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Religion and Politics - Conflict and Peace


13th International Conference of the SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group

Siena, September 20th-23rd, 2018

Politics and religion have never existed in isolation but always stood in continuous interaction throughout times. The “growing salience of religion on the world stage” (Hackett 2005:145) is to a great part due to the politization of religion in different contexts and dimensions: already in the early 2000s Grace Davie pointed to the European exceptionalism to the former persistent secularization thesis (cf. Berger 1967): “New arrivals”, especially Muslim Immigrants, challenged the image of the secular state. Right wing oriented, anti-Muslim political parties arose all over Europe as a reaction to the supposedly Muslimization of certain sectors of society. At the same time, orthodoxy was re-established in Putin´s Russia and conservative or contestative Roman Catholic movements address political developments all over the world. Nationalist Hinduism rose in India up to the election of a respective prime-minister. These various developments in political discourse also drew attention to the scientific study of religion. For the ethnography of religion it is a chance to broaden its objects of study and increase its public visibility.

While the aforementioned interactions between religion and politics gave way to conflicts on various levels, attention must also be paid to the “ambivalence of the sacred” (Appleby 2000): Reconciliation processes in South Africa and Northern Ireland for example have been informed by Christian ideas of peace. Other examples of political peacebuilding work can be found in Muslim or Buddhist discourse or the role of religions in the African-American emancipation movements.
Grasping the relationship of religion and politics in conflict and peace can also be framed in historical context. The conference invites papers that take up the context of fascism and racism with relation to religion in the year of the 80th anniversary of the Italian race-laws.

The 13th conference of the SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group aims to explore from ethnological / anthropological perspective the general theme of politics and religion in various national and political contexts, either in historical or contemporary times. Theoretical proposals and papers illustrating the productivity of ethnographic methods in research into the connection between religion and politics are especially welcome.

Possible subthemes of the conference are:

- The role of religion in ongoing conflicts and peacebuilding initiatives
- The politization of religion in discursive and historical dimensions
- Grassroots movements and religious creativity under different political regimes
- Sacred spaces, religious art, performances: objects, rituals, languages and practices in terms of religious and political tension.

Appleby, Scott (2005): The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation, Lanham, MD
Berger, Peter (1967): The Sacred Canopy, New York.
Davie, Grace (2002): Europe, the Exceptional Case. Parameters of Faith in the Modern World, London.
Hackett, Rosalind (2005): Anthropology of religion. In: Hinnels, John: The Routledge companion to the study of religion, London, 144-163.

Proposals can be sent to ethnorelsiena(at)

DEADLINE for sending the proposals is January, 31st 2018.

Notification about acceptance will be sent before March, 31st 2018. Conference fee: 90 EUR (also covers drinks and food at the welcome reception and snacks/brunch during coffee or lunch breaks).
The organizers are not able to support the participants financially. Participants are responsible for covering their own travel and accommodation expenses.
For more information: ethnorelsiena(at)

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13th International Conference of the SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group Siena, September 20th-23rd, 2018
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Göttingen panel 2. Dwelling and creating within and across religious traditions

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Updated list of members:
Gregory Alles, galles(at)
Arne Bugge Amundsen, a.b.amundsen(at)
Veikko Anttonen, veiant(at)
Vihra Baeva, vihrabaeva(at)

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Göttingen panel 1. From spiritual seekers to faithful believers