Sites of Civic Engagement

Social Science Research Council

In recent decades, the United States has seen a remarkable decline in religious affiliation and, correspondingly, the emergence of "spiritual-not-religious" as an alternative index of identity. Concomitant with these phenomena is a widespread premonition—and anxiety—that such transformations of the religious topography of the United States mark a turn toward an insidious individualism and the dissolution of those forms of civic engagement and political participation thought to have traditionally sustained American democracy. In the interest of challenging such assumptions and, in so doing, developing a sharpened analytic perspective from which scholars can engage questions of American spirituality and politics in new ways, the participants in the Sites of Civic Engagement Workshop came together for two days of vigorous debate and discussion focused on the historical emergence of spirituality as an articulation of individual and collective identities, the construction and deployment of discourses of the spiritual in the public sphere today, and the optimal methods for the study of spirituality in both its historical and present-day configurations.