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Performance and Religion

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Performance, when used as a part of religious life, frequently both serves to construct and define a religious community, and depends on the support of that community for its meaning and vitality. Performance is a key means by which religious communities are maintained and renewed, and it is also frequently used as a means through which to challenge them. When religion is affirmed performatively – as opposed to by doctrine or belief – the ways in which it is deeply bound up with the patterns and affects of community are often readily apparent. When aesthetic performance makes use of religious material or gesture, it often does so to make use of or interrogate the communitarian nature of its audience. Similarly, radical performance also often offers a potent means of critiquing the constitution or practices of religious communities; it can, for instance, challenge exclusions or taboos, or propose new models of worship and devotion for communities to take up. And finally, contemporary political theory has begun to recognize the importance of religion and religious performance in the formation of the kind of strong social bonds, which can serve as a strong basis for a democratic society.

The Performance and Religion Working Group welcomes proposals that interrogate the role of the religious community in performative practices. We are interested in proposals, which describe or analyse performances that work to build or critique existing practices of religious community. Proposals may deal with historical and contemporary performances of all the world’s religious, spiritual, theatrical traditions and practices. 

The working group will accept proposals for a variety of academic interventions. Conventional papers, curated panels, performances, workshops, and provocations of all sorts are welcome. If additional time or space is required beyond 20 minutes in a typical seminar room, these needs should be submitted alongside. The group cannot, of course, accommodate all requests, as resources are limited, so those submitting proposals are advised to indicate how flexible they can be in their requests. Particular attention is drawn to the fact that, in order to accommodate a wider variety of contributions, the group may hold a pre-conference meeting over the weekend of 26/27 July, immediately before the World Congress, either in Warwick or in London. Applicants are asked to indicate if they would be available to present in those dates.

Abstracts (up to 300 words) will be accepted in English and French. The group’s primary working language is English. 

The following is the schedule for proposals for the meeting:

  • Abstracts are due no later than 15 January 2014.
  • Notice on acceptance will be given by 28 February 2014.
  • Finalized papers are to be submitted by email by 1 June 2014. 
  • Papers will then be distributed to the groups’ members for discussion about a month before the conference. Formal papers will not generally be read out in Warwick. Rather, group members will be expected to read them in advance, and we will use our time in Warwick to discuss them. 

We welcome both new and current members to join the meeting, from graduate students to senior scholars. We are particularly keen to ensure the group’s membership reflects the geographic and theoretical diversity of the IFTR. This group is open to members from all national and cultural backgrounds, and it interests itself in all the world’s religious, spiritual and performative traditions. Both religion and performance are, in our view, sets of social and cultural practices that have a profound and long-lasting importance to those involved in them. Because these practices are so important, we are committed to a nonsectarian inquiry of them. We assume no particular faith or religious affiliation for our members or our work.

Abstracts should be submitted through the IFTR’s online system, managed by Cambridge Journals. Please visithttp://iftr2014warwick.org/?page_id=144. Please note that accepted abstracts will be published in the Congress’s Abstracts Book. Additional information such as the form the proposed submission will take, or information about available dates, should be included on the online form under ‘Equipment required.’ Should this prove insufficient, additional information should be emailed (no attachments, please) to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  before the 15th January deadline. 

All questions or discussions should be sent to the group’s conveners, Joshua Edelman (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London) and Kim Skjoldager-Nielsen (Department of Musicology and Performance Studies, Stockholm University) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information on the working group, please see our website: home.performanceandreligion.org

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