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New Lenses and Conclusions: Frontiers for Sociological Research

Rendor: You were talking about the morality of research, etc. but how about in the fields, as a starting sociologist what are the fields of interest that we could pursue?

Dr. Cornelio: Young scholars?

Rendor: Yeah. What do you think are the best areas right now?

Dr. Cornelio: Oh my. That’s why I love coming back to the Philippines. Because I see a lot of opportunities for research. Of course I would be biased and say that religion is an exciting field. More than anything else, I would say that the Philippines presents an exciting case for many topics. Because the Philippines has been understudied in recent decades.

More than anything else, I would say that the Philippines presents an exciting case for many topics. Because the Philippines has been understudied in recent decades… We were important in the 1950s, post-World War 2.

Compared to Indonesia, Thailand, compared to Vietnam even. Of course I don’t have objective data to prove, to demonstrate this but, I’m just getting the sense that, you know scholars are really interested in China, in India, the rising powers. So geopolitically we are not important. So I think the interest of scholars especially international scholars in the country is indicative of the country’s place in global geopolitics, k? That’s why India and China, ‘di ba?

Rendor: Correct, correct.

Dr. Cornelio: We’re not really important. We were important in the 1950s, post-World War 2. That’s why Philippine Studies was born in the 1950s. The journal was born in the 1950s. Think about it. Because there were so many missionaries, Americans, academics and thinkers.

Rendor: That’s why most of my fields of interest, when I look at the literature, very old and very scant than contemporary journals.

Dr. Cornelio: Exactly. And it’s sad to say that the scant literature we have about the Philippines are actually dominated by, well, I don’t want to antagonise them, but I think they’re by Filipinos based in other countries. I don’t have a problem because I myself, I’m shooting myself in the foot as I say this, but they are academics based in other countries.

The Philippines has more or less waned in Southeast Asian studies. But that’s a good thing. Because we have a lot of things to talk about. This conference alone right, Church-State Dynamics demonstrates that there are many exciting things going on. We have covered a lot of topics.

Religious freedom which my presentation was about, you talked about how the budget was allocated to the Bangsamoro in lieu of discourses of the congressmen, others talked about gender, others talked about jails and imprisonment, but all related to Church and State relations and that’s just church and state relations.

There are many other things that can still be talked about. I would say that the sociology of religion in a promising area in so far as the Philippines is concerned. Why? The study of religion in this country has been dominated by anthropologists. Who are interested in the usual stuff. Folk Catholicism, religiosity in the rural.

But now, the Philippines is urbanizing really fast. And with it comes many exciting permutations religion-wise. Classic case would be El Shaddai or Iglesia ni Cristo. But at the same time, we have a lot of discernible shifts in the attitudes of young people right towards religion and controversial issues like gay marriage.

The Philippines has more or less waned in Southeast Asian studies. But that’s a good thing. Because we have a lot of things to talk about… The Philippines is urbanizing really fast. And with it comes many exciting permutations religion-wise.

Rendor: That’s what you wrote right?

Dr. Cornelio: Yeah. Exactly. And the presentations today and yesterday have clearly talked about many of these resonating ideas that I already talked about two three four years ago. So in a way, its an exciting field, it’s just emerging. In fact, I am now guest editing a guest issue of Philippine Studies, about Filipino Catholicism. I’m working with Jun Aguilar for that but I’m the guest editor and I have several articles that talk about Catholicism at different levels.

Institutional, everyday life, popular religion, but also different empirically. Some are working on migrants, some are working on rural areas, some are working on Metro Manila. But what I’m trying to argue is that, what I’m trying to do is set the, consolidate recent research on Catholicism in the Philippines or Filipino Catholicism to represent the Filipinos elsewhere so that’s part of Filipino Catholicism.

And my introduction will set the agenda for the future. So my goal, my aim, is that one day this special journal issue is going to be the landmark text in the years to come when it comes to the sociology or social scientific study of religion in the Philippines.

See there are opportunities if you only step in another project we are thinking about is well there are some of us young scholars like Nicole Curato and Manuel Sapitula of UP. We are now thinking about drawing up a new textbook that discusses different institutions in the country and offer different approaches to the study of these institutions.

So what we want the textbooks to be is for it to become a definitive and an important material for university students for the years to come. Because we don’t have that. You go to a [local] Bookstore and the Sociology books suck. Not the imported ones. Not the imported ones printed on newsprint, and they are sold for Php 500 anyway. So even if they are in newsprint they are expensive, I don’t know why.

You go to a [local] Bookstore and the Sociology books suck. Not the imported ones… But we have locally published Sociology textbooks and I dare say this because anyone who flips them will really backflip. You know upon seeing how they define these, oh God. So we have again space for that.

But we have locally published Sociology textbooks and I dare say this because anyone who flips them will really backflip. You know upon seeing how they define these, oh God. So we have again space for that. So what I’m saying is that first junior scholars like myself could identify areas in the social sciences.

So I’m proposing that religion is one big big big area. A lot of theorising is called for. Having said that, another emerging area that I think we should venture into is urban studies, the sociology of the city. Not the sociology of urban poor; we have that. Emma Porio and Mary Racelis are big names.

Rendor: Isn’t Dr. Porio on urban studies?

Dr. Cornelio: There’s more to urban studies, the applied research that she does – disaster and risk reduction and management, you know that. She does that. Very practical with policy implications. So young scholars can venture into that area – evidence-based applied research you know what I’m saying.

Evidence-based research policy proposals so whatever you know. You are engaged in the level of policy making and she knows that. But urban studies isn’t all that. Urban studies is also the critical view or critical assessment of growth of cities. I mean Metro Manila, our urbanisation rate is 50% isn’t it? 50% of the country is urban and every town wants to be a city. A little town somewhere want to be a city because of IRAs, they get more money don’t they.

Another emerging area that I think we should venture into is urban studies, the sociology of the city. Not the sociology of the urban poor; we have that… There’s more to urban studies…disaster and risk reduction and management. Urban studies is also the critical view or critical assessment of growth of cities…Manila is a perfect laboratory for urban studies.

Rendor: Internal Revenue Allotments. It grows based on what type of city you are. It’s sort of a cyclical thing eh. You need more money to grow. But you need to be a city first to gain more money. So there’s this lag phase when you’re a city when you aren’t.

Dr. Cornelio: That’s true. I’ve seen it in many municipalities and towns in the country. What I’m saying is that the country is fast urbanising and are we urbanising healthily for example. Manila is a perfect laboratory for urban studies.

I have written a new journal article on the billboards on Metro Manila. I’m approaching in the point of view of urban studies and of religion. Hopefully it comes out very soon. I have a new book chapter how the government is dealing with religious diversification in Manila. And there are many cases that attest to that would unravel this for us. Because we don’t have a policy on religious diversification.

We have constitutional church-state separations but how does it really play out in local policies. Local executives, local units have their own law making bodies, right? And they can draft laws about morality and all that. We need to be creative methodologically on the state’s relationship with religions.

I propose for example in that paper I propose two ways how state relates with religion. One is the state becomes the final moral arbiter on religious diversities. If you know Kulo – Monoteismo exhibit, Lady Gaga’s Concert at MOA Arena, a lot of Christian groups protested these.

Rendor: Even The Killers concert.

Dr. Cornelio: Oh I’m not familiar. Maybe I wasn’t here. These are embodiments of modernity in Metro Manila, the arrival of international celebrities and art exhibits that seem to challenge prevailing moral codes or norms. So I’ll try to see how the government reacted and what the discourses were. But that’s just one way.

The other way I’m proposing is looking at how the state really dealt with the big religious organisations like El Shaddai or Iglesia ni Cristo. There you can see that even if there Church-State separation the state is involving religions in many of its affairs. So that’s urban studies. Looking at how government supports the project of Iglesia ni Cristo’s Philippine Arena 50 thousand seat stadium in Bulacan and the El Shaddai Complex in Paranaque. So you see what the government really did to make these things possible. So state assisting religions.

So how do we theorize their existence? And I use the term theorise not in it’s boring sense, highfalutin’ that nobody understands it but in terms of understanding the phenomenon not just on its own but relating it to other trends around the world today. Comparing. That’s the beauty of theory right? You’re able to compare and contrast to other phenomena outside that particular context, right? And the beauty in theorising is in contesting other prevailing theories and concepts about religion and the state.

So how do we theorize their existence? And I use the term theorise not in it’s boring sense… Comparing. That’s the beauty of theory right? You’re able to compare and contrast to other phenomena outside that particular context, right?

So those are two areas I want to foreground for us today: religion and urban studies. Maybe the other one, I know this is still an emerging sub-discipline, I would say it is the area of youth studies. Well we have a lot of psychologists working on that field but I’m approaching youth studies in a generations.

How do we understand generations? How do we understand cultural change? From the point of view of a sociologist of generations, is generational change. A cohort doesn’t change, a particular age group doesn’t change. They grow older so they’re conservative when they’re young they’ll grow old to be very conservative. They carry with them their values. So young people growing up as these old people are maturing, they’ll carry with them a different set of values that may contest the conservative values of the old.

Think about it, the term conservative is to conserve. And who conserves what? The elderly conserves the values that are being threatened by the young. So tensions or conflicts in society are not just in terms of class but also in terms of generations. Religion, the Catholic Church, is threatened not by class differences but by the arrival of young people who are contesting the values of, from the point of view of young people, church leaders.

So tensions or conflicts in society are not just in terms of class but also in terms of generations. Religion, the Catholic Church, is threatened not by class differences but by the arrival of young people…

Rendor: I guess we also recognise you as the one young sociologist for religion and Dr. Yayet for sociology of generations.

Dr. Cornelio: Yayet does sociology of youth. I do sociology of generations. Yayet is concerned about young people and their experiences. Clarence [Batan] is doing a lot of good things in locating young people, the marginalised ones. I’m ok with that but he’s particularist. Meaning [that he] focuses on case studies. My interests are in broad studies. I was going on among young people born post 1990s. I’m not interested in young people born in the cities, or young people born in Bohol but the young people in the Philippines.

Rendor: But that takes a lot of time to study.

Dr. Cornelio: It does. Statistics, surveys.

Rendor: You can’t rely on secondary data.

Dr. Cornelio: No. That’s my bigger ambition. Right now I’m totally dependent on statistics, survey run by polling agencies and trend surveys that are ran around the world and the Philippines is, fortunately, included in these surveys, the World Value Survey, in the International Social Sciences Program of ISSP. They have their strengths but I’m not just interested in young people per se but I’m also interested increasingly in the middle-aged, let’s say. Or the elderly.

So I would invite readers to think about it. We’re changing and we’re changing rapidly. Change in this country is across generations. People don’t see this. When you read an analysis of social change in this country, religious change, economic change, the growth of our GDP, urbanisation, they always forget generational shifts, attitudes, and they’re easily dismissed by political and religious leaders, “Oh young people don’t know enough.”
We’re changing and we’re changing rapidly. Change in this country is across generations. People don’t see this.

Rendor: But they will soon emerge as the driving force.

Dr. Cornelio: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. So a good sociology of generations will be sensitive to those shifts. Kaya kanina in the presentation, Clarence Batan’s presentation talked about shifts, attitudinal shifts, but they could have probed that deeper by talking about shifting from what. They talked about shifting to somewhere like people are actually open to gay marriage. Of course their survey is very purposive, that’s fine.

But when you make a case for a shift I think you cannot just say what they are shifting to but what the attitudes are shifting from also. And most of the time it’s generational. Like you know, as a young person, you just don’t wake up one morning believing in something else. You’re socialized into your beliefs. You learn these values. Parents teach you something. You learn this in school, you learn this in the internet. So the values of the old are not necessarily the values of the young. That’s cultural change, that’s social change and it’s becoming faster because of globalisation and urbanisation, education and migration. Exciting stuff.

So the values of the old are not necessarily the values of the young. That’s cultural change, that’s social change.