Religion, Tradition and the Popular in Asia and Europe
November 8-10, 2012
The current worldwide resurgence of religion goes hand in hand with new religious practices, forms of articulation and mass mediatization as well as idiosyncratic references to the past. This interdisciplinary conference will focus on the popularization of religions in Europe, Asia and the transcultural, global space. We are especially interested in the interconnection between the making of religion, tradition and the popular.
The rapid development of religious popular cultures and lifestyles can be observed both in Asia and Europe which we do not consider as clearly divided monolithic regions. Rather we stress the transnational and contested dimensions of modern popular religions as these often blur the boundary between religious and non-religious realms. In doing so we strive to overcome categorical divides between so-called world religions and alternative religions. Yet, popular religion is practised and understood in differing ways in different places and social contexts. Its meaning correlates with issues of gender, class, ethnicity and personal orientation. New experiences of spirituality, esotericism and transcendence may be combined with commercialization and commodification as they become simultaneously infused with expressive performative practices and passionate embodied experiences, pleasure and fun. Thus, the reciprocal connections between popular religion and the everyday politics of identity comes to the fore.
At the same time there will be questions raised in respect to the relationship between new public roles of religion and nationalism. Closely connected to this is the ongoing construction of religious historical cultures whereby certain religious traditions are made significant and useful for present concerns and interpretative needs. Yet, what does ‘tradition’ mean in the context of popular religions?