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Diversity and Intersectionality

Studies in Religion, Education and Values

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Edited By Jeff Astley and Leslie J. Francis

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.

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5 Can Religious Education (and Students) Benefit from an Intersectional Approach to Identity?

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ABSTRACT

Religious education usually treats religious identity as important. One aim of the implementation of common, mandatory religious education in Norway in 1997 was to support children’s identities based on their background in a religious or secular tradition. I question this simplification of identity and explore whether intersectionality could be a more nuanced and empowering approach. The findings from the present research on Hindu children’s experiences with religious education indicate that the intersection of religion, culture, language, ethnicity, nationality, and family is the focal point of children’s identity claims. I give examples of children’s understandings of self and religion. They root their self-understandings in the values of the transnational family, diasporic experiences, and ethnicity. Religion is an important part of the family’s cultural heritage, which includes strong ties to the country of origin. However, in religious education, children are often labelled exclusively according to their specific religious tradition. This text discusses how religious education can meet students’ diverse, fluid identity claims and approach religion as part of a complex cultural context.

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