Open Session Topics

The organizers received over 50 open session abstract proposals. Here are the proposals which invite a varying number of panelists from 1-4. You may apply for an open session topic with your individual abstract using the e-form on the Call For Papers page.

The application period for the individual papers is from the 15 of November to the 31 of December 2015. The Conference organizers will go through the proposals and forward the accepted abstracts to the Chair(s) of the open sessions. The final open sessions will materialize in the program. The organizing committee holds the right for any changes in the conference program. If you have any enquiries concerning your session, please, feel free to contact us by the conference email:

Instructions for reading: sessions are divided by theme, marked in blue and in a random order. Specific session topics are in bold. After the Chair(s) name follows the number of open places for panelists. Abstracts are presented according to the Chairs(s) submission.

Hinduism │ Islam │  Christianity │ Judaism │ Everyday Life │ Digital & Religion │
Europe: Ancient & Historical │ Europe: Society & Religion │ Study of Religion  │Contemporary Religiosity │Leaders & Society │Social Theory │Theory & Method │
Education │Urban Space & Memory


Themes and Topics:




Hindu pilgrimage and tourism 1

Chair: Knut Aukland Inviting: 1

Pilgrimage is a long–standing tradition and key component of Hinduism. Today it involves millions of people, thousands of places and a wide circulation of both capital and ideas. While the activity of visiting religious places appears to be more popular than ever, several aspects of Hindu pilgrimage have adapted and changed over time. The panelists will investigate modern developments of Hindu pilgrimage in relation to tourism with cases stretching from colonial to contemporary India.

The pilgrimage–tourism connection is bound up with questions of pilgrims’ motivations and activities. However, beyond changing travel patterns and visitor trends, tourism also refers to one of the largest industries in the world today. Moreover, the Indian state is deeply involved in tourism development and promotion of Hindu pilgrimage. This panel will consider the variety of entanglements between Hindu pilgrimage and tourism by looking at issues such as ideas and concepts of travel to religious places

-the promotion and description of religious places in different genres literature

-travel patterns and expectations of pilgrims

-economic concerns

–impact of modern means of transportation

-changing practices and the responsive adaptations of pilgrimage priests and temple authorities

-conflicts, competition and collaboration between different interest groups in relation to tourism

-the impact of international tourists

-travel agencies, package tours and tourist guides


Everyday Life


Imageries and rituals of modern death

Chair: Maija Butters Inviting: 4

Understanding of the finitude of life has always been a challenge for the human mind. Cultures and religions have historically offered a range of practical and metaphysical tools for handling the various issues concerning death and end-of-life experiences. Death often evokes a special language and a rich set of rituals, of which some are practical and others are deeply symbolic and metaphysical. While many (post)modern societies are secularized and simultaneously enriched by new forms of spirituality, the death culture has also been changing. In some areas, the traditional cultural expressions around death and dying are still valid, yet new — often transcultural — forms and media used to convey wishes and fears around death have appeared. This panel invites papers focusing on the modern ways of dying, including the different kinds of imagery and rituals being used nowadays in various contexts handling end-of-life issues. Historical examples, as well as various empirical and theoretical approaches to the theme, are welcomed as well. We encourage papers from various cultural and religious contexts.


Defining Apostasy and Research on Leaving Religion

Chairs: Teemu T. Mantsinen & Daniel Enstedt Inviting: 4

People do not only join religions but also leave them. These exits are numerous in nature, and each environment has its own effects on people leaving their religion and tradition. Previous research on apostasy, leaving religion, has concentrated, for example, on students, new religious movements, and psychological processes. However, definitions and concepts on the subject vary, and new approaches could help us to locate, define, and explain apostasy better. In this session we will discuss how to define and study apostasy, deconversion processes, and people leaving religion. We will approach the subject from different directions and multidisciplinary perspectives and include researches on different religions and traditions. The session is part of our ongoing research projects on apostasy in Finland (University of Turku) and Sweden (University of Gothenburg).

We invite submissions to our session ‘Defining Apostasy and Research on Leaving Religion’ to be held at the 2016 EASR conference in Helsinki, to discuss the topic from different methodological perspectives and concerning different religions.


Lived secularities

Chair: Ann af Burén Inviting: 4

In the past few decades there has been an increase in empirical scholarship focusing people and phenomena that contradict simplistic understandings of the religious and the secular. For example, there is a growing interest in semi-secular and non-religious positions and people. Such research stresses the need to appreciate expressions of complexity, contradiction and (in) congruity within our field of study.

This panel investigates expressions of everyday, lived secularity. The aim is to explore not only the religious- secular binary but also the interplay between the institutional and the non-institutional, beliefs and practices, things and ideas, authorities and non-experts, us and them.

A focus on everyday realities provides an opportunity for better understanding different lived secularities in modern times as well as the role of history in the making those experiences. Hence, we welcome methodological, theoretical and empirical papers addressing the experience of the individual and the social realities of everyday life in relation to the secular or nonreligious.


Europe: Society and Religion


The public role of Young and Second-generation Immigrants in European societies

Chairs: Valeria Fabretti & Vergata Maria Chiara Giorda Inviting: 4

 On the backdrop of the attempt to re-frame secularism in contemporary Europe, it is urgent to progress on the empirical ground exploring the specific contribution different social actors and groups play in orienting the relationships between religious communities and the secular institutions at local level.

The panel addresses the topic focusing on young and second-generation immigrants. Such target groups are more and more evidently challenging integration in European areas and tends to be categorized as problematic. Literature has particularly addressed second-generation immigrants’ religiosity, and two opposite thesis have emerged: assimilation to secularism vs religious radicalization or ‘reactive religion’, mainly with regard to Islam. The panel aim to collect reflections offering innovative perspectives and focusing on the way in which immigrant and second-generation youth (adolescent and young adults) contribute (reproducing or re-creating) to the different potential approaches of communities towards the other religious groups and the public institutions. We welcome papers discussing for example: the role of religion in the advocacy activities of the young migrants’ organizations in the public sphere; the youth’ ‘practices of religious belonging’, both traditional and creative, in the everyday life of urban areas; intra-familiar conflicts (parents vs. young) and conflicts between families and public institutions.


Debating the Religious Composition of Europe: Religious Affiliation, Religious Identities and Changes in European Countries and Regions

Chairs: Antonius Liedhegener & Anastas Odermatt Inviting: 4

Religion in Europe is historically a highly territorial feature of social structure. Apart from war times, it was only after the mid to the 20th century that the religious landscape of Europe started to change considerably brought about by long term social change, political developments and migration. Today’s European countries have to face an increasingly pluralized situation. However, how religiously pluralized is Europe really? And what kind of change can be found in different countries and regions?

A basic measurement must start with data on religious affiliation and discus their connections to religious identities. Although data on religious affiliation are regularly brought forward in debates about the strength, predominance and acceptance of religious groups, researcher faces serious data problems especially when it comes to Western Europe. There are several projects like «The Global Religious Landscape»-Project of the Pew Research Center or the «Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation in Europe (SMRE)» which try to improve the situation and to provide better data to the scientific community.

The session is mainly interested in proposals on more recent times (1989/90 to the present). Papers should give a specially attention to methodology and data quality.


Relocating the sacred in Eastern Europe

Chairs: Annika Hvithamar & Tatiana Folieva Inviting. 4

Since the 1990’s Eastern Europe has emerged as a specific field for the study of religions. ‘Traditional’ religions have gradually gained a growing influence in public life, adding to the theories on post secular society and desecularization. The same time, variety of NRMs has emerged together with new and individualized developments and interpretations of the traditional religions, enhancing the study of lived religion. During this period, the forms, functions and contents of both religious life and views of it among believers have dramatically changed.

Alongside these changes the approaches to study them changes as well: from the study of religions as scientific atheism, through adapting Western theories towards an understanding of Eastern European religious phenomena in their own rights. We invite our colleagues to discuss the changing role of religious communities in political and public life, the developing forms of individualized interpretations of religion, where the scholars of religion find and define their object of research and the methods they use to study it, and how their choice of methods affects the place for the study of religion in public life as well as in popular understandings. We welcome both theoretical research and case studies in various post–Soviet phenomena focusing on practical aspects of studying this relocated sacred and its new place in cultural practices.


Study of Religion


“Boring, detached, heap of facts – and disregarding the really important questions”? – Outsider representations of the academic Study of Religions

Chairs: Wanda Alberts & Tim Jensen Inviting: 4

Panel abstract: This panel focuses on outsider-representations of the academic Study of Religions: how is this discipline perceived and described by people who themselves are not scholars in the Study of Religions? How are religious studies approaches to religion and the representation of religion(s) described and criticized in different contexts? We intend to take stock of various outsider representations of the Study of Religions in different countries. Furthermore, types of outsider representations may be contrasted with popular insider representations (that is, self-descriptions of the Study of Religions as an academic discipline). Papers may, for example, relate to religious studies contributions in public, educational, political and academic contexts. While proposals related to other contexts and issues are equally welcome, interesting further focuses may be topics that have mostly been dealt with by theologians, theological accounts of the function, achievement and limitations of the academic Study of Religions or representations of the Study of Religions as a negative foil.


Relocating Didactics in the Study of Religions

Chairs: Sabrina Weiß & Martin Radermacher Inviting: 4

Questions of didactics in higher education have become more important since the signing of the bologna declaration by Education Ministers from 29 European countries in 1999. This has led to an essential process of reflection in the field of teaching religious studies, including, e.g., discussions at the IAHR-Conference in Toronto in 2010 about specific expertise in religious studies, methods, language skills and demands for higher employability of graduates (Stausberg 2011).

Six years later the proposed panel starts from ongoing research on goals of learning in religious studies, which Laack proposed for the German discussion recently (Laack 2014). The panel conveners have suggested measures and methods of teaching religious studies on university level based on the premise of action-based didactics (Weiß/Radermacher 2015). While questions of didactics have primarily been discussed in the context of the pedagogy of teaching religions in schools, the systematic treatment of these questions concerning the context of higher education remains a desideratum. In this panel we seek to facilitate exchange between scholars teaching religion on university level in Europe and beyond who are interested in new approaches of teaching. We invite short presentations with a focus on concrete examples of teaching to convey knowledge, theories and methods in the study of religions.


Contemporary Religiosity


The Words of Religious Pluralism 3

Chair: Alessandro Saggioro Inviting: 4

“Religious Pluralism” can be considered as an academic field of studies and, in the same time, a reality that has characterized history of humanity in various ages and contexts. This panel will discuss, historicize, and contextualize a group of words that are considered as “critical” terms in the history of Religious Pluralism, such as:

Cohabitation, interaction, coexistence, sharing, respect, dialogue, knowledge, persecution, exclusion, abuse and coercion, conflict, tolerance, religious freedom, preservation, protection, and distinction.

Each paper will discuss general, historical, and contemporary meanings of one of these words. The participants will select just one context or historical age in which their selected word, or the concept represented by this word, is taken under consideration, and further analyze it with the required methodological caution and consistency.

The participants to this panel will try to avoid adopting historical presumptions, or filters, determined by present-day views and thoughts. The participants will be aware that historical sources largely depend on the ways in which they made their way through history (i.e. considering matters of preservation and reproduction of knowledge). At the same time, the participants will be aware that our study of the past is a sophisticated representation of how we want to regard it or of what we can still see and understand from the past we are looking at.


Religion and gardening

Chair: Lena Roos Inviting: 4

Gardens and gardening are central elements in many religious traditions, past and present. Gardens can represent an ideal existence as in the Garden of Eden, or can be thought of as a suitable site for contemplation, as in Zen Buddhist practice. Working in the garden can be seen as a virtue, whether it be in the form of promoting seclusion through self-sufficiency as in the medieval monastic gardens, or in the form of the kibbutz movement within Zionism. Agricultural products and practices also feature prominently in the mythology of various religious traditions, for instance concerning the cultivation of corn among various Native American peoples. In this session we relocate religion from the houses of worship out into the garden and encourage exploring all possible angles of this topic.

This panel is organized by the U4 cooperation between the universities of Ghent, Groningen, Göttingen, and Uppsala, but participants of all universities are encouraged to submit proposals on this theme.


“Illegitimate Influence” and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Concept “Manipulation”

Chairs: Christiane Königstedt & Anna Strhan Inviting: 4

In the study of new and minority religions, scholars have observed that processes of influence or manipulation are frequently referred to in terms that connote illegitimate influence, as f. e. ‘mind control. Such labeling is often paired with terms as ‘cults’ or ‘extremist’ that equally denigrate the group in question, along with its alleged methods that turn smart people into witless victims. Scholars who have engaged with this language have often been seen as naïve, and this polarization has inhibited debates about the possibility of influence as such. There are conceptions and uses of these notions in different academic disciplines and since the differentiation of legitimate and illegitimate influence are political and ideological, they demand careful reflection, perhaps most obviously in relation to debates about “religious freedom” and the autonomy of individuals. This panel aims to engage with existing conceptions in order to develop more nuanced understandings of the social and cultural contexts in which respective allegations are made, how these relate to particular understandings of religion, as well as the varieties and range of influence. We invite papers addressing manipulation, social influence or other related subjects in the form of case studies or theoretical discussions, including interdisciplinary approaches.


Of sound body and spirit? The newly unfolding linkage of Health and Spirituality

Chair: C. Lombaard Inviting: 4

In the dawning post-secular cultural climate, Spirituality has as an academic subject and as foundational religious experience recently been linked, foreseeably or surprisingly, to various aspects of the human enterprise. These aspects include: the university, journalism, holy texts, music and –central to this session– health. Recent strongly academic institutional developments in such divergent geographies as Washington DC in the USA, Zürich in Switzerland and Pretoria in South Africa give expression to this academic linkage of Health and Spirituality. Ancient as human faith practices are in relating to physical and mental health, most often couched within mythological worldviews, it is clearly a very modern issue too, couched within scientific worldviews.

Why would this development occur, and what are its sociological contours? Which aspects of the faith-health link have moved from the “hippy fringes” of society to mainstream academic positions? Have theoretical and methodological stances been taken? What are the critical issues within this unfolding linkage? Are there prospects of greater insight into body and faith from such linkage? On these and related issues, papers of exploratory interdisciplinary nature and of finely specialised nature are invited. A broad overview and a deepened understanding of this recent linkage should result from the “Of sound body and spirit?” session.


Fandom and Religion

Chair: Minja Blom Inviting: 4

The study of Fandom and Religion is a growing field in religious studies, as scholars aim to understand the current religious reality in the context of everyday meaning making. Many fandom and religious studies scholars have seen connections between fandom and religion, but there is not a general agreement on what these connections mean, and how we should understand fandom from the religious studies perspective. This paper session aims to continue this discussion and find ways to understand fandom through religious studies. In this session both of the terms fandom and religion are understood broadly. Fandom can include all kinds of fan activity and enthusiasm; for example media fandom, sports fandom, anti-fandom and fandom of fans, such as Youtube -fandom. Religion can be understood as a cultural phenomenon which includes for example institutionalized religions, religions that have been inspired by popular culture, implicit religion, and religion as cultural meaning making.


Religion and mountaineering

Chair: David Atwood Inviting: 4

While mountains in various religions are a well-established subject, the role religion has played in the development of alpinism and mountaineering is still underestimated in the academic study of religion. Nevertheless, a focus on religious narratives in alpinism and mountaineering offers both a shared grammar for understanding climbing across cultures and societies, but also works hand in hand with/as social interests and practices that tell a story of how conquering of mountains figured into the white, western Europeans and American domination of land and people. This panel works to tell the story of this relationship from a critical religious studies perspective, offering a historical snapshot met with theoretical insights. While the former focuses on the history of alpinism from the 19th Century onwards, the latter develops a systematic analysis of the ‘religionization’ of mountains, reflecting on the narration of mountaineering in a ‘religious’ regime of truth. Ultimately, we end by offering an open-ended and heuristic typology for analyzing the “religious” dimensions of mountaineering that is sensitive to the categories of power and experience but that do not succumb to reifying the very rhetorical signifies part and parcel to these “religious” dimensions of mountaineering.


Contesting and relocating authority

Chairs: Marion Bowman & Ülo Valk Inviting: 4

 This panel explores the field of vernacular knowledge as ‘other than’ mainstream/ institutional/ scientific/ political/ social/ secular ‘orthodoxy’. Expanding upon the trajectory of regarding Vernacular Religion as religion per se, contesting, expanding, reformulating in pragmatic ways institutional formulations of religion and loci of authority, we are thinking about vernacular religion/vernacular knowledge/ ‘alternative’ beliefs not only in relation to institutional religion, but also vis-à-vis secularism, state sponsored atheism, scientific rationalism, allopathic medicine, and so on.

Dominant discourses, with claims to hegemonic authority, generate a variety of alternative discourses, and the concept of a homogenous worldview, dominating any social groups and time periods, is misleading. In contrast to institutionally established discourses with notionally monological voicing, the expressive field of the vernacular is always heteroglot, and adapts in relation to the genres and means of transmission available.

We invite fieldwork-based papers dealing with the contestation and relocation of authority through a variety of traditional and emergent genres and media, in a range of contexts.


Religious Practices, Scientific Notions and Popularization in European Mesmerism

Chair: Tilman Hannemann & Maren Sziede Inviting: 4

In the recent history of religion in Europe, Mesmerist actors hold a significant position at the threshold between enlightenment and romanticism. Mesmerism provided a bodily technique that induced a so-called ‘somnambulist’ state and ascribed bodily healing as well as certain spiritual and social skills to the faculties of the altered mind. The Mesmerist movement initiated an epistemological shift from philosophical and theological reasoning about the nature and the destiny of the soul into a more popular and scientific framework of observation and experiment – accessible to the less educated but interested public. The authority of science constituted a powerful tool which enabled both catholic and protestant Mesmerists to empirically explore religious tenets and to defend their interpretations, e.g., about the nature of the afterlife or the efficacy of faith healings in various public arenas. Furthermore, the ‘scientification’ of the soul as well as the focus on experience also contributed to a more general trend, informing notions of universal religion via key terms such as ‘mysticism’ or ‘magic’ in academic or theosophical discourses. This panel invites you to investigate relevant contexts of Mesmerist practice, to examine scientific and experiential assessments of religion, and to trace the importance of sympathetic notions in popular religious representations.


Supernaturalisation of nature in vernacular discourses and practices

Chair: Ülo Valk & Kristel Kivari Inviting: 4

The session addresses contemporary discourses, beliefs and practices that redefine moral principles and the position of humans in relationship with nature, landscape and cosmos. Environment acquires meanings not only through the practicalities of everyday life but through vernacular theorising (Ch. Briggs) that often contests the truth regimes of institutional authorities. The stretch from distant cosmos to earth is charged with ideas and notions of various powers that range from impersonal forces (e.g. thunder, energy fields, radiation) to those with agency and individuality (e.g. angels, spirits, aliens). Nature that the Western cosmology has portrayed as a soulless, non-human realm (Ph. Descola) is today being increasingly supernaturalised through a variety of vernacular genres and media channels. The concept of nature, however, is not dissolving in these discursive processes, but acquires new meanings and values as divine, uncontaminated and incomprehensible reality is constantly re-interpeted from various angels. Vernacular authority (R. G. Howard) today often outweighs the authority of institutional religion; beliefs, values and moral principles are reformulated in these new discursive contexts that redefine the supernatural as an immanent quality of nature.


Leaders & Society


States of Grace? Majority religions and religious freedom

Chair: Helge Årsheim Inviting: 4

This session invites papers that examine how states discuss, legislate and govern religious freedom, broadly conceived. Drawing on the recent rise in political efforts to control and administer what notions of religion should be banished, tolerated or accepted in the public sphere, the session seeks to explore the consequences of increased political and public interest in religion.

Are some religions framed as ‘good’ and therefore worthy of support, while others are labelled as ‘bad’ and therefore eligible for suppression? How are the borders between religion and non-religion negotiated? In particular, the organizers welcome papers that problematize and engage the role of religious ‘experts’ that are called upon to determine the proper boundaries of ‘religion’ in political and public discourse. While the session is open to all papers on this topic, the organizers will prioritize submissions that address the role of majority religions as explicit or implicit models of religion in political and public discourse, and the extent to which minority religions have to appropriate the features of the religious majority in order to gain official recognition in political and public discourse.


Xenosophia, tolerance and pluralism to and of religious people – directing the research of prejudice, racism and fundamentalism to a positive goal

Chair: Anna-Konstanze Schröder Inviting: 4

Academic explanations of prejudices and racism found ways to reduce such negative attitudes and behaviors. However, less prejudices are still prejudices; racism emerged as a controversial political concept in contrast to tolerance; and little is known what about fundamentalism and pluralism fosters or threatens a peaceful coexistence of people with different religions. Directing approaches to positive goals by using innovative constructs like xenosophia (Waldenfels, Streib) among others seems to be a more promising approach to future research. Thus, presentations of this panel are dealing with psychological, sociological, historical or theoretical approaches towards an equal encounter between people of different religions and their peaceful coexistence.


The making and remaking of religious authority

Chair: Thijl Sunier Inviting: 4

There is a growing body of scholarly literature addressing the transformations taking place in the ways Muslims experience, practice and live Islam in the wake of globalization. One of the issues that have been taken up is the changing status and legitimacy of religious authority. Old established configurations of authority are destabilized and increasingly challenged. However, both the assumption that religious authority is simply generated from religious sources and the depiction of the religious landscape as thoroughly fragmented, secularized and individualized, do not properly address the question how religious authority is produced and how knowledge production comes about. What are the (changing) sources of religious persuasion and conviction, how do they bear upon the constitutive process of authorization?

The panel welcomes contributions that address the dynamics of religious authority and starts from the premise that religious authority is not self-evident and stable and that it not just resides exclusively in persons. Religious authority is relational and must be reestablished and remade continuously, and is contingent on historical, social, and political circumstances. In addition, modes of religious knowledge production and conveyance operate not just cognitively but also aesthetically and involve a whole range of bodily experiences that shape religious authority. The convener explicitly invites also scholars working on other religions than Islam.


Human Flourishing in an age of Global Vulnerability: Beyond Religious and Secular

Chair: E. K. Wilson Inviting: 4

This open panel session invites submissions from scholars on religion and secularism intersecting with six major intersecting issues that face the global community: democratic governance, gender and sexuality rights, climate change, migration, poverty and conflict and peace building. The panel invites proposals from speakers that aim to go beyond categories of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ approaches to these problems, and that take into consideration the cross-cutting nature of these problems, spanning national borders and affecting communities and organizations from the global to the grassroots. The panel will provide a starting point for developing longer term research and network collaborations, including publications.


Urban Space & Memory


Religion and Urban Visibilities

Chair: Marian Burchardt & Maria Chiara Giorda Inviting: 4

 This panel explores the presence of religion in urban space by analyzing the ways religious identities, practices and places are visibilized, or invisibilized. We start from the observation that in contemporary European cities, different historical memories, often linked to a variety of collective religious experiences, are layered one upon another: materially in the architecture of urban spaces, immaterially in the religious imaginaries, and socially through the coexistence of multiple forms of religious mobilizations. Especially since the 1980s, European urban spaces have been shaped by secularization but also by religious innovations: cities even turned into stages for the “eventization” of religion, whereby religious festivals became urban tourism attractions and thematic shows, and for the “heritagization” of religion, i.e. the framing of religious places as key cultural and symbolic spaces. Moreover, transnational migration and emergent forms of migrant religiosity add tremendously to urban religious diversities and their visual presentation. Importantly, the visibility of religious communities is a result of mobilizations from below and simultaneously, of regimes of governmentality from above; visibility can be enforced or desired and can have both positive and negative effects.

We welcome papers that explores diverse regimes of religious visibility in urban space as well as papers that focus on theoretical concerns over visibility, visuality and religion.


Negotiating religion: Spontaneous memorialization in the public space

Chairs: Giulia Giubergia & Sidsel U. Bakke Inviting: 4

Tragedies affecting local, national or transnational communities are often marked by unofficial commemorations, unsanctioned by religious or secular institutions. These spontaneous forms of memorialization, enacted in symbolic places or online, take the shape of performative and material rituals whose function is twofold: they serve as outlets for grief and mourning unjust and untimely deaths, while being spaces for socio-political criticism as they stigmatize the causes that led to the tragic event and ask for change.

Spontaneous forms of memorialization in the public space both draw upon and challenge so-called traditional forms of religiosity. They are spaces where different religious and secular elements come into play, interacting and confronting each other. In this liminal space of the sacred, people actively participate in the formation, negotiation, and staging of lived religion. Framed as a contemporary kind of ritual performance, spontaneous memorialization opens the door for an exploration of the sacred as a category-boundary between the religious and the secular.

Through different case studies, we will explore various forms of spontaneous memorialization as spaces of religious change and continuity. These analyses will reveal situationally and culturally influenced differences, but also similarities that connect this form of ritualization across national border. We are currently inviting scholars (in religious studies, sociology, anthropology and related fields) engaged in studying any aspect of contemporary forms of spontaneous ritual commemoration (including – but not limited to – vigils, marches, clutter of flowers and mementos, murals, tattoos, online shrines), especially if connected with the conference’s theme “Relocating Religion”, to submit an abstract of their proposed paper.



 Discrepancies between teacher training programmes in the Study of Religions and the aims, contents, and didactics of related school subjects

Chairs: Tim Jensen & Wanda Alberts Inviting: 4

Panel abstract: This panel deals with discrepancies between the content and aims of teacher training programmes in the Study of Religions vis a vis various religious education related school subjects. For this purpose, concepts for subject-related didactics as taught in departments for the Study of Religions will be discussed in relation to controversial aspects in the general framework and content of (partly) study-of-religions based school subjects, for example, legal frameworks, curricula and syllabuses. The panel intends to focus on strategies of dealing with these discrepancies in teacher training programmes. In addition, papers may relate to the conflict of interest between academic approaches to religion education and managing daily life in school: a matter that perhaps becomes most obvious in school practice phases within teacher training programmes.


Europe: Ancient & Historical


Magic at home: topographies, practices, ritual agents, and socio-cultural dimensions of “domestic magic” in Antiquity.

Chair: Silvia Alfayé Inviting: 4

The study of magic performed at domestic locations in Antiquity has not deserved so much scholarly attention as other magical ancient productions such as defixiones, amulets and literary recreations of witches and dreadful practices, despite the amount of documentary sources. The goal of this session is to explore the multifaceted dimensions and issues of “domestic magic” in relation with the sociological imagination and the everyday ritualization of practitioners and victims.


Digital & Religion


Hinduism in the Digital Age

Chairs: Johanna Buss & Xenia Zeiler Inviting: 4

Digital media increasingly influence Hindu traditions and actively contribute to shape modes of perceptions, communication, or practices. The use and application of digital media has initiated various processes of spreading, negotiating, shaping and re-shaping of ideas, beliefs and practices, which are informed and motivated by different agendas and agents. On the one hand, digital media are relevant for instance for advertisement (as on temple websites), or for education (as in educational video games) within Hindu traditions. On the other hand, also academic research on Hindu traditions, for instance philological studies, increasingly relies on electronic tools, thereby producing interpretations on basis of a new discursive order, which again affect the emic perceptions within Hinduism. By discussing if and how ideas, concepts, beliefs and practices are perpetuated, transformed or maybe even newly invented in and/or via digital media, this panel seeks to help understand the new configurations of Hinduism.


Video Gaming and Religion

Chairs: Kerstin Radde-Antweiler & Xenia Zeiler Inviting: 4

Video games are an increasingly relevant factor in cultural and religious socialization. Many video games “play” with religious symbols or construct symbolic social and religious universes. It is not surprising then that many studies so far focused on game-immanent religious narratives. But what about questions concerning the cultural, social and religious implications of these game-narratives? In our understanding, important research questions following up on the established approaches of studying religion in game-immanent narratives now need to include the role and impact of religious narratives within games on the actors playing these narratives, i.e. on the gamers. Are they ‘life-changers’ or are religious elements, symbols etc. within a game just perceived as ‘decorative’ elements within the narrative frame by gamers?

This panel goes beyond the media-centered approaches and especially invites studies highlighting actor-centered research in the study of video gaming and religion.


Religion and youth culture

Chair: Sissel Undheim Inviting: 4

 The fertile field of popularized youth culture has opened up for many new perspectives on how contemporary religion is produced, reproduced and mediated. Digital technology allow for new communities to be formed online, and fictional narratives and universes can be experienced, discussed and enacted with various degrees of interactive engagement. Many of the most commercially successful narratives and fictional worlds that are transmitted by films, literature, games and a variety of other media engage elements traditionally defined as core concepts in the study of religion, such as myth, symbols and rituals.

This open session invites papers that discuss topics at the intersection of religion and youth culture. We particularly seek papers that address issues related to youth culture and religious minorities, modern technology, religious aesthetics, material religion, invented religion and religious aspects of fandom, but we also welcome abstracts addressing other relevant topics concerning religion and contemporary youth culture.


“I’d rather talk about human rights than speak in tongues” – Situating Religious Change in the Lives of Young People Globally

Chair: Peter Nynäs Inviting: 4

The development of modern communications technologies has altered not only our means of interaction but also the social organization of our lives. Similarly, emerging transnational economic structures and consumerism has had an immense effect on our everyday activities, whereas many global movements and networks have enabled and raised awareness of value-laden issues and mobilized people in new ways. Therefore, these processes also produce new religious spaces and agencies globally. They fuel contemporary religious change no matter we refer to the position of religious institutions and traditions, to the increasing religious inclusivism or individualism, or to the growing radicalization and polarization. Young people are relevant subjects in regard to this. They are called the ‘digital natives’, the first generation to grow up in a world saturated by new media, consumer culture and social movements. They are held to be fluent in the language of this change, but also at risk since these processes can also be forceful vehicles of marginalization and exclusion when distributed unevenly. How do young people today integrate, contest or reinvent religion and spirituality in the light of this global shift? In this panel we welcome presentations based on qualitative empirical studies of how religion/ spirituality is situated in novel ways in the lives of young people – in conjunction with the processes referred to here.


Theory & Method


Beyond the explicit – Intuitive Thinking. Applying the dual-process theory in the study of religion.

Chair: Outi Pohjanheimo Inviting: 3

The aim of this session is to gather together scholars who are keen to analyze data from the perspective of intuitive thinking. According to the latest research, it seems that non-conscious thinking directs our behavior more than we have previously believed. This is especially the case when we meet critical times in our personal life or when times are critical in general. Throughout history, intuitive-based magical thinking has generalized and dominated the moods of communities in stressful times. In addition, traumatic personal experiences are often found in the backgrounds of those who are interested in religious or spiritual-based practices.

Intuitive thinking is not understood just as classical cognitive properties anymore but rather as a combination in which also intuitive emotions and intuitive moral biases felt in the body are connected. When analyzing qualitative research data, quantitative, experimental studies give us clues what to look after.

What kind of contextual cues support biases and intuitive heuristics in magical-religious contexts? What are the differences in circumstances when either good or bad magical thinking strengthen? I welcome all kinds of subjects as well as the hypothesis of the liquid border between intuitive and conscious speculations into session. I am looking forward to innovative views and speculations of applications based on the newfound knowledge in intuitive thinking.


Thinking pluralism: models for relational histories of religion

Chair: Alexandra Grieser Inviting: 4

 This panel aims at discussing models for understanding religion in a pluralist framework. In the debates about religion and modernisation scholars today agree that it is not the decline of religion that dominates recent developments, but the pluralisation of religious forms, practices and claims, and that pluralization strengthens rather than weakens the vitality of religion. Moreover, it has been shown that it does not suffice to account for the sheer coexistence of diverse religious traditions in ever more mobile societies. Models and strategies are needed to conceptualize how, in a pluralist setting, religious traditions and practices influence each other, how change is taking place, and how the complexity of a ‘double pluralism’ between religious and other societal spheres can be tackled. Topics being addressed are:

-Distinctions: pluralism as analytical concept, empirical fact or normative ideal

-Models from history (entangled history, histoire croisée)

-Theories of (de-)differentiation, religious market, cybernetics, networks

-Constructive critique of concepts such as “multiple modernities”, or the religious/secular-divide

– Analytical concepts for interferences between religion, politics, art, science, technology

In accordance with the EASR theme, the panel takes Europe as a test case while laying emphasis on the question how knowledge about specific geographical and cultural areas can be linked to transnational and global perspectives.


Interreligious Dialogue: Topics, Places, People (II)

Chair: Gritt Klinkhammer & Anna Neumaier Inviting: 3

 Religious pluralism and heterogeneity seems to be a new paradigm for the Study of Religion. It has already been investigated in macro-social and quantitative surveys as well as discussed among social scientists with regard to its impact for societal development (theories of secularization i. a.), although there are almost no empirical qualitative studies about the impact of religious pluralism on a meso- and micro-social level. Focusing on interreligious dialogues provides an opportunity to study encounters of different and diverse believers and how they perceive these encounters as well as the encounters’ impact on the transformation of religious practices and convictions. Therefore, we would like to present research on interreligious dialogue from different perspectives:

(a) We will look at the micro-level of interreligious encounters, considering the question of identity building (A. Ohrt; A. Neumaier),

(b) we will have a look at places and settings of interreligious dialogues (M. Kalender) and

(c) we will also focus on processes of institutionalising interreligious dialogue as urban strategies for managing religious pluralism and heterogeneity (N. Schubert; A. Körs). The chair of the panel will give a response to the lectures.

We welcome further contributions on the overall topic of interreligious dialogue as part of this open session.


Relocating Sacrifice in the History of Religions: Rethinking the Relationship between Theory and Practice (Part II)

Chair: Marianna Ferrara Inviting: 4

Sacrifice is a keyword in the study of religious practices. Its centrality has been noticed by J.Z. Smith when he holds that «from the immense variety of human ritual activities, a few have been lifted out by scholars as privileged examples on which to build theories of ritual – preeminently sacrifice». As a result, the various theories of sacrifice proposed from 19th c. onward have forced the rethinking of related theories of ritual that, still today, make difficult to critically approach sacrifice as a heuristic category. The confusion between a stipulative definition and a real definition involves a common use/misuse of the term sacrifice to interpret, define, or describe the religious practices. But too often some scholars of religions fail to remember that sacrifice is not the reality of what it denotes, rather it is a successful shared representation and a symbolical device. The issue at stake is not the definition of what sacrifice should be or denote, rather what place it takes in the interpretation of any religious phenomenon despite the critical attempts to rethink the performative nature of any ritual act and the debate inspired by the linguistic turn. The panel aims to discuss the relationship between theory and practice in the Western cultural history and its impact on the cultural filters and paradigms through which the scholars of religions have conceived and interpreted the ‘empirical labor’ involved in any religious code of behaviour.


Psychology of religion and current religious change

Chair: Göran Ståhle Inviting: 4

This panel addresses the relevance of the theories and methods in the subfield of Psychology of religion for the broader discussion on current religious change in the field of the Study of religions.

The growing interest today for themes such as everyday religiosity, emotions, subjectivity, values etc. clearly indicate the relevance of contributions from the Psychology of religion. In this field there is, further, a long history of conceptual and methodological reflections of relevance also for current discussions on the complex relationship between categories such as religion, spirituality, and worldviews – including also secular positions. Therefore, to re-consider and scrutinize the possible contributions from the Psychology of religion for central research themes in the study of religions is of relevance.

This panel welcomes papers that address the intersection between the Psychology of religion and the broader discussion on religious change in the field of Religious studies. How, and in what ways, do perspectives and approaches from the psychology of religion provide opportunities for a better understanding of central aspects and topics in this discussion? How, and in what ways, do observations from the broader discussion on religious change mean a challenge to received theoretical assumptions and positions within the Psychology of religion?


How to study religion in an archaeological context?

Chairs: Marja Ahola & Ulla Moilanen Inviting: 4

Archaeological sources, consisting mainly of the material culture and physical remains of past actions, poses a challenge for the study of historical religions and prehistoric belief systems. Even though archaeology has often turned to ritual theory when making sense of material remains that appear difficult to interpret, in many cases, ‘ritual’ has simply been used to label the unknown. The archaeology of religion has even been doomed as eternally speculative.

Traces of past religions and belief systems are, however, unquestionably present in many archaeological contexts from prehistoric graves and rock art sites to the temples of Ancient Greece. To this session, we welcome a broad spectrum of papers, which illustrate theoretical or methodological approaches to the study of religion in an archaeological context. We are interested in all prehistoric and historical periods as well as in various multidisciplinary approaches. The aim of this session is to locate – and perhaps also to relocate – the theory and methods of the archaeology of religion.


Statistical Methods in the Study of Religions

Chair: Teemu Pauha Inviting: 4

Statistical methods are indispensable for the analysis of experimental and correlational data in the social sciences of religion. Large-scale survey studies, such as ISSP and WVS, for example, produce data without which it would be close to impossible to gain a comprehensive understanding of the religious landscape of today. As another example, the so called “big data” provides exciting new opportunities for the study of religion but, at the same time, requires the use of advanced statistical and computational tools.

However, even without the complexities of big data, religion as a subject matter presents certain special challenges for statistical analysis: Firstly, concepts pertaining to religion are notoriously difficult to operationalize and measure. Secondly, the various ways of registering religious adherence may cause problems to gathering a representative sample. In order to overcome such challenges, it is essential to develop and share best practices among researchers working in the field.

This session discusses the use of statistical methods in the study of religion. The emphasis of the session is theoretical and methodological, but empirical contributions with a methodological focus are also warmly welcome.


“Moving into and between religions: the notion of ‘conversion career’ revisited”

Chairs: Stefano Allievi & Karin van Nieuwkerk Inviting: 4

Conversion has always been an important topic in the field of religious studies. Nevertheless, the level of theorization is still unsatisfying and more comprehensive theories, capable to include recent changes in the religious landscape (increasing pluralisation of religious offer, migrations, etc.) and religious behaviour, are still needed.

We, the convenors, have studied forms of conversion in the context of Muslim communities, in the West and in Muslim countries. But different religious contexts and religious offer can significantly change the way the analysis is conducted and the phenomenon understood. We then would like to confront our theoretical approach that will be presented in the beginning of the panel, with that of researchers in different religious fields and on different religious communities. We particularly welcome studies on conversion with strong theoretical emphasis.


“Ways to move out of religion: disaffiliation, deconversion, apostasy”

Chairs: Stefano Allievi & Karin van Nieuwkerk Inviting: 4

Disaffiliation, deconversion and apostasy are more recent field of interest, and a serious theoretical attention to them is still a recent phenomenon. Atheism, long studied from the point of view of other disciplines of human sciences, has been less analyzed in socio-anthropological terms.

We, the convenors, have studied forms of disaffiliation, deconversion and atheism in the context of Muslim communities, in the West and in Muslim countries. But different religious context and religious offer can significantly change the way the analysis is conducted and the phenomenon understood. We then would like to confront our theoretical approach that will be presented in the beginning of the panel, with that of researchers in different religious fields and on different religious communities. We particularly welcome studies on deconversion, disaffiliation, transformation, atheism, apostasy, refusal of religion, with strong theoretical emphasis.




Locating Visionary Experiences in Second Temple Judaism (STJ) and Early Christianity (EC)

Chair: Luca Arcari Inviting: 4

New approaches to visionary experiences benefit of the renewal occurred in studies about religious facts; they take advantage of cognitivism-related studies of non-ordinary contacts with the other world and selective memory which allow a reconstruction of the participant’s visionary experience. Also, these approaches benefit from studies about authority and dialectics between groups and visionary actors.

What the experience approach allows us to consider is the function of selective memory in the re- proposition of any experience, even the direct contact in first person that a specific individual believes to have had with the supernatural world. In the specific case of selective memory, and especially in contexts permeated by orality and dominated by knowledge automatically absorbed as a frame-constraining burden also in textual practices of re-writing, the authoritative tradition of a specific context represents the main source to look at in order to make any account of life experience speakable and available.

On the basis of such methodological assumptions, with this panel We intend to clarify the following aspects of visionary accounts between STJ and EC (IV cent. BCE-IV cent. CE):

– Visionary experiences and visionary texts and/or accounts;

– Memorial practices in rewriting visionary experiences;

– Literary genres and visionary practices and/or experiences;

– Visionary experiences and in-group/out-group authorities.


Judaism in Europe Today: Between Tradition and Innovation

Charis: Ruth Illman & Lena Roos Inviting: 4

Jewish studies is a multidisciplinary field including historical and exegetic approaches, cultural and linguistic studies as well as ethnographic investigations into diverse cultural and geographic areas, time periods and communities. Methodologies are adapted from the humanities, theology and social sciences. Despite this, the Jews of contemporary Europe is a somewhat neglected field since scholars mainly focus on the large Jewish centres of Israel and America.

This session aims to bring together researchers of Jewish Studies focusing on the developments, changes and challenges of contemporary Jewish communities in Europe. We especially welcome papers dealing with ethnographic perspectives on contemporary Jewry – from Haredi and Hasidim to Liberal and Progressive communities – but also encourage submissions dealing with sociological, linguistic and theological approaches. Central research questions include: How do Jews in Europe negotiate a position for themselves in the encounter between tradition and innovation today? How are cultural, national and institutional boundaries relocated and reframed as individuals and communities strive to create religious expressions that suit the needs and preferences of 21st century Jews? How are historical embeddedness and liturgical stringency combined with inclusive, egalitarian and explorative Jewish engagements?


Jews and Christians in a cross-cultural context from the Second Temple to Classic Judaism

Chair: Lourdes García Ureña Inviting: 4

 Abstract: The period lasting from the Second Temple to Classic Judaism is characterized by the wealth and diversity of the cultural context in which it developed. During this time, philosophies, beliefs and ethos, which were not only different but opposite were shared.

Jews and Christians were immersed in a cultural mosaic and as a result a dynamic relationship between religious communities and the cultural context in which they lived was established.

Jews and Christians rethought their religious beliefs, amended their institutions, adapted their own cultural events, etc. At the same time the presence of Jews and Christians gave rise to further questions for Philosophy, new ways of thinking about Art and Literature, new lifestyles. The goal, then, of this session is twofold: a) to study how different cultures have exerted their influence in Judaism and Christianity during the time of the Second Temple to Classic Judaism; b) to analyse how this multifaceted cultural context has been modified and transformed by the full-time presence of Jews and Christians.




 Relocating Protestants: Pilgrimage and De/Re-formation

Chair: Marion Bowman & Milton Keynes Inviting: 4

In this panel we concentrate specifically on the theologically intriguing trend towards Protestant Pilgrimage that appears to be sweeping Europe (and beyond). With pre-Reformation saints’ shrines being restored as spiritual destinations, and in some cases empty shrines being repopulated with relics in Protestant contexts, this signals significant change, or at the very least, modification in some tenets of the Reformation.

The panel will examine the contemporary popularity and appeal of pilgrimage for Protestants; Protestant re-framings or re-narrations of pilgrimage; the material culture, performativity, relationality and identity-formation of Protestant pilgrimage.

Whether protestant pilgrimage is more about travelling than arriving at hallowed ground, whether it is more denominational heritage/roots tourism than devotional journeying, whether the current Protestant enthusiasm for pilgrimage reflects a longing for a pre-Reformation world of sensory experiences and closeness to nature, exploring this phenomenon in a variety of contexts, from different angles, will foster an informed overview of Protestant pilgrims and pilgrimage which can contribute to a more integrated understanding of this phenomenon in the 21st century.

Contributions based on contemporary fieldwork from a variety of contexts and countries especially welcome.


Dynamics of Gender and Orthodox Christianity in Contemporary Europe

Chairs: Helena Kupari & Bettina Sirén Inviting: 4

Orthodox Christianity is a patriarchal religion in which women’s official roles are limited. Nevertheless, in many contemporary Orthodox settings, women are more religiously active than men. Moreover, Orthodoxy can also be conceived of as a religion with a strong feminine undertone that shows, for instance, in women’s ritual activities at home and the importance of the Virgin Mary in Orthodox theology and liturgy.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain many traditionally predominantly Orthodox Christian societies have gone through massive transformations. During the same period of time, the number of Orthodox practitioners in other parts of Europe has increased. These changes have given rise to new questions that actualize, for example, in the collision of local religious practices with global discourses related to gender, ethnicity, and modernization.

This panel analyzes contemporary phenomena related to gender and Orthodox Christianity in different empirical contexts throughout Europe. The focus is on religion-as-practiced: on how actual Orthodox practitioners reinforce, renew, and grapple with gender division and dynamics in their everyday lives. In addition, the panel also discusses phenomena taking place on the fringes of the Orthodox religion, such as new forms of feminist activism drawing on or challenging traditional Orthodox conceptions of gender.


Christianity in diaspora: ethnographic case studies of religious practice and identity construction

Chair: Iliyana Angelova & Ksenia Medvedeva Inviting: 4

The session will use the concept of diaspora – broadly defined both in relation to the transnational and in-country movement of groups of people – in order to explore the practice and experience of Christianity in different socio-cultural settings as communities of people relocate to areas outside their ‘homelands’. The session invites ethnographic papers discussing, but not exclusively, questions such as: What role does Christianity and its institutions play in community-building, community empowerment and community welfare in diaspora settings? How are churches constituted and organized in diaspora? How do churches mediate relations and negotiate cultural differences with (non-Christian) host populations? To what extent are Christian churches involved in facilitating integration with/separation from host societies? What relations do diasporic Christians maintain with their ‘homelands’? How does Christianity shape diasporic identities? How is Christian practice/theology (re)shaped by the diasporic experience? By exploring diasporic forms of Christianity across the world, the session will open up understanding of the diversity of Christian identities, practices, theologies and ways of engaging with and explaining the world among diasporic communities, and the theoretical potentiality inherent in this.


Pentecostalism, Evangelism and social change

Chair: Raluca Bianca Roman Inviting: 4

Over the past decades, Pentecostalism has challenged the notion of secularization while highlighting the ways in which religious groups may foster a sense of spirituality that is translated in specific engagements with the ‘world’. Among these, missionary work, a tenet of Christian Evangelism since its inception, has led to diverse forms of encountering ‘others’ and spreading the Gospel.

At the same time, by bringing back knowledge of travels, groups and cultures, missionaries become agents of social change not only among those they missionise but also among the communities back ‘home’. Incorporating cultural knowledge of diverse spiritual outlooks, missionaries represent, in many ways, examples of the cosmopolitan person: driven by the desire to Evangelise, they may often adopt hybrid forms of belief and practice.

This session invites a range of papers dealing with the role of Pentecostal (and Evangelical) missionaries in shaping knowledge, practice and discourse both among those they seek to evangelise and their home faith communities. We are interested in particular in ethnographic studies of present day religious encounters, but historical analyses of past encounters or comparative studies of Evangelical missions are also welcome. The purpose is to bring together scholars working with and on diverse missionary projects, in order to theoretically engage with one of the central tenets of present day Pentecostalism: Evangelism Raluca Roman University of St Andrews/University of Helsinki(CENS).


Christianity and Modernisation

Chair: Minna Opas Inviting: 4

One widely discussed problem in the fields of study of religion and anthropology has concerned the relation between Christianity and modernisation: is Christianity an inevitably modernising force? Is there something innately modern in Christianity, or can the processes of modernisation and Christianisation be viewed as parallel and perhaps intersecting, but not overlapping or intertwined? In the so called global south, where Christianity is spreading to cultures with very different histories, cosmologies and sociologies in comparison to the West, where different forms of Christianity confront each other, and where simultaneously global economical, social and cultural currents affect local worlds, questions concerning the processes of modernisation and the forms such processes take, are ever more pressing. On the other hand, in western contexts the processes of re-enchantment may open up angles from which the relation between modernisation and Christianity can be explored. This panel invites papers, which address this relation from different perspectives and in different socio-cultural contexts.




Islamic education and Public schooling

Chair: Jenny Berglund Inviting: 4

Islamic religious education (IRE) in Europe has become a subject of intense debate over the past decade. Policies vary according to national political culture. In some countries, public schools teach Islam to Muslims as a subject within a broader religious curriculum that gives parents the right to choose their children’s religious education. In the other countries, public schools teach Islam to all pupils as a subject with a close link to the academic study of religions. Yet another alternative are countries where public schools do not teach religion at all. Outside of publicly funded institutions, IRE is also taught as a confessional subject in private Muslim schools, mosques and by Muslim organizations. Often students who attend these classes also attend a publicly funded “mainstream” school. The aim of this session is to further our knowledge on the relation between Islamic education and public schooling in different European countries. This can be done in either of these two ways: 1) Publicly funded Islamic education in the country that you are focusing on (how it is organized, why is it organized in this way, what is the history of IRE, what are the controversial issues?) 2) Privately run Islamic education and its relation to “mainstream” schooling (what are the similarities and differences between these two settings, what are the contacts, experiences and knowledge that exist between the privately run Islamic education and “mainstream” education on the part of teachers, parents and/or pupils).


Sectarianism in the Wake of the Arab Revolts: interdisciplinary perspectives

Chair: Martin Riexinger Inviting: 4

 The increasing conflicts between Sunnites and Shiites in many Arabic states after the American invasion of Iraq, and even more the Arab revolts in 2011 have been interpreted quite differently in the Middle East and by Western observers. Whereas a primordialist position ascribing the conflict to hostilities in the first decades of Islam is shared by many actors involved, media in the West and more traditional scholars in Islamic Studies, secularists in the region and many political scientists tend to the instrumentalist interpretation describing sectarianism as result of elite machinations in a geopolitical confrontation. Both approaches suffer from flaws. Pure instrumentalism fails to explain the resonance of sectarian arguments among large sections of the population, whereas pure primordialism homogenizes Sunnis and Shiites and neglects the importance of politics and other societal developments. Both approaches o neglect a moyenne durée perspective. The research network “Sectarianism in the Wake of Arab the Arab Revolts” at Aarhus University has been initiated with the objective to overcome the shortcomings by cooperation between Political Science, Anthropolgy, and Islamic Studies/ the Study of Religion and invites scholars doing research on Sunni-Shiite (or closely related) conflicts to contribute. Input from disciplines like the sociology of religion and the cognitive study of religion is highly welcome, as are contributions dealing with other regions.


The roles and functions of stereotypes in western thinking – the case of Islam

Chair: Zuzana Černá Inviting: 2

A full range of definitions of the phenomenon of stereotype dependent on single scholars and their research subjects is available. Stereotypes are studied in a variety of fields such as sociology, psychology, mass media studies etc. Data regarding respective selected issues is gathered then. We are aware of those stereotypes most frequently connected to sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion, for instance. Numerous scholars round their research off with the very identification of stereotypes. The claim, for example, that women in Islam are oppressed, being opposed by the contradictory statement that it is not true, entails no understanding, nor resolution of the issue in the spotlight, be it referring to Islam in particular, or stereotypes in general. The statement of being oppressed is as trivial as the opposing one of not being oppressed.

This session focuses on the issue of stereotypes in a completely different way. Why is the very stereotype important in western thinking? By an example of Islam, the roles and functions of stereotypes in western culture will be examined. The aim is to demonstrate that through stereotypes particular problems of western culture are articulated. Openly declared respect to dissimilarity is being reduced to sameness.




“Theorising Religion and Nationalism in the Modern World: Contexts, Classifications and Collective Identities”

Chairs: Liam Sutherland & Arkotong Longkumer Inviting: 4

‘Religion’ and ‘nationalism’ are resilient and active in the modern world despite long standing questions of their relevance, particularly due to the spread of globalisation (Anderson 1991). They are often represented by the mass media as instrumental to the causes of conflict in many troubled regions of the world. They are thus considered by many to be an especially dangerous mixture, giving rise to so-called radicalising movements.

Such essentialisms and assumptions must be questioned. And, it is, incumbent on scholars of religion and of nationalism to problematize them. This panel will seek to critically examine the relationship between ‘religion’ and ‘nationalism’. It encourages scholars to look at this phenomenon through a combination of theory and empirical evidence derived from specific socio-political contexts.


Locating religions and the rise of the nation-states

Chairs: Cristiana Facchini & Maria Chiara Giorda Inviting: 4

Space and religion may be analyzed against the background of textual, visual, and material evidence, or focusing on religious groups and how they organized, perceived and perform religion against the background of specific ‘places’. Our panel aims to investigate how religion changed within the urban context of modern Europe (19th and 20th century), facing changes in politics, culture, and society.

As national states emerged and empire modernized, urbanization endured. The urban landscape changed and religious groups were relocated in cities according to new theories of political tolerance. Conversely, religious life blossomed also outside cities, in the countryside or far away from the modern metropolis. Sanctuaries and religious movements, holy men and women, theophany of many kinds spread far away from the hectic life of the city. The dialectic between city and countryside reveals the complex dynamics of ‘secularization’.

Therefore we invite scholars to present papers on religious space and cities, focusing on urban and architectural modifications, the treatment of religious minorities, and their relationship with religious majorities. In addressing such questions, we aim to focus on cultural heritage, how the past was preserved, destroyed, marginalized, and created anew in the age of the national states.


Social Theory


Secularisation, the secular and the post secular

Chairs: Kim Knibbe & Frans Wijsen Inviting: 4

The past decades has seen a proliferation of debates around the validity of the secularization thesis, but also new directions in the study of religion that use terms such as ‘the secular’, secularity and the post-secular. Although the universality of the secularization thesis as well as the inevitability of secularization in its connection to modernity has become less self-evident, within certain research traditions it is still a fruitful framework for research, describing the historical process that has led to certain configurations of religion, state and culture and exploring what new kinds of religiosity, holistic views, or non-theistic views have emerged and how these evolve. At the same time, new fields of study question the self-evidence of secular frameworks and rather than using them as a self-evident point of departure, makes these frameworks into its object of study. A religious studies approach here can throw into relief how ‘the secular’ emerged as a particular category, as the ways in which ‘religion’ is separated out from its surrounding environment. This has been fruitfully explored, also sociologically, under the umbrella of the idea of multiple secularities. Furthermore, more philosophically oriented research and reflections centring around the term ‘post-secular’ have discussed in which way religious points of view, ways of being and values can be part of, and be better included in, societal processes and public debates. These terms have provided a basis for looking critically at the narratives of progress and modernity that feed into Islamophobic view, framing Islam as the kinds of ‘oppressive religion’ that have to be left behind to become fully modern.

This call for proposals asks for papers that critically address the terms secularization, the secular and the post-secular and the research directions they have given rise to and how these different directions relate to each other. We particularly look to bridge the different directions that have been taken by researchers working from a perspective that departs from an understanding of European societies as undergoing or having undergone a process of secularization, and researchers that take their cue from notions of the secular as a category that always emerges alongside religion, framing religion. This research introduces the post-secular as a possible new point of departure to overcome the binary between religion and the secular.


Problems of interpretation in the sociology of religion: theoretical models and empirical findings

Chair: Christel Gärtner Inviting: 4

The secularization thesis has been criticized for both its problematical theoretical assumptions and with regard to the empirical development of religion. Contrary to its assumptions that there has been a gradual decline in the importance of religion and the restriction of religion to the private sphere, we are currently observing both opposing and simultaneous processes of secularization and dechurchification, of re-sacralization, individualization and pluralization. On the one hand, we can see in Western countries that people’s ties to the churches are continuing to weaken, while religious beliefs and practices that are bound to institutions are also declining. On the other hand, though, new religious movements are emerging, religious and cultural forms of life are becoming more plural, and the public visibility and presence of religion is increasing, due partly to migration processes, and partly also to religious conflicts.

In dealing with these problems of interpretation with regard to the redefinition of the relationship between religion and secularity in the modern period, there is obviously a need to overcome the approach of secularization theory without also losing sight of the gains in knowledge that it has yielded.

Papers are welcome that on a theoretical or empirical level contributes to a clarification of the relationship between modernity, secularity and religiosity.¨


European Social Theory and the Category of Religion

Chair: Mitsutoshi Horii Inviting: 4

The generic notion of ‘religion’, and its conceptual demarcation from ‘the secular’, have been critically examined by many scholars. It has been argued that the religious-secular distinction is the key binary that constitutes modernity and serves the hegemony of liberal capitalist nation states and economy. Thus, the interrogation of the term ‘religion’ questions modern formations of knowledge and power in general. In this light, this session invites papers which critically examine, in the context of social theory, norms and imperatives which govern the analytical usage of the term ‘religion’. The generic notion of religion has been employed by ‘classical’ social theorists such as Comte, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel as well as more contemporary theorists such as Bourdieu, Habermas, Foucault, Luhmann, and the like. The central question of this session is this: What are the ideological functions of classifying ‘religious’ against ‘secular’ in social theory?