Conference and Call for Proposals - "Religion and Pluralities of Knowledge"

University of Groningen, 11-15 May 2014

In 2014, the University of Groningen will celebrate its 400th Anniversary. The joint conference of the EASR, IAHR, and the NGG will be held immediately before the official celebration weeks of the University will commence. The conference theme, too, is related to the 400th anniversary, as it focuses on various ways in which European universities have engaged the topic of religion since the Middle Ages and the Reformation. The place of religion in the global ‘entangled histories’ today, as well as the formation of the academic study of religion, have been determined by pluralities of knowledge in many ways. 

The religious landscape in Europe is characterized by a pluralism of religious traditions, identities, and communities—forms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have competed with one another. Memories and reconstructions of Greek, Roman, and other pre-Christian European traditions have also served as alternatives in a spectrum of religious identifications. Migration and globalization have further enhanced these multi-religious dynamics since the nineteenth century. 

In addition to the pluralism of religious traditions, a pluralism of societal and cultural systems has formed the European discourse on religion since the Middle Ages. In critical distinction, as well as in transfer processes, philosophy, philology, law, the natural sciences, economy, politics, art, and other systems have exerted tremendous influence on the place of religion in Europe and the perception of religion worldwide. 


The conference will address these forms of pluralism with a special attention to categories of knowledge that are intrinsically linked to them. Knowledge is a constitutive social value within modern societies. How knowledge is distinguished from belief, how both are mediated, and what counts as religious knowledge or as its derivates and alternatives, are core questions in understanding the role of religion in contemporary societies, but also in earlier periods. The process of attaining shared knowledge in a society is closely linked to the attribution, legitimization, and negotiation of meaning systems. These processes can be scrutinized from historical and cross-cultural perspectives. The focus on knowledge and knowledge claims can provide a deeper understanding of pluralistic cultural processes. 

Like pluralism, knowledge has become an important concept in the understanding of culture. Moving beyond Enlightenment notions of ratio and reason and considering everyday knowledge, as well as its media and its social and individual conditions, the concept of knowledge has been theorized in various disciplines, including philosophy, sociology of knowledge, anthropology, and history. Cognitive and psychological perspectives have also provided important new insights. Reconstructing the ‘archaeologies of knowledge’ pertaining to religion suggests that what is regarded as legitimate knowledge changes from one region to another and from one historical context to another. Notions of ‘tacit knowledge,’ ‘embodied knowledge,’ local versus universal knowledge, but also the relationship between ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing that’ have proven to be relevant categories. The conference topic invites critical investigation and further exploration of these analytical concepts related to the study of religion. 

Linking the notion of knowledge to the pluralistic understanding of religious dynamics also implies an analysis of collisions of knowledge claims and polemics of knowledge. These dimensions of the conference theme can be applied to contemporary issues, such as questions of multiculturalism, migration, radical religious claims, atheism, or juridical and cultural conflicts pertaining to freedom of religion and speech. 

Keynote speakers

We are proud to present the following distinguished scholars as confirmed keynote speakers: 

Bruno Latour, Professor at Sciences Po Paris, France 

'' Beyond Belief, on the Ontology of Religious Beings'' 

http://www.bruno-latour.fr/biographyBruno Latour was trained first as a philosopher and then an anthropologist. From 1982 to 2006, he has been professor at the Centre de sociologie de l'Innovation at the Ecole nationale supérieure des mines in Paris and, for various periods, visiting professor at UCSD, at the London School of Economics and in the history of science department of Harvard University.  He is now professor at Sciences Po Paris where, after five years 2007-2012 he is no longer the vice-president for research.

After field studies in Africa and California he specialized in the analysis of scientists and engineers at work. In addition to work in philosophy, history, sociology and anthropology of science, he has collaborated into many studies in science policy and research management.


 Carlo Ginzburg, Professor of History of European Cultures, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy 

http://www.sns.it/en/didattica/lettere/menunews/personale/emerito/ginzburg/Carlo Ginzburg (1939) has taught at the University of Bologna, at UCLA, at the Scuola Normale of Pisa. His  books,    translated into more  than twenty  languages,  include The Night Battles;  The Cheese and the Worms;  Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method; The Enigma of Piero della Francesca; History, Rhetoric, and Proof; The Judge and the Historian;  Wooden Eyes; No Island is an Island;    Threads and Traces.  He  received the Aby Warburg Prize (1992),  the Humboldt-Forschungs Prize (2007), the Balzan Prize for the History of Europe, 1400-1700 (2010).


Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands  

Birgit Meyer studied religious studies and pedagogy (for disabled children) at Bremen University and cultural anthropology (PhD in 1995) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Since September 2011 she is professor of religious studies at Utrecht University. She has conducted research on and published about colonial missions and local appropriations of Christianity, modernity and conversion, the rise of Pentecostalism in the context of neo-liberal capitalism, popular culture and video-films in Ghana, the relation between religion, media and identity, as well as on material religion and the place and role of religion in the 21st century. She is vice-chair of the International African Institute(London), a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences, and one of the editors of Material Religion. In 2010-2011 she was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg), Berlin; in 2011 she was awarded with an Anneliese Maier Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation which allows her to develop a project, in collaboration with the ZMO, on Habitats and Habitus. Politics and Aesthetics of Religious World-Making.  


Jörg Rüpke, Professor of Comparative Study of Religion, University of Erfurt, Germany 

 https://www.uni-erfurt.de/en/religious-studies/study-focus-european-polytheisms/team/prof-dr-joerg-ruepke/Doctorate and habilitation at the University of Tübingen; 1995-9 professor for Classical Philology (Latin) at the University of Potsdam; 1999-2008 professor of Comparative Religion at the University of Erfurt; 2008 interim president of the university; since Co-director of the Research Group “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective” and Fellow in Religious Studies at the Max Weber Centre. Member of the German Council of Science and Humanities.

Books include:

Domi militiae 1990; (ed.) A Companion to Roman Religion 2007 (end ed. 2009); The Religions of the Romans 2007; Fasti sacerdotum 2008; The Roman Calendar form Numa to Constantine 2011; Von Jupiter zu Christus 2011; Religion in Republican Rome: Rationalization and Ritual Change 2012; Religiöse Erinnerungskulturen 2012; Ancients and Moderns: Religion 2013.

Call for proposals

We invite contributions from various disciplines and perspectives to explore the nexus of religion, pluralism, and knowledge. We encourage a conversation among theoretical, historical, and empirical contributions. Papers and panels may address topics such as the following:

  • The pluralistic nature of knowledge about religion, including different disciplinary perspectives and new concepts: history as imaginative knowledge, sociology of knowledge, knowledge and space, materiality of knowledge (goods, objects, machines, instruments), aesthetics of knowledge, knowledge as related to gender and race, etc.; 
  • Various forms of knowledge about religion: rational knowledge, imaginative and poetic knowledge, explicit and implicit knowledge, embodied knowledge, ritual knowledge, etc.; 
  • Historical developments, changes, and reconfigurations of knowledge systems that relate to the field of religion; 
  • Procedures and politics in the organization of knowledge about religion: production, reception, circulation, transmission, (de)legitimization, (de)canonization, traditionalization, but also the rejection, marginalization, and exclusion of knowledge. 

In addition to these subtopics and approaches, we encourage contributions that address other aspects of the conference theme. Proposals of contributions and panels that are not directly linked to the conference theme will also be considered. There will be panels for the presentation of ongoing doctoral research. 

Requirements for proposals

Proposals for individual papers and for pre-arranged sessions need to consist of an abstract of no more than 150 words (to be used in the program book, should the paper and/or session be accepted) and an outline of the proposed paper and/or session with no more than 500 words. We also welcome suggestions for open panels, asking for submission of individual papers to fit with the proposed panel. Proposals will have to provide names of presenter(s)/convenors and their email address(es).

  • Deadline for submitting themes for open panels and pre-arranged sessions: 15 October 2013
  • Announcement of approved panels and sessions: 1 November 2013
  • Deadline for submitting proposals for individual papers: 1 December 2013 
  • Notification of acceptance individual papers: 15 January 2014

 Please indicate clearly whether you are applying for an individual paper fitting in with the conference theme, a pre-arranged session, an open panel or the presentation of ongoing doctoral research. All proposals should be sent as an e-mail or as a Word document attached to an e-mail to  Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser.

There will be a double-blind peer-review process. All proposals will be evaluated by an independent committee, consisting of members of the organization committee and the scientific advisory board.

Conference organization

Conference venue

The University of Groningen, The Netherlands. The conference will be held in the beautiful Academy Building in the city center. Hotels, conference dinner, and other activities are on walking distance from the conference venue.  

Conference organization

The Conference Director is Kocku von Stuckrad, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, Faculty of
Theology and Religious Studies, Department of Comparative Study of Religion. Furthermore, the Organization Committee works on behalf and in close collaboration with the Executive Committee of the NGG and is responsible for the concrete organizational work at the University of Groningen. Major parts of the logistic and administrative organization will be done by the Groningen Congres Bureau.

Scientific Advisory Board

The Scientific Advisory Board supports the Organization Committee in putting together the academic program, in evaluating the proposals, and in reaching out to international networks and scholarly organizations. Members of the Scientific Advisory Board will also be actively involved as respondents and panelists during the conference: 

Klaas van Berkel (University of Groningen), Michael Borgolte (Humboldt University Berlin), Maya Burger (University of Lausanne, EASR), David Chidester (University of Cape Town), Willem Frijhoff (VU University Amsterdam), Ingvild Sælid Gilhus (University of Bergen, IAHR), Dick Houtman (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Tim Jensen (University of Southern Denmark, IAHR), Rosalind Hackett (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, IAHR), Ab de Jong (University of Leiden), Hans G. Kippenberg (Jacobs University Bremen), Anne-Marie Korte (Utrecht University, NOSTER), Nancy Levene (Indiana University), José Pedro Paiva (Universidade de Coimbra), Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin), Ramon Sarró (University of Oxford), Winnifred Fallers Sullivan (Indiana University Bloomington), Ann Taves (University of California at Santa Barbara), Gerard Wiegers (University of Amsterdam), Frans Wijsen (Radboud University Nijmegen, NGG). 

Schedule and important dates  

Launch of Call for Proposals: 1 May 2013 
Deadline for submitting themes for pre-arranged sessions and open panels: 15 October 2013 
Announcement of approved themes for pre-arranged sessions: 1 November 2013 
Deadline for submitting proposals for individual papers : 1 December 2013 
Notification of acceptance: 15 January 2014 

Contact and information  

If you have questions about the conference theme in general, as well as about news coverage and sponsoring, please contact  Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser. .

For all administrative and logistic questions please contact: Groningen Congres Bureau Ubbo Emmiussingel 37B 9711 BC Groningen Tel. + 31 (0)50 316 8877 Fax + 31 (0)50 312 6047 e-mail  Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser.

For updates on the conference organization see the conference announcement on the NGG website:

Click here for a PDF file containing the outline of the conference theme.


University of Groningen

c/o Prof. Dr. Kocku von Stuckrad

Department of Comparative and Historical Study of Religion

Oude Boteringestraat 38

9712 GK Groningen The Netherlands


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