Archive 2020

Lived Catholicism(s):

New Questions and Untold Stories 

23rd and 24th November, 2020


An on-line conference taking place across two days, bringing together theologians, ethnographers, anthropologists, human geographers, psychologists and ethicists among others for interdisciplinary exchange and encounter. It is a project of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, in partnership with the London School of Economics.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The conference promoted the notion of ‘Lived Catholicism’
both within the academy and in the broader Church,
as experienced in homes, parishes, schools, and wider daily life.

Meet our speakers

Check out our programme

Explore our digital exhibition space

“The kind of rich, qualitative work needed to tease out the varieties of what ‘being Catholic’ can mean… has, to the best of my knowledge, not yet been carried out.”

Stephen Bullivant, Mass Exodus

What is Lived Catholicism?

Lived Catholicism is an emerging notion reflecting the move to the study of Lived Religion over the past 30 years. It encompasses a number of other terms, including everyday Catholicism, folk Catholicism and customary Catholicism; and pays heed to the ways that Catholicism is lived through empirical research, close listening, and as Robert Orsi writes, “attention to religious messiness”.

The conference had the following aims:

  1. To bring together scholars of lived Catholicism across a broad range of perspectives and disciplines.
  2. To help scholars of lived religion reach wider audiences through the conference and any succeeding publications.
  3. To promote the notion of ‘Lived Catholicism’ both within the academy and the wider Church, potentially through a formal network.
  4. By using a digital format, to enable more people to access the conference, regardless of distance.

How did this virtual conference work?

Online conferences offer different opportunities from a classic face-to-face gathering. Without the associated time and carbon cost of travelling, participants gather in a digital space for encounters across the time zones. We brought together some of the top people in the field, enabling global free access to the conference, while fitting around a daily routine that may have involved putting your kids to bed. Full immersion over two days, or dipping in and out as daily life and work allow: all was possible.

In addition to the scheduled programme, we also had break-out groups – a chance to meet other attendees – and a digital exhibition space, featuring other expressions of Lived Catholicism. Where possible, we will also promote the work of individual scholars and facilitate connections.

We want this to be a truly collaborative affair, so let us know if you have an idea that you’d like to share!

Session types

As this was a new conference and a new field, we wanted to get a feel for the breadth of work going on and hear as many voices as possible. Our keynotes addressed some of the key questions of our time, and had plenty of time for questions. We also had two types of paper: 15 minute slots which were organised thematically to increase interdisciplinary dialogue; and an ambitious Pop-up Podium event with 5 minute poster-type slots which enabled us to get a feel for the sheer range of projects within Lived Catholicism.

Survey the field

This session was for longer papers of 15 minutes exploring conceptual frameworks, interdisciplinary potential and methodological opportunities which emerge as we construct the field of study of lived Catholicism. What are the boundaries to cross or notice? What challenges arise as we take empirical methods seriously? What purposes can such study serve, in both the academy and for the lived reality of Catholic faith communities?

There was a moderator and disciplined timing, and questions and other responses were invited via chat. Some questions were selected for live response if time allows. 

Pop-up Podium  

This session engaged with what it means in practice to study lived Catholicism and gave us a feel for the breadth of research currently happening. Participants were invited to present 5 minute snapshots of research or potential research concerned with study of lived Catholicism.

The voices we invited for this session did not have to present completed or fully conceptualised work. It was envisaged as an open sided exploratory session in which we gathered as many perspectives as possible about what might constitute the field of study of lived Catholicism, what is already happening and what potential exists to expand its reach and depth.

Conference Team

Our conference team is gathered from across the disciplines including systematic and practical theology, anthropology and the study of religion.

Avril Baigent is a PhD researcher working on the lived religion of Catholic teenagers at the University of Durham. Previously a Diocesan Youth Officer, she is currently Pastoral Ministry Advisor for the Diocese of Northampton working on projects related to lay ministry and leadership.

Dr Pat Jones completed her PhD in 2019. Her research consisted of empirical study of Catholic charities working in the field of homelessness and social exclusion. Previously she held senior roles in Catholic charities including CAFOD and Depaul International and in diocesan and national Catholic structures.  

Katherine Ajibade is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Previously, Katherine worked as a researcher for Britain’s leading religion and society think tank, Theos. Katherine’s current research ethnographically investigates Ignatian spirituality as practiced by lay Catholic adults in the UK.

Dr Pound is Associate Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University. He has written extensively at the interface of Catholic theology and continental philosophy. He is currently the PI for a Durham University based project Boundary Breaking: Ecclesial-cultural Implications of the Sex Abuse Crisis within the Catholic Church

Lived Catholicism is a project of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, in partnership with the London School of Economics.

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