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Some data on the history of the SIEF Working Group on Ethnology of Religion 1989 - 2013

The initial idea to establish a new SIEF commission on the study of folk religion, or then called in German Volksfrömmigkeitsforschung, goes back into the late '80s. It was decided during the General Assembly of the SIEF Congress in Bergen (Norway) in 1989. Prof. Nils-Arvid Bringéus then proposed to form a Commission on Folk Religion, under the guidance of professor Anders Gustavsson, at that time professor of ethnology at the Uppsala University. The idea was to organize every third year a symposium with the participation of ethnologists and folklorists from all over Europe and so to bring together colleagues with similar interests in order to work more fruitful in a smaller group than in the larger SIEF society. Moreover, the creation of a working group was also stimulated by an upswing in the field of religious ethnology, bringing about new approaches and methods.

The first symposium of the new commission or working group was held in October 1993 in Stockholm on the topic ‘Religion in Everyday Life Then and Now’, sponsored by the Swedish Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. The focus was on how religion manifests itself in lifestyle, beliefs, upbringing and norms. The papers of the conference were published in 1994.

The second conference was held three years later in 1996 in North-Portugal on the theme ‘Folk Religion, Continuity and Change’ organized by Maria Santa Viera Montez and Anders Gustavsson. This broad topic again could illustrate to what extent folk religion is an agent for change or an instrument of preservation in a changing world. Changes may imply renewal but also a return to earlier conditions. How and why does this happen in modern societies? Delegates from different parts of Europe and for the first time also from outside Europe (USA) were discussing this problem. The papers of the conference were published in 1999 as a joint publication of the Universities of Lisboa and Uppsala.

The third symposium was invited by Gábor Barna to Hungary, it was organized by the Department of Ethnology, University of Szeged in September 1999 in Szeged. The topic was ‘Politics and Folk Religion’. Presentations were given without any limitation of bounderies in age and space on the relation between politics and folk religion. There were again speakers from the United States and at the first time from India. The papers were published in the journal Acta Ethnographica Hungarica, 46,1-2 (2001) and as an independent book under the same title, edited by Gábor Barna in the publication series „Bibliotheca Religionis Popularis Szegediensis” volume 6. In Szeged Prof. Anders Gustavsson stepped down as chair of the working group and Gábor Barna was elected as new chair.

The fourth symposium for Ethnology of Religion was hosted by Margaret Mackay in Edinburgh from 4 to 8 September 2002, with the topic ‘Gender and Generation’. The program was set up by Margaret Mackay and Gábor Barna.

In 2001 the SIEF Congress was held in Budapest. In the frame of the congress the working group organized a panel on the topic ‘Ritualisiertes Schreiben. Inschriften und Eintragungen als Wunschvermittlung und Erinnerung’. The organizers were Prof. Helmut Eberhart (Graz, Austria) and Gábor Barna (Szeged, Hungary). The papers of this session have been published in the publication series ‘Bibliotheca Religionis Popularis Szegediensis’ (vol. 11) under the title ‘Ritualisierung, Zeit, Kommunikation’.

On 27-28 April 2004 the working group organized sections at the International SIEF Congress in Marseille, on the themes: 'Sacrality and Piety' and 'Pilgrimage Today', chaired by Arne Bugge Amundsen, Helmut Eberhart and Gabor Barna.

In 2004 an extraordinary project of some members of the working group and other religion scholars in Europe started in Szeged (Hungary) on the topic of ‘Ethnology of Religion in Europe’, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Prof. Sándor Bálint, who was the founder of religious ethnology in Hungary. The meeting was held in order to prepare a handbook on the history of the ethnology/anthropology of religion in Europe under the title ‘Ethnology of Religion. Chapters from the European History of a Discipline’. Fourteen European countries are represented in it (published by Akadémiai Kiadó).

The seventh symposium of the commission was planned for 2005 in Andechs, Germany to be organized by Oliva Wiebel-Fanderl and Gábor Barna. Ultimately the invitation from Germany was withdrawn due to personal circumstances. Instead Professor Jurij Fikfak (Ljubljana) from the Institute of Ethnology of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences managed to organize the conference in Celje (Slovenia) in 2006. The conference was organized under the title ‘Senses and Religion’. The papers were published in the yearbook Traditiones, and also as an independent book publication. At this conference the head of the working group, Gábor Barna stepped down and Ulrika Wolf-Knuts (Åbo, Finland) was elected as chair.

At the international congress of the SIEF in Derry, 19-20 June 2008, a panel was organized under the title ‘Rethinking the Sacred’ by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts and Gábor Barna. `The papers were published: Ulrika Wolf-Knuts and Kathleen Grant (eds.), Rethinking the sacred. Proceedings of the ninth SIEF conference in Derry 2008 (Abo: Abo Akademi University, 2009)

The ninth meeting of the working group was held in Warsaw, 2010. The theme was ‘Experiencing Religion. New Approaches towards Personal Religiosity’. This meeting was prepared by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts and Ewa Chomicka (Warsaw). For the first time there was an open call for papers, which brought in new scholars from all over the world. In Warsaw Ulrika Wolf-Knuts stepped down and Peter Jan Margry was elected new chair.

On 19-20 April 2011 the congress panel 'Sacred Places' was organized by the board of the working group at the international SIEF Congress in Lisbon.

The 2012 conference of the SIEF Working Group on Ethnology of Religion was organized by István Povedák and Peter Jan Margry and held at the Department of Ethnology / Cultural Anthropology and the former ‘Bálint Sándor’ Institute for the Study of Religion in Szeged, Hungary, 12-14 September. Theme: ‘Religion on the Move. How Motion and Migration Influence Religion’.

On 1 July 2013 a congress panel organized by the board of the working group at the international SIEF

The Working Group organized its 11th conference with the title ‘Making Sense of Religion: Performance, Art and Experience’ in Lisbon, Portugal on May 22-23. The hosts were Clara Saraiva, Eugenia Roussou and Diana Espirito Santo from NAR-Anthropology of Religion Group of the Center for Research in Anthropology (CRIA). The conference had 4 thematic sessions (Gender, healing and the senses; Senses and possession; Music, performance and embodiment; Art, materiality and space) with 21 papers.

During the conference on May 22 a working group meeting was held where only 2 of the 4 board members (Clara Saraiva, István Povedák) and all the paper presenters participated. As great part of the presenters (15 from the 21) in Lisbon participated at the WG conference for the first time the meeting had two focuses: the introduction of the WG and the issue about the planned WG series. Clara Saraiva, the chief editor mentioned that the first volume after more than two years of hard work was basically finished by May 2014 and when Peter Jan Margry the former chair of the WG finished his introduction for the volume they could upload it to the LitVerlag Publisher House. According to Povedák although the editorial board (Clara Saraiva, José Mapril, Lionel Obadia and Kinga Povedák) did a great job with editing the papers that would be suggested to organize a new editorial team that would also include the local organizers in order to fasten up the editing process. Later a longer discussion started about the possible publishing solutions if there would be any difficulties with the LitVerlag.

Basically the conference was successful in attracting new members (some of them remained active members and will participate at the Zagreb congress too) but according to some the call for papers was more connected to anthropology than ethnology thus could be unattractive for others.

Later in 2014 the WG Board (Marion Bowman, Anna Niedzwiedz, Clara Saraiva, István Povedák) decided that the Editorial Board for the planned series would consist of the chair, the board members and the local organizer person. Povedák collected the papers from the 2012 Szeged, 2013 Tartu conference while Saraiva started to collect the papers from the 2014 Lisbon conference. As later only 5 papers arrived to Povedák there’s no chance to publish a separate volume from Szeged and Tartu thus a joint volume with the Lisbon papers could be a solution. (The issue will be discussed during the congress in Zagreb)

In 2014 Povedák created a facebook page for the WG which already has more than 100 followers. All the information about the group members, conferences and other information concerning the WG’s interest are posted there too. For the SIEF Congress in Zagreb the WG Board organized two sessions. ‘The heritagization of religious and spiritual practices: the effects of grassroots and top-down policies‘ under the name of Niedzwiedz and Saraiva; ‘Almost Heaven. Vernacular utopias and the culture of belief’ by Povedák and Leonard Norman Primiano. In Zagreb an election will be held for the chair and the board member positions.