Home"Contemporary spiritualities" and "New Age". Ethnographic and historical-comparative approaches to a transnational field

"Contemporary spiritualities" and "New Age". Ethnographic and historical-comparative approaches to a transnational field

Open session of the 16th Annual Conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR)

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Published on Friday, January 05, 2018 by Elsa Zotian

Summary

While the first theorists of secularization foresaw the gradual disappearance of religion from the public sphere, others observed a reorganization or even a “return of the sacred” on a worldwide scale. Aside from fundamentalisms which strongly uphold the idea of “tradition” and strengthen borders, new forms of religious expression have appeared transnationally, most often deinstitutionalized and integrated in civil society: for example, the “new religious movements”, and especially the more diffused and nebulous networks, groups and movements known under the generic terms of “New Age” and “contemporary spiritualities”.This session seeks to explore these new forms of transnational religiosity expressed through the notions of “spiritualities” and “New Age” from the perspectives of ethnography and the comparative social history of religion.

Announcement

OPEN SESSION: "Contemporary spiritualities" and "New Age" : Ethnographic and historical-comparative approaches to a transnational Field

Annual conference of the European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR), 19-21 June 2018, Bern (Switzerland).

Abstract

While the first theorists of secularization foresaw the gradual disappearance of religion from the public sphere, others observed a reorganization or even a “return of the sacred” on a worldwide scale (Berger 1994). Aside from fundamentalisms which strongly uphold the idea of “tradition” and strengthen borders, new forms of religious expression have appeared transnationally, most often deinstitutionalized and integrated in civil society: for example, the “new religious movements” (Campbell 2002; Barker 2013), and especially the more diffused and nebulous networks, groups and movements known under the generic terms of “New Age” and “contemporary spiritualities”.
The participants in these settings consider themselves more “spiritual than religious” or even “spiritual but not religious” (Houtman & Aupers 2007; Streib 2008; Streib & Hood 2011). Some sociologists speak therefore of a “spiritual revolution” (Heelas 2002), characterized by the decline of religious institutions and the rise of holistic beliefs which privilege the inner transformation of the individual, while others focus on the emergence of a worldwide “spiritual market”. What is sure is that New Age and contemporary spiritualities encompass a wide variety of representations that draw on personal development, oriental religions and philosophies, indigenous wisdom like Amerindianism and druidism, Western esotericism, eco-spirituality, quantum physics, and so on.
Recently the imprecise and controversial term “New Age” has set off many debates in the social sciences of religion and is also sometimes rejected by the social actors themselves, as it can be synonymous with a kind of “inauthenticity”. Sutcliffe (2003), for example, deconstructs epistemologically the notion of “New Age movement” – a false analytical category that has, nonetheless, come to be firmly rooted in the sociology of new religious movements – and argues that the phenomenon needs to be understood as a field of action – i.e. in relation to surrounding religious and cultural phenomena. Others authors criticize the notion of “spirituality” as a category for scientific analysis, and question the problematic distinction “free spirituality / organised religion”, arguing that spirituality must be seen as a form of discipline of the self, which is by no means less social and normative than “religion” (Altglas, forthcoming).

This session seeks to explore these new forms of transnational religiosity expressed through the notions of “spiritualities” and “New Age” from the perspectives of ethnography and the comparative social history of religion. We encourage thus papers that explore at least one of these topics:

  • epistemological debates and issues of terminology (with their applications, benefits and limitations);
  • models of fields, networks and other forms of relationship – synchronic or diachronic;
  • practices such as “syncretism”, “religious exoticism” (Altglas 2014), religious and intercultural (re)appropriations;
  • situations of mobility and of transnationalization of actors, contents, objects and images (Capone 2004);
  • how culture “shapes” bodily experiences within “contemporary spiritualities”;
  • gender perspectives on participation and transmission. 

Submission guidelines

To submit, please create an account here : https://www.conftool.com/easr2018/index.php?page=newPaper&form_contributiontypeID=23&newpaper=true

Deadline: 15th Jan 2018, 11:59:59pm CET.

Co-chairs

  • Thomas Witzeling (Uni Lausanne),
  • Prof. Steven Sutcliffe (Uni Edimburgh),
  • Manéli Farahmand (Uni Lausanne).

contacts: thomas.witzeling@unil.ch, maneli.farahmand@unil.ch, s.sutcliffe@ed.ac.uk

Places

  • University of Bern
    Berne, Switzerland

Date(s)

  • Monday, January 15, 2018

Keywords

  • contemporary spiritualities, New Age, religion, modernity, ethnography, history, comparative approache

Contact(s)

  • Thomas Witzeling
    courriel : thomas [dot] witzeling [at] unil [dot] ch
  • Manéli Farahmand
    courriel : maneli [dot] farahmand [at] unil [dot] ch
  • Steven Sutcliffe
    courriel : s [dot] sutcliffe [at] ed [dot] ac [dot] uk

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Thomas Witzeling
    courriel : thomas [dot] witzeling [at] unil [dot] ch

To cite this announcement

« "Contemporary spiritualities" and "New Age". Ethnographic and historical-comparative approaches to a transnational field », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, January 05, 2018, http://calenda.org/428337