ISS: Nonreligion and hiking
This project takes hiking (trekking, walking, rambling) as its entry point with the purpose of examining how people understand their relationship to each other, the environment and non-human animals. We will use the activity of hiking as a refractor for better understanding religious and nonreligious identities and activities
This project takes hiking (trekking, walking, rambling) as its entry point with the purpose of examining how people understand their relationship to each other, the environment and non-human animals. We will use the activity of hiking as a refractor for better understanding religious and nonreligious identities and activities. Although hiking can be framed by or associated with organizations, it is equally an activity that is spontaneous and without organizational affiliation or motivation. Both avenues are important sites of research, with the former perhaps creating sites of community affiliation and belonging and the latter small group or individual engagements that can reveal a great deal about worldviews and the grey area of nonreligion. This study will include Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
This project is part of the large international project “Nonreligion in a Complex Future”, which studies nonreligion in the area of law, health, education, migration and the environment in Canada, USA, UK, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Nordic Countries (see https://nonreligionproject.ca). The project is based at University of Ottawa, Canada.
 A good example of such an organization is the Den Norske Turistforening (DNT) or Norwegian Trekking Association. Founded in 1866 with 223 members, there are now over 260,000 members of the association, which is 5% of the population of Norway. Members can use the DNT’s website to arrange hikes, meet others interested in hiking, and plan hiking routes. Similar organizations exist in all of the participating countries for this project.
- What is it that makes hiking experiences either 1) transitional moments with no broader effects on a person’s life, or 2) experiences that are part of a broader transition in their ethical/moral practice?
- How does hiking transform relationships?
- Does trekking change a person’s moral outlook on what is important in life?
- What are the characteristics of the trekking experience, and the person, that make moral changes more or less likely?
- How has trekking shaped what people actually do in terms of environmental behaviours?
- How do they understand the world around them and their relationship to it?
We are focusing on ‘ordinary’ hikers rather than ‘extreme’ hikers.
Literature review: There is an immense literature on walking, pilgrimage, and so on. While there are links to religion and nonreligion in that literature there is not a clear exploration of the dimension of nonreligion. Although the literature on nature connection is large, we will remain focused on walking/hiking, which is an activity that is accessed and accessible to a large number of people.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been cited as prompting a re-connection between people and the environment through walking. We may want to consider this as an aspect of this project.
Media/online/blog review to analyze how hiking organizations present themselves and how participants in discussion forums talk about their experiences while hiking. This aspect of the project will also consider the marketing of hiking and the local, national, international dimensions of it. Is there an educational component to these representations? Activism?
Survey: We will develop a survey that can be fielded in the participating countries that will give us a sense of the place of hiking in people’s lives. How often do they hike, is it a regular practice? We will ask people to self describe religiously. We will access hikers through groups like Den Norske Turistforening, Svenska Turistföreningen, etc. as well as methods that will target unaffiliated hikers/walkers.
Participant observation: The study will include participant observation by enlisting the help of team members who hike to contribute a walking journal in which they describe their encounters with others while hiking.
The student should have a background in the social sciences or humanities.
This is a part-time Research Assistant position for a MA-level student, where you collect data for the project and use some of them for your Master´s Thesis. The position is on an hourly basis and you are paid St.ltr.51. You will be involved in the Nordic and international network of the project. The findings of the MA thesis will be communicated to the rest of the research team and the MA thesis will be published on the website of the project.
The project will last for one year.
The principal investigator of “Nonreligion in a Complex Future” is of Professor Lori Beaman at University of Ottawa, Canada. Professor Inger Furseth is a Co-Investigator who directs a Nordic research group. Furseth if professor in sociology at University of Oslo, who has conducted various research projects and written several books and articles in the sociology of religion. Her research focus is on religion and nonreligion, religious extremism, Muslim women, social movements, gender and social theory.