The XXI Quinquennial World Congress of the IAHR

Congress LogoThe XXI Quinquennial World Congress of the IAHR, hosted by the DVRW, will take place in Erfurt, Germany August 23-29, 2015. The Congress theme is Dynamics of Religion: Past and Present:

Religion is a human, historical, social and cultural phenomenon. As such, religious ideas, practices, discourses, insti­tu­­ti­ons, and social expressions are con­stantly in processes of change. The Congress will address the processes of change, the dynamics of religions past,  present, and future, on several interconnected levels of analysis and theory, namely that of the individual, community and society, practices and discour­ses, beliefs, and narrations.

These will be addressed within four areas:

Religious communities in society: Adaptation and transformation

Embedded within complex cultures, characterized by social change and intercultural exchange, religious communities constantly adapt to their changing environments, developing practices, discourses, and insti­tu­tions conceptualized as “religion”. These con­cepts are subject to social and cultural influences. They also shape political and economic environ­ments. Religious traditions are invented and re-invented, im­per­ceptibly transformed, violently reformed or emphatically defended. How, then, do religious com­mu­nities and institutions adapt to cultural change? How do they affect social change? Does interreligious contact and dialogue lead to religious change? How do religious com­munities react to the possibilities and threats of new media? Does globalization transform public religions? To what extent do states and public law affect religions?

Practices and discourses: Innovation and tradition

Founding figures, schisms and revivals characterize the dynamics of religion in past and present. Institutions develop or are dissolved. This, again, poses questions: How are religious traditions established, standardized and canonized? What are the mechanisms and agents of religious innovation? How do religious traditions repel religious change? How is sacred time and space established? Does religious individualization lead to innovation? What are the mechanisms of transforma­tion and innovation of rituals and other practices? Do rituals create and perpetuate religious traditions? Are new religious movements or esoteric currents innovative? Does fundamentalism protect religious traditions? Does the internet lead to religious innova­tion? What are the dynamics of gender traditions?

The individual: Religiosity, spiritualities and individualization

Individuals, too, are agents of change. Privatization, patchwork religiosity and religious deviance are not restricted to the present. Can “religiosity” or “spirituality”, popular in many contemporary self-descriptions, be used as descriptive terms of our meta-language? Under what circumstances do individuals obey or deny religious traditions? How and why do individuals converse, or gradually change their religious convictions and affiliations? How can plural religious identities or patchwork religiosities be explained, what effects do they have on religious traditions? How important are religious experiences in religions? What are individual reasons for religious deviance? How do religions control the individual? Is the privatization of religion a modern phenomenon? Do biographic developments explain individual religiosity?

Methodology: Representations and interpretations

Religious change is registered and narrated by outsiders and insiders. Emic representa­ti­ons influence academic interpretations. Scholarly para­digms and theories are therefore as dynamic as their object. Which master nar­ra­ti­ves about religious change need to be revised? Are all religious traditions invented? What is the current status of the secularization debate? Is there some scien­tific value in old paradigms of religious change (e.g. decline, fall, rise, axial age)? How can theories of cultur­al and religious evolution be applied in historical scien­ces? How do new approaches in historio­graphy con­cep­tu­a­lize religious change (e.g. entangled or trans­cultural history, postcolonial history, discourse analysis)?

Proposals for panels and papers within and across the areas outlined are welcome and may be submitted using the form on the Congress website @ starting August 1, 2013. Proposal submission is possible through September 15, 2014. Registration for the Congress will open August 2014, the last day for registration being June 30, 2015.
Acceptance of proposals will be communicated by March 2015 so that visa and funding may be applied for.  
Please visit the website for exact proposal and registration requirements and deadlines.

About the host institutions:

dvrw logoThe DVRW, the German Association for the Study of Religions is a member association to the IAHR, the International Association for the History of Religions. The DVRW aims to promote the academic study of religions at German universities and towards a wider public via conferences, publications, awards and workshops. Founded in 1951 as Deutsche Vereinigung für Religionsgeschichte, it has today more than 350 members, putting emphasis especially on the support of younger scholars. Its biannual conferences open up new fields of research to scholars from historical and contemporary, European as well as non-European fields of study. Being the national body of Religionswissenschaft (the Study of Religions) in Germany, the DVRW has been chosen to host the IAHR XXI Quinquennial World Congress in Erfurt, Germany, in collaboration with the Department of Religious Studies, the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies and the Research School “Religion” at Erfurt University.  

The University of Erfurt was founded in 1379 as one of the earliest universities of Germany. Reopening its doors in 1994 with the two key research focus areas “Education” and “Religion”, it offers high quality education, placing especial emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. Erfurt is one of the top German research universities for the Study of Religions, attracting internationally distin­guished scholars and numerous research programs, including funding by the German Research Foundation and the European Research Council.

The city of Erfurt, capital of Thuringia, Germany, is of central importance to the history of the Protestant reformation, hosting Martin Luther in the Augustiner­kloster, Erfurt, and at Wartburg Castle, Eisenach, where he translated the New Testament into the vernacular. Furthermore, the city in which Meister Eckhart lived and taught was a center of Christian mysticism in the 14th century, and is today one of the best-preserved sites of medieval Central European Judaism (UNESCO world heritage status applied for). Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe contributed to its rich cultural heritage in music and literature at the center of Weimar classicism. At the same time, it is a paradigm for a post-socialist, de-Christianized region with a long tradition of critique of religion and secular humanism.

Members of the Local Organizing Committee are:

  • Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke, Erfurt (Congress President)
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Bochinger, Bayreuth (Congress President)
  • Prof. Dr. Tim Jensen, Odense (General Secretary of the IAHR)
  • Prof. Dr. Wanda Alberts, Hannover
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Fuchs, Erfurt
  • Prof. Dr. Vasilios Makrides, Erfurt
  • Prof. Dr. Hubert Seiwert, Leipzig
  • Prof. Dr. Katja Triplett, Marburg
  • Prof. Dr. Katharina Waldner, Erfurt

The Local Organizing Team is supported by:

  • Dr. Elisabeth Begemann, Erfurt (Congress Coordinator)
  • Dr. Bernd-Christian Otto, Erfurt