“Gestures – Religion qua Performance”

International conference organized on behalf of the NWO programme

“The Future of the Religious Past”



Time and venue:            June 9-10, 2008
Statenzaal, Faculty of Law, Utrecht University

                                    Achter Sint Pieter 200, Utrecht

                                    [some of the afternoon sessions will take place in the Academy Building]

Convenors:                   Martin van Bruinessen, Utrecht University & ISIM

                                    Anne-Marie Korte, University of Tilburg & Utrecht University

Organized with the support of ISIM and research institute INTEGON (UU)






Monday 9 June                        Day Theme: Religion as Performance


09.30 - 09.50             Arrival, coffee

09.50 - 10.00              Welcome by Martin van Bruinessen and Anne-Marie Korte,


10.00 -  12.30             Thematic session: Religion as Performance

                                    Chair: Martin van Bruinessen (Utrecht)

                  Discussant: Yvonne Sherwood (Glasgow)


Keynote lectures:

Regina Schwartz (Evanston), "Sacramental Poetics and Performativity" (30 min) 

John Bowen (Saint Louis), “Unpacking ‘performance’: felicity conditions, efficacy, and indexicals in Islamic actions”  (30 min)


11:15-11:30                Break


Presentation of programme results (by programme leaders), (2 x 20 min):
Paul Post, “Holy ground: Reinventing ritual space in Western Europe”

Michiel Leezenberg and Yolande Jansen, “The sacred and the secular”


12.30 - 13.30  Lunch


13.30 - 15.30              Working group session 1. A (Statenzaal)

Theme: Changing Meanings of Pilgrimage

Chair: Paul Post (Tilburg)

Discussant: Michael Lambek (Toronto and LSE)



Meerten ten Borg (Leiden), “Implicit religiosity in the public domain”

A.K. Hermkens with C. Notermans (Nijmegen), “Mary’s Magnificat: Marian pilgrimages in a cross-cultural comparative perspective” (programme “The power of pilgrimage”)

Ineke Albers (Tilburg), “Doing Religion by Walking”



Working group session 1.B  (Kanunnikenzaal, Academiegebouw)

Theme: Religious Identity Publicly Performed

Chair: Dick Houtman (Rotterdam)

Discussant: Peter Clarke (Oxford)



Nathal Dessing (ISIM),  “Muslim Women's Gatherings” (programme “Individualization, Fragmentation of Authority, and New Organizations”)

Martin van der Meulen (Amsterdam), “African churches and public space” 
(programme “Participation of Immigrant Churches”)

Annelies Moors (ISIM & Amsterdam), “Islamic fashion”

Henri Gooren (Amsterdam), “Conversion careers and culture politics in Pentecostalism”



16.00 - 18.00              Working group session 2. A (Statenzaal)

Theme: (Accusations of) Blasphemy: Transgressive Acts of Faith

Chair: Birgit Meyer (Free University Amsterdam)

Discussant: Jean Pierre Wils (invited)



Brent Plate (Texas), “Contemporary Art Accused of Blasphemy”

Christoph Baumgartner (Utrecht), “What is Morally Wrong With ‘Blasphemy’” 

Martijn de Koning (ISIM), “Offending Moslims”



Working group session 2. B (Kanunnikenzaal, Academiegebouw)

Theme:  Performativity in/of Religious Studies and Theological Reflection

Chair: Willem Drees (Leiden)

Discussant:  Hent de Vries (Johns Hopkins)



Ward Blanton (Glasgow), “Incident at Antioch”:  Performing Paul and Thinking Void

Asja Szafraniec (Amsterdam), “Gestures of Interpretation: The Potential of

Weak Gestures” (programme “The Pastness of the Religious Past”)

Stephan van Erp (Nijmegen), “Theology, Performance, Drama”


18.00                           Drinks




Tuesday June 10         Day Theme: Embodiment as Generative Theme


09.30 – 10.00             Arrival, coffee


10.00 -  12.30             Thematic session: Embodiment as Generative Theme in Religious

Studies and Theological Reflection

Chair: Anne-Marie Korte

Discussant: Ward Blanton (Glasgow)


Keynote lectures 
Brent Plate (Texas),
"The Skin of Religion: Toward an Aesthetic Theory of the Sacred" (30 min)

Kim Knott (Leeds), “On Hands, Gestures and the Sacred” (30 min)


11:15-11:30                Break


Presentation of programme results (2 x 20 min):

Sander van Maas (Amsterdam), “Ulysses’ Syncope”

Wim Drees (Leiden), “Technology as Generative Theme for Theological Reflection”


12.30 – 13.30             Lunch


13.30 – 15.30             Session 3. A (Statenzaal)

Theme: Martyrdom and Sacrifice as Contemporary Religious Performance

Chair: Martin van Bruinessen

Discussant: Jan Bremmer (Groningen)



Yvonne Sherwood (Glasgow), “Abraham’s Sacrifice: Performance notes

Laura Copier (Amsterdam), “Martyrdom on the Silver Screen”

(programme “Critical incarnations”)

Mariwan Kanie, “Martyrdom and Nation” (programme “The sacred and the

 secular: genealogies of self, state and society”)

Rico Sneller (Leiden), “Ethics and Sacrality of Suicide Acts – The Hamas Charter”


Session 3.B (Maskeradezaal, Academiegebouw)

Theme: The Body in New/Emerging Rituals

Chair:  Peter Pels (Leiden)

Discussant: Kim Knott (Leeds)



Thomas Quartier (Nijmegen), “Re-figuring the Body: Dimensions of

Embodiment in Contemporary Funeral Ritual”

Jeroen Boekhoven (Groningen), “Embodied knowledge in contemporary

Dutch shamanisms”

Dorien Zandbergen, “Holistic and Ironic reflections on Virtual Embodiment – the ‘bizarre fusion’ of hippies and hackers in Silicon Valley New Edge”


(programme “Cyberspace salvations”)

Regien Smit, “Embodied prayer in Angolan and Brazilian Pentecostalism”

(programme “Conversion Careers”)



16.00 – 18.00             Session 4. A (Statenzaal)

Theme:  Religion of the Senses

Chair: Martin van Bruinessen

Discussant: Brent Plate (invited)                   



Rokus de Groot (Amsterdam), “Sensuality and ascetism in Hindu

devotional tradition (bhakti)”

Jeanette Jouili (ISIM), “On stage “for the sake of Allah” : Artistic performances among pious Muslims in Europe”

Karin Willemse, “Performing Muslim modernity in Sudan: Sufi performing

the dhikr” (programme “Islam in Africa”)



Session 4. B (Maskeradezaal, Academiegebouw)

Theme: The Body as Marker of Religious Identity

Chair: Anne-Marie Korte

Discussant: Regina Schwartz


Papers :

Peter Clarke (Oxford), ”Now I am my ancestor: trance/possession and

identity formation in African Brazilian religion.”

Annemie Halsema, “The Otherness of the Flesh”

(programme “Horizontal transcendence”)

Sanne Derks, “Meanings of movement: Constructing ethnicity in Bolivian religious dance processions” (programme “The power of pilgrimage”)


18:00              Drinks