The conference will focus on the question: How, under which conditions and with which consequences are religions historicized? The conference aims at furthering the study of religion as of historiography by analysing how religious groups (or their adversaries) employ historical narratives in the construction of their identities or how such groups are invented by later historiography (comparative historiography). Thus the biases and elisions of current analytical and descriptive frames have to be analysed, too (history of research). Combing disciplinary competences of Religious Studies and History of Religion, Confessional Theologies, History, History of Science, and Literary Studies, the participants will help to initiate a comparative historiography of religion by applying literary comparison and historical contextualization to those texts that have been used as central documents for histories of individual religions and analyze their historiographic character, tools and strategies. Furthermore they will stimulate the history of historical research on religion; that is, identifying key steps in the early modern and modern history of research. The comparative approach will address Circum-Mediterranean and European as well as Asian religious traditions from the first millennium BCE to present.
History is one of the most important cultural tools to make sense of one's situation, to establish identity, define otherness, and explain change. By and large, views on religion are dominated by the claims of the eternity of divine beings and the traditionalism of religious practices. Is not religion that cultural phenomenon that is most intensively legitimised by its traditionalism? Even, if a religious group does not explicitly historicises itself, it does narrate history. And in a typically manner religions do not only tell local history, but world and cosmic history, implying pervasive orientations – even for any “secular” sort of historical narrative. Strategies of such narratives, placed in the context of religious institutions and including some superhuman powers (gods) as agents can vary widely. They might concentrate on a founding phase or try to integrate as much of the “history” remembered by a society as they can. Mythology and history are not opposites but variants of historical narratives, maybe including very different time indicators. In scriptural societies, canonization is a frequent instrument to stabilize narrative (as doctrinal) solutions.
Historical representations seem to arise in a plurality. Probably, it is conflicting claims that are triggering historical narratives most intensively. Thus, the construal of the religious past is a difficult thing, and it is necessary to negotiate the delicate balance between the memories of historical change narrated by others or simply in other contexts, and the continuity which is frequently crucial in the task of legitimating central religious tenets and institutions. History must be rhetorical, must appeal to and win its audience in order to be able to give orientation for the future.
As a result of the efforts undertaken by religious communities to interpret and identify themselves or others through their past, scholars of the history of religions do not only have a large body of sources, but first of all they are imbued by narratives, which were produced to serve this very purpose. The task of – one might use the term “emic” here - historiography is pursued with much ingenuity and energy, and produces accounts with a correspondingly dense veneer of plausibility. Thus, historians of religion, supposed to produce “etic” accounts and striving to apply a methodology of understanding (Verstehen) of their scholarly objects necessarily tend to follow the constructs produced by historiographic sources and to ignore the subjective and interpretive nature of the framework. There is no clear dividing line between emic and etic in the contents of historiography.
Here, reflecting on the biases and concealments of traditional narratives and historiography of religions and on the history of its analytical and descriptive terms is vital for any history of religion in the twenty-first century.
The conference will be structured by a series of six sessions (including a poster session) which combine impulses from lectures of around 20 minutes with plenary discussions. The poster sessions offers the opportunity to present case studies as contributions to the other sessions.
Monday, 10 September
Registration at the ESF desk
Tuesday, 11 September
Opening: Jörg Rüpke, University of Erfurt, DE
Historiographic texts and contexts
1. Which contexts do provoke processes of historicization and the development of historiography in particular?
Thomas Kaufmann, University of Göttingen, DE
The rise of confessional Historiography in central Europe
Chris Robinson, New York Central University, US
Early Historiography of Islam: literary and professional aspects
Per K. Sørensen, University of Leipzig, DE
The formation of religious historiography in Tibet
2. Writing histories of religion
Franziska Metzger, University of Fribourg, CH
Conflicting historiographical claims in religiously plural societies
Yvonne-Maria Werner, Lund University, SE
Gender in historiography of religion
Chris Lorenz, University of Amsterdam, NL
Differences that make a difference. A comparative perspective on historiography
3. Poster session
Wednesday, 12 September
4. Which practices to historicize the past, i.e. to acknowledge and sequence the pastness of the past, have been used in historicizing religions?
Tessa Rajak, Oxford University, UK
Religious pasts in Jewish historiography
Susanne Rau, University of Erfurt, DE
Historiography, Practitioners of religious historiography
Martin Mulsow, University of Gotha, DE
History of knowledge, Historicization of religion by minorities
Thursday, 13 September
5. How does historicization modify certain characteristics of religions? How do they integrate a historical dimension? How do religions make themselves immune against historicist claims?
Ingvild Gilhus, Bergen, NO
Creating authority: History and anti-history
Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, University of Messina, IT
Danièle Hervieux-Léger, EHESS Paris, FR
Presentification of history
6. How did different disciplines dealing with religion take up the impulse of historicism?
Reinhard Gregor Kratz, University of Göttingen, DE
Discovering Ancient Predecessors: The construction of biblical historiography
Corinne Bonnet, University of Toulouse, FR
Historiography, Historicism in Religious Studies
Giovanni Filoramo, Torino, IT
History of Christianity, Church history and storia delle religioni
Cristiana Facchini, University of Bologna, IT
Jewish Studies, Identity shaping by scientific Historiography
Natale Spineto, University of Torino, IT
Methods in Religious Studies, Comparative history and Historicism
Forward Look Plenary Discussion
Friday, 14 September
Breakfast and departure
Source : Site de l'ESF