Structuring Diversity – Structuring Religion. Religious Diversity and Human Heterogeneity in Society
International Conference, 30th March - 1st April 2023, University of Lucerne & online
Organised by the Department for the Study of Religions, University of Lucerne (Switzerland), in cooperation with the Swiss Association for the Study of Religions (SGR-SSSR), the department for cultural studies, Univesity of Lucerne, the department of History, Federal University of Paraná (Brazil) and the Study of Religions, Philipps University Marburg (Germany).
Religion can be addressed as diversity category, organizing groups, power and knowledge within a society. At the same time, bodily and social differences interact with religious contexts. By linking those topics, the conference contributes to a better understanding of social differences and inequalities caused or addressed by religions in a globalized world.
In short: How does religion structure diversity, and how does diversity structure religion(s)?
30.3.2023 - Day 1: Religions and Critical Diversity Literacy
|Arrival and Registration
Greetings by Martin Baumann
Introductory Keynotes: Religious Diversity and Critical Diversity Literacy
|Lene Kühle, Aarhus (Denmark) & Melissa Steyn, Johannesburg (South Africa)
|Panel I: Diversity Strategies
Suburban Holy Lands: The Battle for Hindu Presence in Suburban New Jersey
Celebrating diversity in modern Ukraine: the role of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organisations
Un/Doing ‘critical diversity literacy’ from outside the Islamic field: The case of Moroccan nonreligious activists in the diaspora
Religion in the diversity management in companies in Switzerland
Öffentlicher Abendvortrag (Public Lecture in German)
Universität Luzern, Hörsaal 7
|18:00 – 19:45
Diversität als Potential: Ressourcen muslimischer Jugendlicher an Schweizer Schulen
Zeinab Ahmadi, Fribourg (Switzerland)
Public lecture (in German) on structural educational obstacles for Muslim youth in the Swiss school system and on opportunities of inclusive pedagogy for better educational attainment.
31.3.2023 - Day 2: Inter- and intrareligious Diversity
|Reflection I – looking back together on day I
|11:30 – 13:00
|Panel II – Intrareligious Diversity in context
Religious diversity strategies and non-traditional Christian communities in Baku: Negotiating Intra-Religious identity and intercommunity Solidarity
The subversive saints of Brazilian Umbanda
Being the body of Christ in the European diaspora: Challenges of diversity among African immigrant churches in Europe
|14:00 – 15:30
|Panel III: Interreligious Diversity and their Spatial Arrangements
Dynamics of space production in mapping cantonal religious diversity
Space, architecture and visibility of religious diversity under socio-political conditions. Case Study: Tehran
How to structure diversity and religion in ancient societies. A case study: The religion of the Mithra
|Response and Discussion
Lene Kühle, Aarhus (Denmark)
1.4.2023 - Day 3: Religions and Human Heterogeneity
|Reflection II – looking back together on day II
|11:00 – 12:30
|Panel IV – Sex, Gender and the Body
Devotional bliss and sensual amorousness – religiosity, sexuality, and femineity of a courtesan in the eighteenth-century Deccan of Mughal India
A queer path: An investigation into heteronormativity within contemporary paganism
Religious diversity and racial politics in Salvador, Brazil
|13:30 – 14:30
|Panel V – Ableism and inequality
Un/doing precariat – Diaconic work and the asymmetry in society
Introducing ‘Acute Religious Experiences’ as a contribution to structuring diversities
|Response and Discussion
|Melissa Steyn, Johannesburg (South Africa)
|Reflection III – looking back together on day III – and Closing
Religion and diversity are intimately entangled in manifold ways. Can we systematically unpack this
entanglement in a way that enables us to understand it in different eras and regions, on an individual
as well as a societal or global scale; and in a way that includes its potential for creating as much as
for resolving conflict? In short, how does religion structure diversity, and how does diversity structure
religion? This conference addresses these questions by systematically bringing different approaches
and perspectives into conversation with each other.
The conference aims to investigate ‘diversity’ as a term in the study of religions, and thus develop the field’s “critical diversity literacy” (Steyn and Dankwa 2021). That is, the study of religions’ capacity to analyse religious and social differences, and the relationships involved therein, by considering the asymmetries of power, and differences in scope of action, of various individuals and groups.
In recent years, the concept of diversity has become the subject of prolific discussion and analysis, both in the public arena and across academic disciplines. The category ‘religion’ is implied in these discussions in myriad ways, but two core strands of analysis can be identified:
Firstly, there is discussion of the diversity of religions, in the forms of both intra- and inter-religious diversity. Intra-religious diversity references the fact that religions are not monolithic entities, but are characterised by an internal heterogeneity, stemming from divergences in tradition and in individual ideas and practices. This form of diversity fosters religious transformation, but also power-related conflicts, as reflected in the labelling of religious nonconformism. The perspective of inter-religious diversity, meanwhile, notes that societies accommodate many different religions – a phenomenon that has supposedly increased in the globalised modern world. This contention has managed to thoroughly dislodge the hegemony of the secularisation thesis, though it has itself seen criticism from numerous – historically inclined and regionally informed – quarters. The diversity of religions, often combined with conditions of “secular-religious pluralism” (Casanova 2019), is seen as a feature of (‘modern’) diverse societies, in turn transforming ‘religion’ or religious affiliation into a diversity category. Consequently, as one of a range of diversity categories, religion becomes a focus of various strategies for managing diversity in, for example, politics, administration, economics, and education. Similarly, religious actors encounter and manage religious diversity through interreligious dialogue, for example.
Secondly, there is discussion of what we call religious diversity strategies. Diversity is understood here to mean the heterogeneous conditions of the human body and the varied social affiliations of individuals and groups. It includes social inequality, such as access to social positions and social participation being based on gender. Gender, like other diversity categories such as disability, ethnicity, age, class, language, or culture, interacts and intersects with religion (Brintnall 2016). As cultural studies employing a critical approach to the body and social structures (gender, disability, critical studies of race and ethnicity/ethnic studies etc.) have shown, the supposedly objective body and its meanings emerge from interactions between the material and historically specific social actions. Religions form a significant part of these contingent social actions. One may thus examine how religions generate, influence, and manage the differentiations that together make up human and social diversity. This brings religions into view as both producers and managers of diversity. Religious diversity strategies can be directed at both the relationships within a religious community and the community’s relationships with other people and social contexts (for example, through social welfare activities). At the same time, religions are themselves shaped by the diversity of humans and social groups. This can be through recognising a given human-bodily and social-practical diversity among their devotees and in society, or in response to explicit demands from these groups and from civil rights activists within and beyond their own communities (diversity policies or social protest). This can lead to intra-religious conflict, which may also strengthen cultural identities and, consequently, reinforce the processes of othering and exclusion. Alternatively, it may lead to a diversity-sensitive transformation in religious beliefs, practices, organisational structures, and material culture (for example the creation of special or accessible texts, buildings, and practices). Since religions are inherently diverse, and since the composition of religious diversity varies across different societies, it can be assumed that these processes take a unique form in each individual case.
The above manifestations of the relationship between religion and diversity are often studied separately: Analyses often concentrate either on the diversity of religions (intra- or inter-religious diversity) or on the interactions between religious contexts and a specific form of physical/social difference (religious diversity strategies).
This conference aims to provide a platform for bridging this divide, bringing these two research agendas into conversation with each other. We seek to further the connection and cross-fertilisation between these research agendas, to conceptionally develop the way the study of religions addresses the relationship between religion and diversity, and to increase its critical diversity literacy.
This bringing together of perspectives is not only justified but necessary, as we believe that the diversity of religions is a crucial factor in how the relationships between different groups in a society (diversity) are structured. Indeed, this interaction is a two-way street, since hegemony in managing both diversity and the transformation of social relations has likewise proven to be a significant field of inter- and intra-religious competition, and has led to confrontations between religious and non-religious epistemic power.
To initiate and substantiate this conversation on the ways diversity structures religion and religion structures diversity, we welcome contributions from various disciplines and regional contexts. Different methodological approaches to case studies and theoretical elaborations on conceptual questions are equally welcome.
The conference will take place in hybrid format, online and on site at the University of Lucerne (Switzerland) from 30th March to 1st April 2023.
The conference language is English.
The University of Lucerne’s buildings are accessible. For information regarding your accessibility needs, please contact the conference organisers at relsem. @ unilu.ch
- 31st August 2022: Deadline for submitting title and abstract (max. 250 words)
(Deadline extended to 11th of September)
- 30th September 2022: Acceptance
- 10th March 2023: Deadline for registration (for non-speakers)
- 30th March – 1st April 2023: Conference (University of Lucerne/online)
The conference fee, travel and accommodation costs for speakers will be covered (Partial coverage of expenses may occur depending on funding details).
Attendance on site for non-speakers: regular fee CHF 100; reduced fee: CHF 30 (Reduced fee for BA and MA students, as well as participants with no income).
If you register before Feb. 15th 2023 we will send you an invoice in due time before the event. Please note that for admission to the event, registration of payment must have been registered by the University of Lucerne. In case of later registration the fee must be paid on site in CHF.
Attendance online for non-speakers: no fee.
Dr Anne Beutter, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
Dr Ramona Jelinek-Menke, Philipps-University Marburg, Germany
Prof. Karina Kosicki Bellotti, Federal University of Paraná, Brazil
Sahra Lobina, MA, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
Brian McGowan, MA, Zurich University for Applied Sciences, Switzerland
SNSF - Swiss National Science Foundation
FoKo - Forschungskommission, Universität Luzern
SAGW-ASSH - Schweizerische Akademie der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften