Over the past twenty years there has been an exponential growth in the academic literature on religion, media and culture (see Hoover 2006; Clark 2007a; Morgan 2008a; Lynch 2010; Meyer et al. 2010 for summaries of this). In part, this is a more recent expression of the trend which began in the 1950s and 1960s for scholars to take the media and cultures of everyday life more seriously as a focus of study-a process which spawned the new academic subject area of cultural studies. But, in part, it also reflects a growing awareness within the study of religion that it is increasingly difficult to think about religious phenomena in contemporary society without thinking about how these are implicated with various forms of media and cultural practice. Radically new forms of digital religion-such as virtual sacred sites on Second Life-may still only touch the lives of a small part of the world’s population. But public media now represent a significant source of public knowledge about religion, and a form of public space within which religious organizations have to act as their own advocates or defend themselves from public criticism. Contemporary media and culture encourage the “deregulation” of religious

ideas and symbols, allowing them to circulate through society in ways that are increasingly beyond the control of religious institutions. The nature of religious institutions and networks is increasingly shaped in relation to the possibilities of new media and new forms of cultural activity, which also allow for new kinds of trans-national interaction. The persistence of religious sub-cultures in increasingly secularized societies is made possible through the development of niche media and cultural products organized around particular religious beliefs and lifestyles. Indeed, the very practice of everyday religious life is usually dependent on how this is mediated through different forms of media and cultural product. The study of religion, media and culture is therefore becoming increasingly central to the study of contemporary religion more generally (see, e.g., Hoover and Lundby 1997; Hoover and Clark 2002; Mitchell and Marriage 2003; Horsfield et al. 2004; Deacy and Arweck 2009). The literature on religion, media and culture also shares common interests

and concerns with the closely related work that has developed during the same period on “lived religion” (see, e.g., Orsi 1988; Hall 1997; Ammerman 2007; McGuire 2008). Both bodies of work are interested in everyday social and

cultural practice, distinguishing themselves from approaches to the study of religion which focus on abstracted textual or doctrinal content, the practices and beliefs of religious elites, or broad macro-level generalizations about religion and society based on quantitative data on religious belief, identification and behavior. By contrast, researchers studying religion, media and culture and lived religion are often engaged in a common task of trying to understand how religious life worlds are lived out in the context of media-saturated, late capitalist societies. Whilst initially emerging out of different networks of scholars,1 work on

religion, media and culture and lived religion has increasingly focused on the same ground. As work on media and culture has increasingly shifted its focus from textual analysis to the uses of media and culture, so work on lived religion has recognized the importance of media and cultural products in everyday religious life. Usually, though not exclusively, grounded in qualitative and ethnographic approaches, this growing body of research has proven highly valuable for understanding different ways in which media and culture shape the substance of religion in contemporary society, and it is difficult to see how many of the theoretical ideas explored in this book could have been developed without such rich qualitative studies. There is also, however, considerable potential for connecting work in this field with the analysis of quantitative data which might provide more context for, or means of evaluating, some of its claims. The aim of this Reader is to bring together a selection of texts that provide

an overview of some of the main debates and intellectual developments within this field, as well as some of the new areas of discussion that are beginning to open up. To do this, we have chosen some extracts from important work that has been previously published elsewhere as well as commissioning new material to complement this. We do not claim that the Reader exhausts all of the key texts in this field and hope that the references and bibliography will provide a useful resource for reading beyond what we have included here. There were many other texts and voices we would have liked to include, both from our seminars and beyond. Nevertheless, we imagine that this book will provide a useful orientation to this field not only for students coming to it for the first time, but for postgraduate researchers and established scholars who want to explore some of the key ideas within this field. In choosing the content of this Reader, we have been conscious of the

importance of not replicating valuable work that has already been done by other recent publications. There is, for example, an excellent range of resources in religion and film (see, e.g., Mitchell and Plate 2007; Johnston 2007; Lyden 2010), and we have therefore not sought to address that field specifically in this text. The same is becoming increasingly true in relation to religion and the internet (see, e.g., Dawson and Cowan 2004; Campbell 2010). We are also aware of or have drawn upon earlier studies on religion and popular culture (see, e.g., Forbes and Mahan 2000; Stout and Buddenbaum 2001), religion and consumer culture (see, e.g., Clark 2007b; Einstein 2008), and collections of

essays on religion and media (see, e.g., De Vries and Weber 2001). We would also refer readers to David Morgan’s (2010) valuable edited collection Key Words in Religion, Media and Culture, which provides an overview of key concepts in this field, and which can usefully be read as a companion volume to this Reader. In the first decade of the twenty-first century there were a number of ground-

breaking research studies that focused on particular media or on specific historical and geographical settings (e.g. Akhtar 2000; Hangen 2002; Rosenthal 2007; Sinha 2011). While we are aware how such studies shed valuable light on particular moments in time and history, in selecting material for this Reader we have tried to avoid focusing on specific types of media as isolated phenomena (e.g. film, the internet, television, etc.), except in cases where scholarly attention to them has been relatively underdeveloped (see, e.g., Partridge on popular music, Chapter 16). We have taken this approach partly because contemporary society is a poly-media environment, in which the distinctions that scholars sometimes make between different media are not necessarily made by people themselves in their everyday religious practices (e.g. someone listening to religious music on an MP3 player whilst surfing the internet for religious content). More generally, this move reflects our interest in thinking about how the complex array of contemporary media and cultural practices provide the conditions and resources through which people encounter and practice different forms of religious and spiritual life. The central questions that this Reader seeks to address are therefore:

In what ways are media and culture implicated in how forms of religion persist and change in modern societies?