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New Law and Religion handbook takes interdisciplinary approach

16 December 2019

A new book on Law and Religion, which brings together ideas from History, Philosophy, Sociology, Theology and Comparative Studies, has been edited by two School of Law and Politics academics.

The new Research Handbook on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Law and Religion, has been published by Edward Elgar Publishing and is edited by Law professors Russell Sandberg and Norman Doe.

Professor Sandberg and Professor Doe have teamed up with their Cardiff University colleague, Dr Bronach Kane, Senior Lecturer in History of the School of History, Archology and Religion and Caroline Roberts, a PhD student in Law at Cardiff and Bristol, to edit the first handbook of its type.

As Professor Sandberg argued in his 2014 monograph (Religion, Law and Society, published by Cambridge Press), although recent years has seen a significant increase in Law and Religion scholarship and some of this work has been interdisciplinary, the majority of the work has focused on legal methods.  This new handbook seeks to redress this by providing a guide to a range of approaches from a number of disciplines which could be used to further scholarship and our understanding of how Law and Religion interact.

Professor Sandberg commented, “Talk of the value of interdisciplinary work is ingrained in universities. But it is much easier said than done. This handbook fills a pressing need in the scholarly community. It’s meant as a coffee table read allowing you to pick and choose the chapters that you find useful and interesting. We are hugely grateful to our contributors from around the world for authoring such stimulating and exciting chapters”.

The handbook includes an introductory chapter authored by Professor Sandberg entitled ‘Snakepits & Sandpits’ which explores the advantages and risks of interdisciplinary work in Law and Religion. He commented, “It looks at how Law and Religion has developed as a field of study. However, it’s probably the most personal thing I have ever written. Taking its cue from literature on the development of feminist legal studies, it takes an autobiographical approach. This is my account of the changing way in which I see the field, the mistakes I have made along the way and why an interdisciplinary approach, though risky, is necessary”.

Professor Sandberg also contributes a chapter in the Sociological Approaches section which explores the work of Niklas Luhmann. He commented, “lawyers and theologians both read Luhmann. But how can his social systems theory be used to understand Law and Religion as an interaction and as a field? This chapter brings together my work on the topic to explore the lure of Luhmann”.

The book’s cover image is a photograph taken by Professor Sandberg of a stream on a Welsh hillside. The photograph symbolises the development of Law and Religion as a field, flowing onwards. The Welsh setting is appropriate given that the key role that Cardiff University and its Centre for Law and Religion has played in fostering Law and Religion as a field. The new handbook is set to develop this further, enabling Law and Religion to surge as an interdisciplinary endeavour.

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