CALL FOR PAPERS | Urban Religion, Gender, and the Body

Minghua Tay Announcement
Subject Fields
Religious Studies and Theology, Research and Methodology, Urban History / Studies, Southeast Asian History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies

DATE OF EVENT : 25-26 January 2021
VENUE : National University of Singapore


Under the circumstances of the current global pandemic crisis, conference planning is uncertain and worries about the health situation of loved ones and about closed borders outweigh many scholars’ academic work and travel plans. As we still see great value in the exchange of ideas on the themes of this conference, we hope that travelling to Singapore will be possible at least for some participants, and we will seek to provide the technical facilities to enable online participation for others. Please let us know in your paper proposal the mode of participation that you would prefer.

Vibrant religious activities in cities have received much recent scholarly attention. Yet, the gendered and bodily dimensions of the relation between religion and the city have been widely left out in existing research. This conference takes gender and the body as lenses of analysis to study urban religion.

Rather than the urban merely impacting the religious, the latter can also serve as a driving force behind urban developments. Such an intrinsic relationship between religion and the city becomes apparent, for example, in how people’s religious and urban aspirations are often closely intertwined. Bodily religious practices can be powerful means for people to work toward their urban aspirations, both on special occasions, such as life cycle rituals or religious festivals, and in urban everyday life. These practices are often highly gendered, both in the public and private sphere. This conference aims at investigating how bodily religious practices create (gendered) urban spaces, how people use their bodies to pursue their religious and urban aspirations, and how their bodies become sites of gender negotiations.

Recent scholarship on religion has undergone a shift in focus from the textual forms of religious knowledge to the material aspects of religion, including the bodily and affective dimensions. Furthermore, research on religion and gender demonstrates the importance of intersectionality in the analysis of religious practices. These important dimensions do not find much attention in existing research on the relation between religion and the city. At the same time, most research on the city in relation to gender or the body does not consider the important role that religion often plays in these relations. The mutually missing attention to these issues in the respective fields of religious, gender, and urban studies becomes especially apparent in research on Asia. The gap between the importance of the body in religious practices in Asia and its scant attention in scholarship on religion in Asian cities is striking.

This conference brings together scholars from different fields to think jointly about the role that religion plays in how people imagine, experience, live in, and appropriate the city, with a particular focus on gendered and class-inflected, bodily and sensory religious experiences.

The main research questions to be addressed include but are not limited to the following:

  • What are the theoretical and methodological possibilities and implications when taking gender and the body as lenses of analysis for the study of the relation between religion and the city?
  • How do bodily religious practices co-constitute the city? How do bodily religious practices contribute to how the city is imagined and experienced?
  • How do bodies become sites of urban religious negotiations? For example, how do bodies of religious practitioners reflect different dimensions of negotiations of religious diversity, such as spectacle and conflict? Or how do bodily religious practices reflect time constraints of busy urban lives?
  • How do bodies become sites of gender negotiations in urban religious practices? How do gendered notions of the body in rituals relate to notions of gender roles outside the ritual context?
  • What can a focus on gendered and bodily religious practices tell us about the relation between private and public religion in urban contexts?


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (250 words) and a brief personal biography (150 words) for submission by 15 May 2020. Please note that only previously unpublished papers or those not already committed elsewhere can be accepted. The organizers plan to publish a special journal issue that incorporates some selected papers presented at the conference. By participating in the conference, you agree to participate in the future publication plans of the organizers. Hotel accommodation and a contribution towards airfare will be provided for accepted paper participants (one author per paper).

Please submit your proposal using the provided template to Ms Minghua Tay at Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by mid June 2020. Participants will be required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000 words) by 4 December 2020.


Ms Natalie LANG
Postdoctoral Fellow at Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Contact Information

Ms Tay Minghua
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
AS8 Level 7, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
Tel: (65) 6516 4224
Fax: (65) 6779 1428