CFP: Traditional Religions, Secularisms, and Revivals: Buddhism and Shamanism in Northern Eurasia

Ivan Sablin's picture
Call for Papers
March 9, 2018 to March 10, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Eastern Europe History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

The Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Dynamics in the History of Religions” of the Ruhr-University Bochum ( invites paper proposals for the Workshop “Traditional Religions, Secularisms, and Revivals: Buddhism and Shamanism in Northern Eurasia” to be held on March 9–10, 2018.

Focusing on Buddhism and Shamanism in Mongolia, Siberia, Central Asia, Tibet, and the Himalayas, the workshop will trace the introduction of Eurocentric secular projects of defining and limiting religion to cultural contexts in which religions, philosophies, and worldviews fundamentally challenge these secular definitions. The categories of “religion” and “secularism” are both products of European modern intellectual history, but they developed out of European perceptions of Christianity and its contrast to non-European “others” and their religions. Scholarship on secularism and its effects, however, has focused overwhelmingly on monotheistic contexts, largely ignoring the role of secularism and the category of religion in socialist secular projects and non-monotheistic religious traditions. The concept of “religion” was not merely imposed from above. It was appropriated and redefined by Buddhists and Shamanists in the twentieth and twenty-first century creating new hierarchies and stimulating new asymmetrical power relations. Since the early twentieth century Buddhism was increasingly used in the processes of nation-building, while Shamanism was continuously marginalized. The socialist secular project in Siberia, Mongolia, and Central Asia demonstrated attempts to integrate religion into building new states (1920s), rigid anti-religious campaigns (1930s), and the moderate recognition and even support of organized religion (1950s—1980s). In contemporary Mongolia and Siberia, Buddhism has once again been elevated to the status of “national” or “traditional” religion, while in Nepal it became a marker of one’s subnational ethnic belonging. In view of the expectations about what national or traditional religion is supposed to be, Shamanism remained contested in all four regional contexts, yet became increasingly popular in heterogeneous revival movements defying both state and religious authority. Examining the ways in which secular projects intersected with Buddhist and Shamanist religious projects promises to open new perspectives on secularism, socialism, and colonialism. Christopher Atwood (University of Pennsylvania) and Nikolay Tsyrempilov (Nazarbayev University) will give keynote lectures.

We invite papers that focus on the demands to define Buddhism and Shamanism as religions in nationalist, socialist, and post-socialist contexts and the attempts to embrace, surpass and resist such definitions; the interactions between religion and politics and the anti-religious campaigns of the twentieth century; the tensions between religion, nationalism, and the processes of de-secularization or re-secularization that engendered alternative ethnic/religious revivals; the involvement of politicians, academics, and lawmakers with religion and that of shamans, monks, and believers with politics, academia, and law. Submissions on related topics within the relevant geographic and religious areas are welcome. Each paper must explicitly address the issue of secularism or desecularization and, preferably, discuss interactions between different religious denominations or groups within the same religion. The organizers intend to submit a selection of papers to the e-journal Entangled Religions ( for possible peer-reviewed publication. We will be able to provide hotel accommodation and cover travel expenses within Europe, but encourage participants to seek additional funding from their home institutions.

Please submit a 300-word abstract along with brief biographical information to before September 10, 2017. Notes of acceptance will be sent before October 10, 2017. Invited participants will be expected to submit full papers of 7,000–10,000 words by February 15, 2018.