Tell us about yourself: who are you and what do you do?
My name is Sarah-Jane Page and I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. My research focuses on how religion intersects with gender and sexuality. I map the ways in which religious individuals experience tensions between their identities and their faith, also recognising that individuals also utilise religious belief as a source of support. The projects I have worked on have included looking at how young religious adults navigate their sexual identities, and the challenges and opportunities this brings. I have also focused on the discriminations clergy mothers in the Anglican Church face from an institution that has not prioritised their needs and experiences. I am currently working on two projects: assessing the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and its focus on the Anglican Church (I am undertaking a sociological analysis of this to determine the discourses of the Inquiry, who gets to speak, and what the implications of this are); as well as a project focusing on public forms of activism against abortion (e.g. prayer vigils at abortion clinics) and how we manage the tension between freedom of religion and belief, vis-à-vis the right to access healthcare services without fear of harassment.
How does your research or your work connect to activism?
My work focuses a lot on tensions around religion and making sense of this. Sociological research has the power to explore beyond anecdote to understand a phenomenon in more detail – its broader patterns, and understanding how certain experiences are more widely shared. From this basis we can then start to propose solutions. I am currently co-editing a special issue with Dr Kath McPhillips (Newcastle University, Australia) on Gender, Violence and Religion, for the journal, Religion and Gender. This special issue focuses on howreligion intersects with institutional, familial and public gendered violence. We currently have a call for papers out, inviting contributions.https://shiloh-project.group.shef.ac.uk/religion-and-gender-journal-call-for-manuscripts-for-special-issue-on-religion-gender-and-violence/
Why is activism important to you and what do you hope to achieve between now and the 16 Days of 2020?
I see research as a fundamental step in being better-informed about issues of gender violence and discrimination, making it far harder to make claims such as the commonly-heard view that “gender violence is rare and exceptional”. Qualitative research in particular gives voice to marginalised stories and accounts, so that they can be heard and recognised. Research is not perfect, and can contain its own biases, but the power of research to recognise the patterns of discrimination should be taken seriously. This is why I am a strong advocate for research funding into this area. I will be showcasing my research in the coming year, including at the Australian Association for the Study of Religion conference, where I will be taking about child sexual abuse in the Anglican Church. I also have a book coming out (co-authored with Dr Heather Shipley of the University of Ottawa) called Religion and Sexualities: Theories, Themes and Methodologies, which focuses on how we make sense of the role religion plays when we analyse sexuality, noting on the one hand the scale of injustices, but also on the other, the religious spaces which do affirm equality and justice regarding sexuality and gender identity. I am also writing a new book (with Dr Pam Lowe, Aston University) on anti-abortion activism in the UK.