Siena 2018Religion and Politics - Conflict and Peace
13th International Conference of the SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group
Siena, September 20th-23rd, 2018

Politics and religion have never existed in isolation but always stood in continuous interaction throughout times. The “growing salience of religion on the world stage” (Hackett 2005:145) is to a great part due to the politization of religion in different contexts and dimensions: already in the early 2000s Grace Davie pointed to the European exceptionalism to the former persistent secularization thesis (cf. Berger 1967): “New arrivals”, especially Muslim Immigrants, challenged the image of the secular state. Right wing oriented, anti-Muslim political parties arose all over Europe as a reaction to the supposedly Muslimization of certain sectors of society. At the same time, orthodoxy was re-established in Putin´s Russia and conservative or contestative Roman Catholic movements address political developments all over the world. Nationalist Hinduism rose in India up to the election of a respective prime-minister. These various developments in political discourse also drew attention to the scientific study of religion. For the ethnography of religion it is a chance to broaden its objects of study and increase its public visibility.

While the aforementioned interactions between religion and politics gave way to conflicts on various levels, attention must also be paid to the “ambivalence of the sacred” (Appleby 2000): Reconciliation processes in South Africa and Northern Ireland for example have been informed by Christian ideas of peace. Other examples of political peacebuilding work can be found in Muslim or Buddhist discourse or the role of religions in the African-American emancipation movements.

Grasping the relationship of religion and politics in conflict and peace can also be framed in historical context. The conference invites papers that take up the context of fascism and racism with relation to religion in the year of the 80th anniversary of the Italian race-laws.

The 13th conference of the SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group aims to explore from ethnological / anthropological perspective the general theme of politics and religion in various national and political contexts, either in historical or contemporary times. Theoretical proposals and papers illustrating the productivity of ethnographic methods in research into the connection between religion and politics are especially welcome.

Possible subthemes of the conference are:


Appleby, Scott (2005): The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation, Lanham, MD

Berger, Peter (1967): The Sacred Canopy, New York.

Davie, Grace (2002): Europe, the Exceptional Case. Parameters of Faith in the Modern World, London.

Hackett, Rosalind (2005): Anthropology of religion. In: Hinnels, John: The Routledge companion to the study of religion, London, 144-163.


Proposals can be sent to ; the deadline for sending the proposals is January, 31st 2018.

Notification about acceptance will be sent before March, 31st 2018.

Conference fee: 90 EUR (also covers drinks and food at the welcome reception and snacks/brunch during coffee or lunch breaks).

The organizers are not able to support the participants financially. Participants are responsible for covering their own travel and accommodation expenses.

For more information:




12th International Conference of the SIEF Working Group Ethnology of Religion: Alternative and Religious Healing in the Modern World 22-24 September 2016, Amsterdam

Conference image health fraud scams

The 2016 conference of SIEF's Ethnology of Religion working group is focused on the contemporary religious, spiritual, complementary and alternative healing practices in the Western world.

 Zagreb, Croatia 21-25 June 2015 The heritagization of religious and spiritual practices: the effects of grassroots and top-down policies
Session at SIEF2015 in Zagreb
Convenors: Anna Niedźwiedź and Clara Saraiva

Zagreb, Croatia 21-25 June 2015 Almost Heaven. Vernacular utopias and the culture of belief
Session at SIEF2015 in Zagreb
Convenors: Povedák and Leonard Norman Primiano.

Lisbon, Portugal 22-23 May, 2014 11th conference 'Making Sense of Religion: Performance, Art and Experience' 
Read the abstracts and theme or download the full programme PDF
Hosts: 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. 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.

Lisbon, Portugal 22-23 May, 2014 Working group meeting at the 11th conference, Lisbon May 22 
During the conference on May 22 a working group meeting was held where 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.

Tartu, Estonia (1 July 2013; combined with the International congress). Theme: 'Fluidity, Mobility and Versatility of the Sacred'. Link to abstracts.

Szeged, Hungary  (12-14 September 2012). Theme: 'Religion on the Move. How Motion and Migration influence Religion'. Download the book of abstractsPDF

Lisbon  (19-20 April 2011; combined with the International congress). Theme: 'Sacred Places'

Warsaw     (1-3 June  2010). Theme: 'Experiencing Religion. New Approaches towards Personal Religiosity'. Download the full programme with abstracts PDF

Derry (UK)  (19-20 June 2008; combined with the International congress). Theme: 'Rethinking the Sacred'. Publication: Ulrika Wolf-Knuts and Kathleen Grant (eds.), Rethinking the sacred. Proceedings of the ninth SIEF conference in Derry 2008 (Abo: Abo Akademi University,  2009)

Celje, Slovenia (9-11 September 2006). Theme: 'Senses and Religion'. 
Publication: Jurij FikFak and Gábor Barna (eds.), Senses and Religion (Ljubljana: Zalozba ZRC,  2007).

Marseille  (27-28 April 2004; combined with the International congress). Themes: 'Sacrality and Piety' and 'Pilgrimage Today'.
No publication

Edinburgh (4-8 September 2002). Theme: 'Gender and Generation' .
Publication: in preparation

Budapest  (24 April 2001; combined with the International congress). Themes: 'Traditionalization and Local Community' and 'Ritualized Writing'. 
No publication.

Szeged, Hungary (24-26 September 1999). Theme: 'Politics and Folk Religion'. 
Publication: Gábor Barna (ed.), Politics and Folk Religion. Szeged: University of Szeged,  2001).

Chaves, Portugal  (September 1996): Theme: 'Folk Religion: Continuity and Change'.
Publication:  Anders Gustavsson et al. (eds.), Folk religion. Continuity and Change. Lisbon: Instituto de Sociologia e Etnologia das Religioes,  1999).

Stockholm (13-15 September 1993). Theme: 'Religion in Everyday Life'.
Publication: Nils-Arvid Bringéus (ed.), Religion in everyday life. Papers given at a symposium in Stockholm, 13-15 september 1993 (Stockholm: Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 1994)


Business meetings

Minutes Business Meeting Tartu 2013 PDF

Minutes Business Meeting Lisbon 2011
Minutes Business Meeting Warsaw 2010 PDF