Working Group on Lived Religion in Eastern Europe and Eurasia Annual Conference

Catherine Wanner's picture

For the complete program, see This in-person conference welcomes zoom participants. 

Bruno Latour provocatively asserts that we fabricate the beings in which we believe (2010). By making manifest divine, spirit, and ghostly beings, the immateriality of belief and appeals to otherworldly forces become imminently material. Anthropologists and other scholars have increasingly turned their attention to the processes by which materiality allows immaterial sensations to become an effective means to generate religious experiences, establish power structures, and forge lifeworlds. Devotional acts, such as singing, praying, and other forms of movement, involve the use of images, sounds, and objects to evoke an otherworldly presence and experiences of a transcendent realm. Religious institutions use the sacred sites where these experiences and practices occur and the material representation of religious concepts, virtues, and vices to define how one should live as well as who one is and to whom one is related. 

We invite you to think about how the creation, authentification, and authorization of material forms of religion - as well as their desecration and destruction - inform the dynamics of social change and patterns of everyday life in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

We ask:  How do various confessional traditions lend themselves to the fetishization of material objects and sacred sites as manifestations of divine presence? How might the presence of religious elements in the public sphere reveal worldviews, ethical repertoires, and moral convictions? How might a building, image, or sculpture come to embody spiritual power and the moral authority of the past, and what might be the culmination of such projections of supernatural agency residing in places and objects?

The Working Group on Lived Religion in Eastern Europe and Eurasia brings together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds to consider how religion has shaped histories, politics, and entanglements in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. It supports research on institutionalized religion as well as contemporary forms of lived religiosity. By conceptualizing a broad geographic area as a common research site, from the Balkans to the Caucasus mountains to the Ukrainian and Russian steppe to Anatolia, this Group aims to think critically about how religion - and its twin secularism - have organized political space and encounters over time. The Working Group sponsors an annual conference, a monthly seminar series, a workshop for junior scholars, and an intensive summer program on anthropological theory and ethnographic methods.