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1st Call for Papers – ESA – RN 34: Sociology of Religion, Sept. 3-5, 2012 in Potsdam/Germany

ESA Research Network 34 – Sociology of Religion 

in cooperation with the        

German Section for Religionssoziologie in the DGS

Call for papers – Mid-term Conference 

University of Potsdam,, Germany, 3-5 September 2012 

Transformations of the Sacred in Europe and Beyond 

The thesis of secularization, once sheer uncontested in the social sciences, is increasingly 

under fire. Secularization is nowadays often deconstructed as an ideology or mere wish dream 

that is intimately connected to the rationalist ambitions of modern Enlightenment. Such 

alleged blurring of morality and science, of what ‘is’ and what ‘ought’, informing sociological 

analysis obviously obscures clear sight on recent developments in the Western world.  

Countless empirical and theoretical studies convincingly demonstrate that religion is 

alive and well in Europe and beyond. Particularly after the attacks of 9/11 in 2001, religious 

identities have become salient in a situation of cultural polarization and religious 

pluralization. Moreover, we are witnessing a trend towards ‘believing without belonging’ 

(Davie, 1994) and – particularly in those European countries that are most secular – a shift 

from organized religion to ‘spiritualities of life’ (e.g., Heelas and Woodhead, 2005), paganism 

and ‘popular religion’ (Knoblauch, 2009). And although the thesis of secularization has 

always been highly problematic from a non-European or global perspective, the rapid 

globalization of Islam and the Evangelical upsurge – especially in Africa, Latin America and 

East Asia – fly in the face of the long-held expectation that religion is doomed to be a 

marginal or socially insignificant phenomenon.  

Evidently, then, the focus of sociological analysis has shifted over the last decades 

from religious decline to religious change. More than that: it is theorized that we are living in 

a “post-secular society” (Habermas, 2005) where religion is re-vitalized, de-privatized and 

increasingly influences politics, voting behavior, matters of the state and ethical debates in the 

public domain (e.g., Casanova, 1994). Motivated by such observations, the mid-term 

conference calls for papers addressing changes in the field of religion and, more in particular, 

transformations of the sacred in Europe and beyond. Particularly we welcome studies 

covering the following topics:   

• Studies on how and why conceptions of the sacred, religious beliefs, doctrines, rituals 

and organizations of long-standing religious traditions – such as Islam, Christianity, 

Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism – transform under the influence of processes of 

globalization, individualization, mediatization as well as changing gender relations.  

• Studies dealing with trends of believing without belonging, i.e. non-institutionalized 

beliefs, personal ‘bricolage’ and privatized conceptions of the sacred outside the 

Churches, Chapels and Mosques. Encouraged are also studies addressing new, more 

informal ways of ‘belonging’, religious communication and collective effervescence, 

i.e. in loose social networks, discussion groups or virtual communities on the internet.  

• Studies covering popular religion and post-traditional spirituality, i.e., New Age, 

esotericism, paganism, occultism, discussing for instance an epistemological turn from 

belief to experience and emotion; a shifting emphasis from transcendence to 

immanence; from seriousness to playfulness; or a transition from dualism to monism. 

Studies dealing with implicit religion, i.e. addressing a re-location of the sacred to 

seemingly secular domains in society such as self-identity, sports, modern science and 

technology. This avenue of research may also include the place and meaning of the 

sacred (i.e., religious narratives, symbols and images) in popular media texts – in 

novels, films, series on television or computer games.  

These topics are rough guidelines; papers dealing with religious change and the 

transformation of the sacred in Europe and beyond other than these outlined above are also 

very welcome. Furthermore we invite PhD and post-doc candidates to contribute to a poster 

session, including work in progress; the best poster will get a – small, but nice – prize.  

Dates & Deadlines in 2012 

March 15  Submission of abstracts and online registration starts  

April 20  Submission of abstracts ends  

May 10  Acceptance of abstracts  

June 30  Early-bird registration ends 

September 3 – 5 Conference 

Conference Fees:  

for ESA-Members & Students: € 30,– plus € 20,– for Conference Buffet 

for Non-Members € 50,– plus € 20,– for Conference Buffet 

for late registration € 80,– plus € 20,– for Conference Buffet 

For further information, please visit:


Conference Venue 

The University of Potsdam turned 20 this year. 

More than 20,000 students are enrolled in more 

than 100 degree programmes, located at three 

different sites. The mid-term conference will take 

place at Griebnitzsee Campus, which is directly 

located at the S-Bahn that connects Potsdam City 

and Berlin.