Dissenting from heteronormativity: Growing sideways in religious education

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Tensions across religious and LGBTQ concerns have played out in education for some time. In this paper, I make efforts to respond productively to this context by theorising what it might mean for young people in religious schools to dissent from the heteronormativity of religion in religious education (RE). To do this, I survey perspectives across Jewish, Christian, and Muslim accounts of education to claim that there is precedent for dissenting from heteronormativity in religious school settings more generally given these accounts’ resistance to a uniform conception of religious identities and traditions, coupled with their sensitivity to pluralism and difference as enriching features of religious communities and experiences. The value of these accounts notwithstanding, I move to identifying two limiting dimensions to some of these perspectives for theorising dissent, namely: 1) an assumed commonality of religious identity in religious school settings, however internally diverse; and 2) an inordinately propositional and disembodied account of religious encounters. With the specific curricular context of RE in mind, I suggest that dissent from heteronormativity can (perhaps more helpfully) be understood as a mode of ethical agency that: 1) attends to that which exceeds identity in people’s encounters with religion; and 2) builds on the embodied, material, and affective dynamics of encountering religion in the RE classroom. Put differently, I understand dissent as a mode of ‘growing sideways’ in RE, where young people encounter alternatives to the limits of heteronormativity within the context of the present.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Religious Education
Early online date25 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2022


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