Diversity and Intersectionality

Studies in Religion, Education and Values

by Jeff Astley (Volume editor) Leslie J. Francis (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XII, 256 Pages
Series: Religion, Education and Values, Volume 10


This volume brings together two core concepts that are central to understanding the social and public significance of religions and theologies within the contemporary world and are therefore of key importance to the discipline of religious education: diversity and intersectionality. Religious diversity requires an understanding of religions and theologies and their roles within a plural society. However, the effect of the intersectionality of multiple social identities on a person’s flourishing illuminates the ways in which the broader complexity of diversity must be viewed from different perspectives.
These core constructs were brought together in a recent conference convened by the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values, the leading international association for religious educators across the world. This volume presents twelve key contributions made to the seminar, spanning both conceptual and empirical approaches, and represents a unique collection of international perspectives on the interlocking themes of intersectionality and diversity.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • 1 Is there a Place for Intersectionality in Research on Religious and Values Education?
  • 2 Gender in Research on Religious Education and Values Formation
  • 3 Religious Diversity in the UK: Do Thirteen- to Sixteen-Year-Old Students Perceive it as a Site of Multiple Intersections?
  • 4 Growing Up Female and Catholic in the Republic of Ireland and in Scotland: The Intersectionality of Religious Identity, Religious Saliency, and Nationality
  • 5 Can Religious Education (and Students) Benefit from an Intersectional Approach to Identity?
  • 6 Will/ing Acceptance of Others
  • 7 Religion in the Lives of Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Young People: Findings of an Empirical Study in Hamburg, Germany
  • 8 Combating Sexism, Homophobia, Religionism, and Subjectism: Equality and Diversity in Religious Studies and Religious Education
  • 9 Women and Religion: Life Stories of Women Academics in Latvia
  • 10 Equality, Difference, and Our Historical Condition: The Error of Conceptualism and the Liberation of Education
  • 11 Coping with Diversity by Means of Inclusive Education: Reflections from a Christian (Protestant) Perspective on If and How Theological Arguments can Support a Pedagogical Concept
  • 12 ‘I warn you not to be ordinary’: Reflections on the Intersectionality of Ordinariness
  • Contributors
  • Index of Names
  • Index of Subjects
  • Series index

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The International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV, <www.isrev.org>) is the most important international research association of its kind, with a major seminar session taking placed in a different country every two years. ISREV has no religious basis or test, and has members specializing, for example, in Protestant and Catholic Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and secular traditions. It was founded in 1978 by John M. Hull, the distinguished Australian academic, and John H. Peatling, then of the Character Research Project in Union College, Schenectady, New York. The first meeting in Birmingham, UK, had research papers from 32 scholars attending from ten countries. The 19th meeting, with four times the number of participants, was ISREV’s first return to England since 1978. It was held in 2014 in York St John University, UK, and it was my privilege to act as host.

In York, the seminar theme concerned diversity and intersectionality. In road systems, intersections are necessary. They can also be dangerous. Recently a senior member of a religious group was criticized for practising and teaching elements of another religion. In response, he described himself as ‘religiously bilingual’. This description raised as many questions as it answered, of course. But real people – in contrast to the ideal types of people popular in many books on religion or philosophy – generally live their lives with many languages, crossing many intersections. I suspect this is not a new phenomenon at all, but it is relatively newly recognized and written about. This volume is therefore important for bringing together research in religion, education, and values that recognizes and attempts to understand the diversity and intersectionality that all of us live among. Our multiple and ambiguous identities are sources of power and of disempowerment. Living at an intersection may be a reason for oppression and discrimination (the original use of intersectionality), just as it can be the basis for creativity and flourishing. Religious education is therefore all the more valuable for the research presented here. ← vii | viii →

It is a difficult task. ISREV as an organisation, and the research represented in this volume, explores intersectionality and also recognizes specific, bounded, communities. Plurality and oneness are in creative tension, and this ambiguity, along with the ambiguity of multiple identities, multiple opportunities, multiple oppressions, is a rich and additional ambiguity, not a vagueness: ambiguity as addition, not dilution. But there will still be people and organisations who find it worrying and who will defend more exclusivist approaches. The poet Larkin writes, in Dockery and Son (Collected Poems, 1988, pp. 152–153), about someone else having a child, whilst he remains childless. Why do people think the addition of a child is ‘increase’, he says. For him, it would mean ‘dilution’. The same is said by many within religious traditions, and it is an argument repeated in politics, too, and even in academic life.

Here in this volume are voices of researchers on many different aspects of intersectionality, and, happily, many voices of children and young people – the voices that can lift any educational research, whether presented in script form or through inputs into questionnaires. One voice that underpins all the work here is that of John Hull, who not only founded but also provided inspiration for ISREV, its members, and its research. John was present in York, and talked with his characteristic passion about blindness, showing clips of the film made of his audio diaries (<www.notesonblindness.co.uk>). He also let us know that this would probably be his last attendance at ISREV, and he died just a year later in July 2015.

I am delighted, as General Secretary of ISREV, to commend this volume to all those interested in religious education and values, in memory of John Hull.

Julian Stern

General Secretary of ISREV

| ix →



By the time of the meeting in York St John University in England in July 2014, the International Seminar on Religious Education (ISREV) was clearly regarded as the leading international forum for serious researchers working in the field of religious education, from a range of academic disciplines, and from a range of religious and nonreligious backgrounds. When John M. Hull, the key founding inspiration behind ISREV, debated the most appropriate name for this initiative, each word was chosen with care. The core conjunction of religious education and values assured an agenda of inclusivity that found room for religious educators working within secular educational systems, for religious educators firmly grounded within faith-based communities, and for educators who preferred to work in the field of values. The prefacing qualifier ‘international’ appreciated the importance of conversations crossing national, cultural, and religious boundaries to advance scholarship and to generate new knowledge across the domain of religious education and values. But the most original and formative of Hull’s linguistic choices was the selection of ‘seminar’.

Conferences may be conceived as places where people talk and confer; associations may be conceived as organisations in which people associate for mutual benefit, for support, and for collective identity; societies may be conceived as generating social networks, leading to various social benefits and capitals; symposia may be conceived, at least ethnologically, as places where people drink together and share conviviality. Seminars, however, are serious places where people go to work, where they engage one with another, and where ideas are not merely communicated, but originated and then transformed. One of the ways in which ISREV functions as a seminar is by identifying a theme for each biennial meeting and challenging those participants willing to engage with the theme so as to view their own research agenda through a new lens, and to bring to the seminar new and ← ix | x → original perspectives. The theme for the 2014 seminar embraced ‘Diversity and Intersectionality’. This volume draws together some of the papers presented in response to that theme.

Looking back over this collection of papers, extra poignancy is given to the 2014 seminar at York St John University by the recognition that this was the last seminar that benefited from John Hull’s participation. John died on 28 July 2015. This volume is dedicated to his memory.

In the opening essay, Kerstin von Brömssen (from Sweden) sets the scene by defining and discussing the notion of intersectionality, and by exploring the place for intersectionality in research on religion and values education. In chapter 2, Karin Sporre (also from Sweden) employs the notion of intersectionality to explore gender in research on religious education and values education.

In chapters 3 and 4, Elisabeth Arweck and Leslie J. Francis, Gemma Penny (from the United Kingdom), Gareth Byrne, and Bernadette Sweetman (from the Republic of Ireland) employ the notion of intersectionality to develop new perspectives on the Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity Project conducted initially in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and subsequently extended to the Republic of Ireland. Chapter 3 draws on qualitative data and chapter 4 draws on quantitative data. Then in chapter 5, Tove Nicolaisen (from Norway) draws on research conducted among Hindu children to analyse how the intersection of religion, culture, language, ethnicity, nationality, and family shape their identity claims.

In chapter 6, Doug Blomberg (from Canada) takes up the theme of diversity. He argues that religious educators should promote acceptance rather than tolerance of people who are ‘different’ and towards whom prejudice is pervasive. He argues that we must often will ourselves to turn from what reason and feeling impel us towards. This requires our willing acceptance of others in all their difference from us.

In chapter 7, Dörthe Vieregge (from Germany) examines the importance of social context for the religious identity of young people. Her case is documented by an analysis of the role of religion in the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged young people in Hamburg, Germany.

In chapter 8, Denise Cush (from the United Kingdom) examines how religious studies in universities and religious education in schools ← x | xi → can address inequalities of gender, of sexual orientation, and of religion and beliefs. She draws on feminist and queer theory to critique both the content and methodology of religious studies as a discipline, and the ways in which it can become a vehicle for liberation.

In chapter 9, Dzintra Iliško (from Latvia) examines the life stories of five women academics from Latvia. The analysis reveals plural intersections among religious, secular, and academic discourses in the lives of these women; and explores the impact of intersectionality of religion, gender, and class on their lives.

In chapter 10, Mario O. D’Souza CSB (Canada), working in a Catholic tradition, draws on the philosophy of Jacques Maritain and Bernard Lonergan, and Charles Taylor to discuss equality, difference, and our historical condition. In chapter 11, Bernd Schröder (from Germany) offers a close reading of Protestant thinking dealing with plurality and diversity, starting from biblical references such as Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

In the final essay (chapter 12), Jeff Astley (from the United Kingdom) makes a general plea for taking seriously those people who claim to be ‘just ordinary’. The reader is encouraged to value ordinariness more highly as something that is central to human flourishing, and in intersection with the forces of economic, social, political, educational, and spiritual wealth creation.

Taken together, these twelve essays provide a flavour of the wealth, richness, and diversity of the many contributions offered to ISREV 2014 and stimulated by the challenge to see ongoing research within the fields of religious education and values through the lens of the theme of ‘Diversity and Intersectionality’.

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1 Is there a Place for Intersectionality in Research on Religious and Values Education?



XII, 256
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (August)
Diversity Intersectionality Religious education
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. XII, 256 pp.

Biographical notes

Jeff Astley (Volume editor) Leslie J. Francis (Volume editor)

Jeff Astley is the Alister Hardy Professor of Religious and Spiritual Experience at Glyndwr University, Wales, UK. Leslie J. Francis is Professor of Religions and Education at the University of Warwick and Director of the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit at Warwick University, England, UK.


Title: Diversity and Intersectionality
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