Call for papers

Workshop 10th-12th May, 2023
Faculty of Theology, Helsinki, Finland

Social Identity and Religious Studies Scholars in Dialogue

Religious identities are interwoven in complex ways with ethnic, cultural, and other identities. Historical understanding of these identities contributes to understanding identity processes and language used in contemporary communities. Yet identities may be approached from methodologically varied perspectives (e.g., constructivist, discursive, cognitive, statistic). There is need for dialogue both between different research traditions of (social) identity as well as between scholars of ancient and contemporary religious identities.

This workshop invites such dialogue. It is based on the project FIDSIT (Finnish Interdisciplinary Study of Social Identity Transmission. It is an interdisciplinary endeavor, seeking to bring historical knowledge of past religious identity formation to bear on the understanding of the present, and to develop a common vocabulary and methodology for doing comparative work. The meanings of labels such as Jewish, Christian, or Muslim are in constant change, but the perceived continuity with the historical past is often considered as essential for present-day religious identities. Even though constructed and situational, identities are signaled through means such as prototypical figures, sacred texts, and symbols which are perceived to stand the test of time: they function as vehicles of mediating identity across generations and across cultural contexts.

Call for Papers (Workshop 10‒12 May, 2023): The workshop invites paper proposals on any exploration of religious identity (whether by historians, biblical scholars, or social scientists), with the used methodological framework explicated, and potentially relating to the following themes:

  • What is the role of prototypical figures in carrying ideas and expressing identities? Which ideas do prototypical figures carry and how do they change over time (cf. social memory and the manipulation of prototypes)?
  • What is the role of (sacred) texts (specific texts; collections and canons as a whole; the idea of a sacred text; textuality rather than orality) in identity construction: Are identity categories perceived to exist because of differences in sacred texts and/or their interpretation? To what extent are certain forms of sacred texts considered to function as a basis of specific identity or can sacred texts be fluid and pluriform? Who has the interpretative right to the sacred texts?
  • What is the relation between ethnic and religious identity? How is the religious aspect of identity associated with the ethnic identity? In which type of situations can these be seen to be distinct?

Please send your name, affiliation, field of study, paper title, and abstract (max. 300 words) to Jutta Jokiranta, by 31 March 2023. The workshop takes place 10‒12 May, 2023, in Helsinki, Faculty of Theology.

Keynote speakers include Professor in Cultural and Community Psychology Jonas Kunst, Oslo, Norway; Professor of Cultural Evolution Alex Mesoudi, Exeter, UK; the Aurelio Professor of Scripture emerita Paula Fredriksen, Boston, USA; Professor of Social Psychology emerita Karmela Liebkind,  Helsinki; Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature Petri Luomanen, Helsinki.