Beyond Secularization – (De)Sacralization in Modern European History

Beyond Secularization – (De)Sacralization in Modern European History

Leibniz Institute of European History (Andrea Hofmann, Bernhard Gissibl)
Digital Event
Vom - Bis
24.11.2021 - 26.11.2021
Stefanie Mainz, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG) Mainz

For more than two decades, there have been repeated declarations of the end of secularization theories and a return of religions in religious history and the sociology of religion. Consistent with the »post-secular era« proclaimed by Jürgen Habermas is the return of the sacred or at least a discernible increase in academic engagement with processes of sacralization and desacralization.

Beyond Secularization – (De)Sacralization in Modern European History

Attention has focused on the question: what in a society is sacred and is therefore viewed as being non-negotiable, and how is the status of that which is sacred established and maintained, but also transformed and withdrawn again? The sacralizations of the nation, of the person and of human rights have been investigated, as well as the role of the sacred in the context of imperial expansion, in ethnological and missionary encounters with supposedly „primitive“ religiosity, as well as the sacrality of art, nature, spaces, and heroism, among other things. While these studies diverge in their evaluation of the concrete historical relevance of the „power of the sacred“ (Hans Joas), recent research certainly retains a fascination with the sacred. The sacred no longer appears as a neglected vestige in an inexorably secularizing society, but rather as the constitutive and meaningful core of different forms of human community formation.

The international conference at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz ties in with the increased interest in the sacred in academic discourse and enquires into the heuristic potential of (de)sacralization processes for our understanding of the history of modern Europe. „Sacralizations“ are understood in a cultural studies sense as acts and forms of repeated attribution, through which sacrality and the sacred are produced and marked out. Thus, the conference analyses processes in which ideas, people and actions, as well as objects and spaces, become established, and are perceived as being absolute and intangible, normative, and as creating meaning and community. As a process of transformation, sacralization is also closely linked to desacralizations and re-sacralizations, as sacralized institutions and phenomena can change or lose their status, and the sacralization of one thing can lead to the devaluation of another. This broad definition of sacralization does not bind the process that it refers to exclusively to a particular religion, but is also able to detach the process from religion institutionally and in terms of its content.

The conference examines the actors and mechanisms, conjunctures and transformations of the sacred in European history from the 15th century. The following five aspects and dimensions are of particular interest: Sacrality and difference; the interplay between (de-)sacralizations and secularizations; sacrality in colonial contact zones; management, performance, and modality; and transfers of sacrality.


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

15:00–15:30 (MEZ)
Johannes Paulmann (Mainz): Welcome
Bernhard Gissibl / Andrea Hofmann (Mainz): Introduction

European Modernities beyond Secularization Theory

Chair: Irene Dingel (Mainz)

15:30–16:15 Volkhard Krech (Bochum): What’s Left of secular Europe?

16:15–17:00 Monika Wohlrab-Sahr (Leipzig): Europe in the Logic of Multiple Secularities

17:30–18:15 Gordon Lynch (Canterbury): From Christendom to culture wars: developing narratives of the sacred and society in European modernity

The Sacred in Colonial Contact Zones – Part I

Chair: Joachim Berger (Mainz)

18:15–19:00 Sarah Longair (Lincoln): The many transitions of the Mwinyi Mkuu’s ngoma and siwa in colonial Zanzibar

19:00–19:45 Erin Kathleen Rowe (Baltimore): Black Saints in Early Modern Global Catholicism

Thursday, 25 November 2021

The Sacred in Colonial Contact Zones – Part II

Chair: Esther Möller (München)

13:00–13:45 Andreas Pettenkofer (Erfurt): Is the critique of secularization theory shaped by a colonial discourse? Some postcolonial questions for Durkheim’s sociology of religion

13:45–14:30 Benedikt Brunner (Mainz): Contested sacrality. Deathways in Colonial Boston, c. 1680–1750

Religious Performances of the Sacred

Chair: Christopher Voigt-Goy (Mainz)

15:00–15:45 Erin Lambert (Virginia): Sacred Matters in the Radical Reformation

15:45–16:30 Alessandro Grazi (Mainz): (De)sacralization as reflected in nineteenth-century Italian Jewish liturgy

16:45–17:30 Andrea Hofmann (Mainz): Sacrificing Life and the Sacralization of Death in the First World War

Sacrality in Transfer/beyond Religion – Part I

Chair: Thorsten Wübbena (Mainz)

18.15–19:00 Inga Mai Groote (Zürich): The Sound of the Sacred

19:00–19:45 John Carter Wood (Mainz): Christianity, Technology and Sacralisation. The World Council of Churches and the Technological Society, 1937–1948

Friday, 26 November 2021

Sacrality in Transfer/beyond Religion – Part II

Chair: Stanislau Paulau (Mainz)

14:00–14:45 Gregor Feindt (Mainz): Sacralising the „New Men“: Ideology, practice and subjectification of social engineering in inter war Czechoslovakia

14:45–15:25 Lucyna Przybylska (Gdańsk): The proliferation of crosses and flags in post-communist Poland

Conjunctures of the Sacred in the Anthropocene

Chair: Anne Friedrichs (Mainz)

16:00–16:45 Bernhard Gissibl (Mainz): Fifty ways of sacralizing nature (and the consequences thereof): Serengeti Experiences

16:45–17:30 Thomas Kirchhoff (Heidelberg): Eleven Types of (De)Sacralisation of Nature

17:30–18:10 Simone Horstmann (Dortmund): Sanctity and/or Edibility? The Monotheistic Dilemma of the “Somatic Difference”

(De)Sacralization in European History – concluding perspectives

Chair: Johannes Paulmann (IEG)

19:10–19:20 Birgit Weyel (Tübingen)

19:20–19:30 Christina Schröer (Bonn)

19:30–19:40 Katharina Stornig (Gießen)

19.40-19.50 Bron Taylor (Florida)

19:50–20:30 Final Discussion