SSHRC funds new Cascadia research project at the CSRS

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funds CSRS project "Religion, Spirituality, Secularity, and Society in the Pacific Northwest"

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a large SSHRC grant to support a four-year project entitled "Religion, Spirituality, Secularity, and Society in the Pacific Northwest," also known as The Cascadia Project. The project will be based at the CSRS, and will involve Canadian and American faculty members and graduate students. If you're interested to learn more about how we have imagined this project, keep reading, or stay tuned - it'll be a significant theme in CSRS life for the next several years.


Explanations of the past, present, and likely future of religion in Western societies have begun in recent decades to underline both the salience of "lived religion" and the power of the local and regional contexts within which groups and movements are situated. Religion might well be lived (and thus less dogmatic, systematic, and formal than scholars once assumed), but it is also lived in a particular place that influences individuals and communities. Existing research suggests that the
Cascadia bio-region in the Pacific Northwest of North America is at the forefront of cultural shifts occurring throughout the West, including the rise of religious "nones," the decline of mainline Christian denominations, greater interest in environmentalism and religious or spiritual syncretism, as well as the growth of smaller, more conservative Christian and non-Christian groups. Consequently, in this region we are able to pursue unresolved theoretical debates about the nature, scale, and implications of
religious, spiritual, and social transformations, but also about the relevance of a specific environment in these broader phenomena.


This study will use a mixed-methods approach involving focus groups, interviews, an online survey, oral histories, as well as analyses of existing quantitative data and archives to generate and interpret a comprehensive set of novel empirical data on religion and spirituality in Cascadia. It will also involve both Canadian and US researchers in order to illustrate the cultural overlap and differences between the two regions of Cascadia. In so doing, this
original research will deepen our understanding of the social, political and religious dynamics at play as well as their implications for daily life and our shared future. Our team of faculty and graduate students from a wide range of disciplines will provide answers to three main research questions: 1) What are the
similarities and differences between the forms of religion and spirituality one finds in the Canadian and US components of Cascadia? 2) How inclusive is Cascadia for those from minority or conservative religious backgrounds? 3) What are the public and social implications of the religious, spiritual, and cultural changes we observe in the region?


The project will provide theoretical insights and empirical data that will illustrate the ways Cascadian perspectives on the natural world, the sacred, social change, relationships with institutions, and national identity interact within a region that is also influenced by major forces such as individualism, cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and modernization. In so doing, these findings will clarify the dialectical relationship between local and global forces. Moreover, the project will inform religious leaders and policy makers concerned with the provision of social services historically provided by religious groups. Since many of the groups that have provided these services are shrinking, understanding both the practical implications of and local responses to such shifts is quite
valuable for governments and service providers. Finally, this project will elucidate for scholars, policy makers, and the broader society the complex social processes that will likely influence the expression of religious pluralism in other regions and societies.

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