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Title: The religious and social significance of individualized religion : practice communities and networks of transmission in Hebden Bridge
Author: Wanless, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 5294
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 2019
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Alongside the decline of traditional religious institutions in Britain, there has been increasing evidence of a move towards more personal expressions of religion. Secularization theorists argue religious practice without hierarchical institutions is structurally unsuited to having social significance and to sustaining itself over time. This thesis reports on ethnographic research conducted into forms of association and transmission among non-institutional and semi-institutional religious practitioners in and around Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Hebden Bridge is a former industrial town with a history of religious nonconformism and social activism. Its character has been informed by waves of countercultural and alternative incomers since the 1970s, and it is now known as a centre of creativity and alternative culture. The subjects of this research claim a variety of religious identities and practices, and are highly suspicious of religious institutions, hierarchies, rules and dogmas. Yet they participate together actively in an overlapping and cross-linking informal network of loose practice communities and other informal associations. Their engagement propagates and sustains a core ideology that prioritizes subjectivity, locates authority at the level of the individual, and yet also predicates itself on ideals of sharing, mutuality and community. In this context religious activity tends to represent one aspect of a wider sphere of activity that can also include (for example) artistic creativity, experiments in alternative living, and environmental and political activism. While propagation and dissemination in this milieu do not occur in the same way as in institutional or hierarchical settings, the combination of informal structures and practices at play do provide a potentially viable basis for socially significant religious activity and for ongoing propagation over time.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral