that influence the nature of community. It combines pluralistic perspectives on religious thought with social scientific research on tolerance, civil society and an open, dialogic, and reflective approach to pedagogic practice.

Increasingly and throughout the world, societies are facing the challenge of renewed religious identities and the negotiation of such identity claims in the public sphere. In essence they are facing the challenge of how to acknowledge diverse identities while at the same time finding common ground for conversation, often, in a highly contested public space. Related issues include questions of (individual) freedom (of speech, of religion) and the need to maintain (communal) identity and inter-group harmony in such contested locales.

This year’s ISSRPL will explore these issues in the context of Indonesia, a Muslim majority country (with more Muslims than all the Arab countries combined) but also, historically, one of great religious diversity. Under the authoritarian New Order (1966-1998) diversity was acknowledged in Indonesia, but was strictly regulated. The transition to democracy in 1998 saw an opening of political space for the expression of multiple social interests based on ethnic, religious, and other identities, while at the same time weakening the authorities of the central government and the military. The combination of these two forces contributed to new trends (at least in some areas) such as more frequent conflicts between communities, the aspiration to implement shari’a at the local level supported by some secular political parties, and the phenomenon of “religious radicalization”. New barriers between diverse identity-based communities (as well as within such communities) arose, posing challenges for the creation of a civil, pluralist democracy.

Indonesia is not alone in witnessing the rise of identity politics. In many parts of the world, including in Europe and the US, the old 19th and 20th century political ideologies seem to be receding, as identity becomes the new determinant of politics and economy. Multiple and new actors, often divided and mobilized on the basis of their identity claims (including prominently, religious ones), compete in the common public sphere, asserting alternative visions of politics and society.

This year’s ISSRPL will be located in two very diverse places in Indonesia, Yogyakarta (which has a majority of Muslims but also a strong presence of other religions) and Bali (which is a Hindu majority area). Contrasting and comparing these different locales will allow participants to reflect on these issues based on the Indonesian experience as well as those of the participants from many different countries. The school’s host this year will be the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies ( and Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies, Graduate School Gadjah Mada University (, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The school’s goal is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which religious orientations and secular models of politics and society engage one another. Its guiding principle is that in order to build relations of tolerance and understanding between groups and to shape a civil society, the perceived barrier between secular, modern and more traditional religious values must be questioned. Political orientations and social practices must be developed that will draw on both religious traditions and the insights of secular modernity in new and creative ways. The program is centered on three different kinds of learning (formal, informal and experiential) together with intense processes of group building and the construction of working relationships across religious and ethnic identities. Commitment to all forms of learning and group work is expected of school participants. Thus, the didactic goals of the school are social as well as cognitive. It is expected that, as a result of attendance at the school, fellows develop and operationalize programs in their home countries.

In 2003 the ISSRPL met in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia to study The Role of Religion in the Conflicts of ex-Yugoslavia. In 2004 it met in Bosnia and Herzegovina to study The Muslim Question in Europe. In 2005 it met in Israel, focused on the problem of Religion, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: The Challenge of Coexistence. In 2006 it met in both Stolac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Boston, USA and was focused on Religion and Civil Society: A Comparative Perspective. In 2007 it met in Istanbul, Turkey to study comparative perspectives on State, Ethnos, Religion: The Legacy of Empire and the Nation-state. In 2008 the school met in Birmingham, England around the theme of The Good City: Living Together Differently. In 2009 it met again in Birmingham, one of two major English cities likely soon to have an “ethnic minority, majority”. We then explored these norms on the micro-scale of neighborhoods, and so that year’s title was The Language of Neighborhood and Practices of Public Life. In 2010 the school met in Nicosia, Cyprus and Jaffa, Israel and compared the dynamics of divided and mixed cities, in a program entitled Together and Apart: Divided Cities. In 2011 the school met in Sofia and Plovdiv Bulgaria focused on a study of A Mosaic of Margins: Ethnicity, Religion and Belonging.

We look forward to a small but select group of international fellows who may include, religious elites, NGO leaders, school teachers, major actors in the non-profit world and civil society, as well as political leaders, academics and members of the business communities of different countries. Fellows will be joined by an international faculty and so comprise a cohort from the Americas, the Balkans, Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Western Europe and elsewhere. The success of the school has always depended on the wide range of people, commitments and views presented. It is through the intense encounter with the truly different that we are forced to rethink our fundamental assessments and so break-through to new ways of knowing, thinking, feeling, and hence, acting.

The deadline for receiving applications is 11 March 2012, with application material found at