The SSRC Working Group on Spritituality, Political Engagement & Public Life is inviting submissions of abstracts for a conference to be held at Columbia University in New York City, June 3-4, 2011. Submissions are due by March 1, when they will be reviewed by members of the working group co-chaired by Courtney Bender and Omar McRoberts.

The conference, like the working group, will engage with a set of overarching themes: “the institutions and traditions that construct, condition, and demarcate spiritual activities and identities” and “the relations of these institutions and traditions to systems and patterns of political participation in the contemporary United States.”

From the call:

Opinion polls show that the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation is rising, although belief in a divine order and some form of deity has declined only slightly. Furthermore, belief in various non-orthodox, or non-Western, religious ideas—from reincarnation to the “mind-body connection”—is becoming increasingly popular. In sum, it seems that many Americans have begun to identify, at least nominally, as spiritual, while having become less likely to affiliate with recognized religious traditions. Meanwhile, academic work on civic associations continues to highlight the various religious and spiritual underpinnings of American political life. In light of these recent trends and developments, the project asks:

What are the consequences of the increasing salience of “spirituality” for American civic and political life? Do actors and groups publicly identified as spiritual challenge commonly held understandings of social and political involvement? How strongly are they committed to any particular set of political goals or ideals of citizenship? How do they engage in public life, and do their patterns of involvement differ in a systematic way from the patterns of others? What kinds of alternatives to, or cautionary tales about, dominant understandings of political engagement might political expressions of “spirituality” present?

For further details and submission instructions, see here.