Conference: Blurring Boundaries, 23-26 November 2021

This November, Jörg Rüpke and Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli are organizing the next Religion and Urbanity conference, which will take place in person at Schloss Ettersburg, Weimar. Gathering contributions from religious studies, indology, history, art and architectural history, the conference will take a closer look at religious phenomena associated with or produced in urban space but diffused beyond and customized outside cities.

The conference program reflects the question of how researchers can approach this topic while being aware of the tendency of spatial research to analytically presuppose clear-cut borderlines and thus reify what is as much a dynamic zone of flows as a construct of certain discourses and practices (Rau 2013). Rüpke and Urciuoli propose to start from the concept of urban religion as used in current anthropological studies on metropolises and substantively expanded within the Religion and Urbanity framework. In line with this, urban religion does not indicate a place-bound and permanent state of affairs but rather the interaction between religion and urbanity that allows for very different spaces qualified as urban. This interaction, and not a topographically delineated city, serves as the necessary pre-condition for historical phenomena and their study. In a similar vein, urbanity is “understood as a form of relation, not as a state or condition that can only be localised in the city. The urban character of a settlement of any size is not something that exists per se but only through ascription of meaning, comparison (with other settlements), and processes of negotiation (which are never free from power)” (Rau 2020).

As Rüpke and Uciuoli outline in their concept note: “This conference is an invitation to think “urban religion” as a processual category that captures attempts to blur as well as to stress any topographical boundary between supposedly rural and urban religious traditions. We are not looking for fixing origins to given territorial habitats or confining survivals to certain spatial determinants (thus engaging in the production of urbanity and rurality ourselves). Instead, we are interested in observing and interpreting the ongoing traffic of religious signs, carriers, practices, and institutions across a more or less externally demarcated city border, thus testing their changes under different socio-spatial conditions.”

The conference will feature presentations by Handan Aksünger-Kizil (Vienna), Roberto Alciati (Florence), William Elison (Santa Barbara),Laszlo Ferenczi (Prague), Audrey Ferlut (Lyon), Valentino Gasparini (Madrid),Barbara Happe (Jena), Jens-Uwe Hartmann (Munich), Marietta Horster (Mainz),Elisa Iori (Erfurt),Sara Keller (Erfurt), Rachna Mehra (Delhi), Katharina Mersch (Bochum), Jörg Rüpke & Emiliano R. Urciuoli (Erfurt), Yogesh Snehi (Delhi),Marika Vicziany (Melbourne), Benno Werlen (Jena), Ingrid Würth (Potsdam)

More information can be found at the conference announcement of Erfurt University.

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Rau, Susanne. 2013. Räume: Konzepte, Wahrnehmungen, Nutzungen. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag.

———. 2020. „Urbanity (urbanitas, Urbanität, urbanité, urbanità, urbanidad…) — An Essay“. Religion and Urbanity Online. https://doi.org/10.1515/urbrel.11276000


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