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Feb 12, 2018
The Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR), the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG), The Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion (NOSTER) in cooperation with the University of Erfurt Research Centre „Dynamics of Jewish Ritual Practices in Pluralistic Contexts from Antiquity to the Present“ are pleased to announce their joint conference on Interpreting Rituals: Historiographical Perspectives and Pluralistic Contexts, to be held on October 29-31, 2018 at Leiden University.

Conference 2014

"Religion and Pluralities of Knowledge" 

Joint conference of the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG) and the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR), also ranked as special conference of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). 


University of Groningen, 11-15 May 2014 

Outline of the conference theme 

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 Forms of Knowledge Proper to Religious Beings"
Because of the limited number of templates used to describe access to beings, adepts of many religions have been cornered in the 'Knowledge' versus 'Belief' predicament. Is it possible to redescribe the complex relation of adepts with their divinities by using a larger number of ontological templates? Does this pluralist interpretation open a public space different from the one invented in the past as a solution to religious wars?

Bruno 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 


"Travelling in Spirit: from Friuli to Siberia"

What is the relationship between local evidence and general interpretive  categories? The paper will address this question through a self-reflective case study,  involving  the paper’s author and his work on Inquisition trials  in sixteenth and seventeenth century Friuli (1966). As the author retrospectively realized,  his own encounter with the Friulian benandanti had been profoundly   oriented by a well-known  work which he read  much later: S. M. Shirokogoroff’s Psychomental Complex  of the Tungus (1935). To  what extent an interpretive category   can travel beyond its original context?  And to what extent the impact of  Shirokogoroff’s  work was shaped by one of  his  most remarkable readers – the Italian anthropologist Ernesto de Martino –  who acted as a go-between? Are we allowed to speak of   “indirect orientation” – and what does this notion imply? Can an analysis of reading (a  complex and largely under-theorized activity) throw some light on larger social phenomena? The paper will try to answer those (and  some related) questions.


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 


"Visual Culture and the Study of Religion"

An understanding of religion as a practice of mediation through which some kind of spiritual or divine presence is effected has great potential for opening up new methods and theories for a critical study of religion. Leading beyond the privileged medium of the text, this understanding approaches religion as a multi-media phenomenon that mobilizes the full sensorium. Particular attention will be drawn to religious images and sensory regimes. What is the role of authorized images in generating religious knowledge for their users? How do images sustain, and bring to life, religious imaginaries? And what are the implications of placing visual culture at the core of scholarly inquiry for the production of knowledge about religion?


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 


"The Historiographical Construction of Religious Traditions"

Communicated memory and historical narrative offer powerful tools for self-reflection and formation of religious groups. By changing the perspective from 'representation' of religious traditions to 'construction,' the lecture inquires into contexts and strategies of the historiography of religion. It claims that even 'modern,' historicist historiography is far less critical with regard to emic narratives than it claims to be. The lecture concentrates on circum-Mediterranean traditions but raises questions and addresses consequences beyond these narrative strands.


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.




Click here for the program schedule. The accepted open sessions and pre-arranged sessions can be found here, the program book here.



Practical information


The EASR/NGG2014 app can be downloaded from appstore/playstore. It contains the program book and other interesting information and features.




Please note that the deadline to apply for EASR bursaries 2014 is over. Unfortunately, it is not possible to send applications anymore. More information can be found on the EASR website.


 Conference registration

  • Early registration (until 1 February 2014): 180 EUR
  • Late registration (after 1 February 2014): 250 EUR
  • Registration fees for students (incl. PhD students), only possible until 1 February 2014: 100 EUR
  • Registration for one day: 80 EUR
  • Meet & Eat on Tuesday evening: 50 EUR. This includes dinner and drinks in restaurant 't Feithhuis and live performances by the band Manziluna!

Registration includes access to all sessions, coffee/tea breaks, and three lunches. 

It is also possible to book your accomodation with a special conference discount, more information about the hotels can be found here.  


To register, click here.



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.


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It is possible to reserve a room for board meetings, meetings with publishers, etcetera. Please contact for more information.


Childcare is available for children ages 0 to 4 years. This service will be provided through the Groningen City Childcare Association (SKSG). For details and reservations information please contact:


Live streaming

All plenary sessions and a selection of other sessions will be accessible online through live streaming


Travel details

Traveling by train from Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam central station to Groningen takes about 2 hours (trains depart every half hour). 
Plan a journey.


Transportation in Groningen

The most common form of public transport in Groningen is the bus. Several bus lines connect the train station and the center of town with the rest of the city. You can check the online journey-planner to get a door-to-door connection from any address in the Netherlands. Please note also that the center of town is small and that all conference venues are on walking distance from the train station and the conference hotels. 


Conference organization

Conference Director

Kocku von Stuckrad, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


Organization Committee

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: Alexandra Grieser, Kim Knibbe, Yme Kuiper, Annet van der Meer, Lia Nunes, Kocku von Stuckrad.


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). 



Contact and information  

If you have questions about the conference theme in general, as well as about news coverage and sponsoring, please contact


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


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


Social media

 Join the discussion on Twitter with hashtag #EASR14. Or join us on Facebook!



Information for publishers can be found in this document. For further information, please contact:



University of Groningen

c/o Prof. Dr. Kocku von Stuckrad

Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies

Oude Boteringestraat 38

9712 GK Groningen The Netherlands


Main sponsors

- Endowed Chair for the Study of Religion, University of Groningen

- Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen

- Sustainable Society Focus Area, University of Groningen



Additional sponsors