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April 2012 Naomi Goldenberg visit

The Critical Religion Research Group is delighted to be hosting Naomi Goldenberg, Professor of Religious Studies (Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa), for a visit to the UK in April 2012.

Prof. Goldenberg will be speaking in three locations: Stirling, Aberdeen and London. Details for each location are noted below, as are some notes about her current research. The Critical Religion Research Group is also happy to facilitate media enquiries regarding Prof. Goldenberg’s visit (press release available here). Unless otherwise noted, all general enquiries should be directed to Dr Tim Fitzgerald.

In advance of her visit, Prof. Goldenberg has also written guest blog entries that discuss her work.

Please distribute information about these events widely (share buttons are at the bottom of this page).


Stirling – Monday, 23.4.12

“What’s God Got to Do With It? Contemporary Statecraft, Gender and the Category of Religion”

Room B2, Pathfoot Building, University of Stirling, at 15:00.


Aberdeen – Tuesday, 24.4.12

Prof. Goldenberg is speaking at a day workshop entitled Modernity and the Category of Religion, organised by Dr Trevor Stack of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law.

Other speakers include Dr Stack, Dr Tamas Gyorfi, Stirling’s Dr Fitzgerald, Dr Suzanne Owen and Dr Brian Bock; Stirling’s Dr Jasper is a discussant.

Please email Louise Harkins with any queries.


London – Thursday, 26.4.12

“What’s God Got to Do With It? Feminism, Religion and the State”

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Covent Garden, London, at 19:00.

Posters for this event can be sent on request, and are available for download here in jpg format: A3 size, A4 size.

The London event is organised in conjunction with our partner, Ekklesia.



Prof. Goldenberg writes:

I will argue that religions function as vestigial states within contemporary nation-states. By ‘vestigial states’ I mean sets of institutions and practices that originate in particular histories with reference to former sovereignties within present governmental jurisdictions. Vestigial states are both tolerated and encouraged as attenuated and marginalized governments within fully functioning nation states. However, they compete with contemporary nation states and therefore are always problematic in varying degrees – especially if a vestigial state challenges the exclusive right of the present state to control violence. Indeed, vestigial states have a propensity to behave as once and future states. Nevertheless, although vestigial states can contest contemporary governments, they also work to ground the powers that authorize them by recalling earlier, now mystified forms of sovereignty from which present states arise. They are thus storehouses of nostalgia for fictional, beneficent male hegemonies that present states are thought of as representing in less magical (i.e. ‘secular’) incarnations.

Because vestigial states always embody and perform patriarchal power through citing former male-dominated governments, they support the notion that the only truly legitimate political authority is male. Although women can exercise some authority in contemporary nation states, this power is so novel that it lacks cultural roots and social gravitas. Rights and responsibilities tend to be provisional, partial, and subject to restriction. In order for recent, progressive feminist gains worldwide to be both secured and furthered, the role of vestigial states – i.e. religions – in the maintenance of male control of contemporary nation states must be more vigorously interrogated.

We also encourage you to read Prof. Goldenberg’s guest blog contributions.



Prof. Goldenberg is very happy to conduct media interviews during her time in the UK. A press release with more details is here. All enquiries should be directed in the first instance to Dr Michael Marten on 01786 46 75 32.