Despite the persisting secularisation of Scottish society, represented by decreasing church attendance, understanding Scotland's religious past is a sine qua non for understanding Scotland's social present. Religion has served as a principal factor in the formation of Scottish culture by shaping cultural norms, delineating individual and corporate identities, and profoundly influencing the nation's legal and political institutions.
Due to its fundamental role in shaping Scottish culture, religion has, moreover, left a lingering legacy that continues to affect the nation on a day-to-day basis. It cannot be ignored. While the most high profile aspect of this heritage is the blight of sectarianism, something that is a prominent concern of policy makers within the Scottish Government, the fact is that the historical legacy of religion in Scotland continues to be understudied. This in turn has allowed popular myths to persist unchallenged and perpetuated social divisions, mistrust, discrimination and sectarian violence. This project aims to deal directly with the role of religion as a formative and yet divisive force in Scottish society and highlight its positive and negative functions in the development of the nation's culture. The impact of the Scots diaspora on the wider world means that the subject has major significance far outwith Scotland.
Now is an important time to address this subject. While religion's significance remains an important factor in government policymaking, its prominence in the curricula and research agendas of Scottish universities has diminished. With the area of study at a low ebb, this network will seek to reinvigorate the subject of Scottish religious cultures by bringing together academics and postgraduate students both within the University of Glasgow and beyond to study the essential role religion has played in shaping Scottish culture and history, and centre this focus in the University of Glasgow. Importantly the approach is interdisciplinary and seeks to include scholars of art, history, law, literature, politics, sociology, and theology.
The network constructs shared and open-access research and teaching infrastructures to be made available online and through videoconferencing. This is achieved through:
- a regular multi-institutional audio-visual seminar series
- sponsoring high-profile public lectures
- providing an umbrella for grant applications and interdisciplinary/multi-institutional collaboration
- publishing innovative and interdisciplinary research
- providing a forum for collaboration and assistance in the dissemination of participants' research to the general population and to policy makers
- facilitating quality supervision for postgraduate researchers