chapter  4
Bringing people together
ByW. Michael Ashcraft
Pages 30

Randall Collins’s important concept of chains of interaction rituals is illustrated by the attempts by many NRM studies scholars during the time period 1965 through 1979 to come together through conferences, professional meetings, and publications like peer-reviewed periodicals. The Center for the Study of New Religious Movements was a key institution at this time. It brought together scholars to discuss and study numerous topics related to NRM studies during its brief career (1977–1983). Another venue for scholars to discover one another was the conferences hosted by the Unification Church (UC) of Sun Myung Moon. Scholars were often in dialogue with young UC scholars, but were also given free rein to say whatever they wanted without church censure. These conferences led to controversy among scholars. The UC’s affiliates paid for scholars to travel to conference sites, and some thought that compromised the independence of thought among those scholars who agreed to attend. Finally, several academic societies were helpful in hosting sessions at their annual meetings for presentation of NRM-related scholarship.